Be Prepared is a middle grade graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. We found this book at the town library, and my girls were very excited because they’ve enjoyed some of her other books.

This is a semi-autobiographical story about Vera’s childhood, although she explains at the end how some details were exaggerated, etc. As the story begins, Vera wants nothing more than to fit in with her American classmates. They have American Girl dolls, Carvel ice cream cake, and stuffed crust pizza, and Vera’s single mother simply cannot provide such luxuries. There is only one “fancy” thing that Vera can do to emulate her wealthier classmates, and that is go to sleepaway camp.

Vera’s Russian cultural camp is nothing like the posh camps that her friends attend, and it takes awhile for her to get used to new people, new routines, and of course, the stinky outhouse. It’s not as easy as Vera thought it would be to make friends, and she wonders if she’ll ever find her place.

The illustrations are rendered in shades of greens, which I thought gave everything a retro look. This is a rather obvious statement, but it should be noted that because this is a graphic novel, there illustrations really need to carry the narrative, and Brosgol does a wonderful job with conveying facial expressions and body language.

As an unrepentant 90s kid who also attended sleepaway camp, I loved the nostalgic throwbacks. Boy, we sure had it rough! Camp seems to be one of those places that children either desperately want to attend or have no interest in whatsoever. Camp is a magical place, and it often serves as a child’s first venture toward independence; it’s not always easy to be away from home, and it’s certainly a test of mettle.

My girls enjoyed this book as well. My oldest, who is newly 12, read the whole thing in a single evening. She’ll be going back to camp for her second year later in the summer. She’s very grateful for indoor plumbing after seeing the outhouse in this book!

I would recommend Be Prepared. This book is perfect for older middle grade readers and younger YA readers as well. It’s funny, and poignant, and simply delightful. We are all looking forward to reading more from Brosgol in the future!

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