Summary: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Be Prepared is based on Vera Brosgol’s experience at Russian camp in her childhood. Vera is almost ten and now living in the US with her mom and her brother. They moved when Vera was still young, and though she understands Russian, she can’t speak as well. Her mother is back in school and the family is living on a tight budget. Vera feels like the outsider with her American friends who are more well-to-do and have slumber parties in their larger houses.
When she tries and fails to fit in repeatedly, she decides that she will go to summer camp just as her friends do. This way, she’ll have something to say when they’re all sharing summer plans and experiences. However, the Russian Scout camp she and her brother are sent to is not at all like the American summer camp she envisioned. Gross toilets, snobby older kids, a lot of reading in Russian and tough outdoor conditions teach Vera much about life and friendships.
This was such a funny, but also serious book! I love it when writers get that blend right. Think Raina Telgemeier funny-and-serious. Still, Brosgol’s style is completely different from Telgemeier’s. Her illustrations were not my favorite (the whole green moody vibe and tiny lettering isn’t my scene) but it grows on you. I really liked Vera, the character. She was so honest about her fears in camp and the loneliness and isolation she felt for most of the book is relatable.
Camp life is the central theme here. The big plus is that readers also learn a bit about Russia and Russian culture (which I loved, since I lived in Ukraine for three years). Vera does finally make friends but the road is rocky. The camp kids were quite unkind at times. Her brother attends the camp with her but seems to be having a much better time. I liked the way their relationship is portrayed realistically throughout the book. I also loved their relationship with their mom.
Overall: Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol is a fun graphic novel about summer camp, friendships, Russian culture and traditions, as well as sibling dynamics. I’m also always a fan of books that highlight how money can be tight in families for different reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and although the graphic novel on Kindle has a smaller font, it is a truly immersive story that will make you alternately giggle, chuckle and worry for Vera’s well-being.
Buy This Book
Have you read this book or any other graphic novels about summer camp? Which ones are your favorites?