One of the most memorable parts of childhood summers would have to be going to camp. Whether it be band camp, or church camp, or scout camp or Grandparent camp, the mere act of going away for a whole week and experiencing something different is epic as a child. The plans and adventures don’t have to be major and most likely the smallest parts of the week are what is going to stick and be recounted for years to come. And that’s what this book really captures. This is a humorous glimpse of the minor details surrounding a week of camp and featuring two boys, some dear grandparents, and some profoundly honest and perfectly placed speech bubbles. Here is A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee, 2008.
The boys are James and Eamon and they are starting a week of Nature Day Camp with the off-time spent at Eamon’s grandparents’ house on the beach. The grandparents, Bill and Pam, are full of hospitality, great food, educational ideas, and all the grandparenty spoiling you can imagine.
One of the striking things about Frazee’s story (and perhaps a bit confusing at first for some like myself) is that the Nature Day Camp is not pictured in the main portion of the story. (But don’t miss its ingenious inclusion in the end-pages!) No, this book is devoted to all the things average kids like to do with their free time: eating fantastic treats, watching TV, making forts, playing video games, and avoiding anything distinctly educational.
And these boys know how to relax.
A 2009 Caldecott Honor winner, this book is a beauty to appreciate. Frazee’s style is charming with a loose, comic sort-of illustrative feel, but full of endearing details and emotions as well. The inclusion of the grandparents is so sweet and genuine. I am in love with the presentation of this book as full of activities every kid would love to be set free to do at will; but ending in a very different way that no one could have planned to occur. These grandparents know how to encourage and present opportunities, but show a fun, loving balance of being very hands-off and allowing the week to happen as it comes. That probably sounds very vague, but I think that is the joy of this book. It appears anti-climactic with summery everyday activities, and leads to a marvelous see-what-the-kids-come-up-with moment in the end.
I am continually delighted by Marla Frazee’s work and always struggle to describe how her illustrations hold a simplicity that she somehow stuffs full with captivating, humorous, memorable, and immensely thoughtful details. As the mother of three boys I can only imagine how much truth was packed into the creation of this piece. Her characters are incredibly genuine, childish, and oh-so-lovable. And I love how every inch of this book has been included in the experience of the “best week ever,” from the cover, jacket flaps, end pages, title page… you name it! It is a full package of summer awesome!
I hope you find this one and relish the moments of childhood summer bliss with these two boys and their best week. Let me know what summer activities you find yourself in be it eating piles of banana waffles with syrup, making pine cone owls, or having your own version of “Sweat-a-Lot Camp!”