Summary: Summer at Meadow Wood
In Summer at Meadow Wood, Vic and her little brother have been sent off to summer camp for eight weeks. Although summer at Meadow Wood seems to be a regular occurrence, Vic is convinced that the reason they’ve been “shipped off” this time is different. Besides things are going poorly between her parents. As a result, she’s not excited to be there. Still, she tries to make it work, reconnecting with her friends in Yarrow camp while trying to be a good camp sister to a younger camper, Vera.
When her mom says she doesn’t have money to pay for canteen for Vic and her brother, Vic starts working at the farm with one of the camp owners, Earl. She also goes with him to the market — which she gets paid for. Eventually, Vic learns more about the state of her parents’ relationship and forms closer bonds with everyone at camp and even a certain boy at the market.
Author Amy Rebecca Tan has a distinct quiet style of writing that draws you in slowly. This book is set in the same universe as her debut, A Kind of Paradise which follows Vic’s best friend, Jamie (who is coincidentally spending this same summer doing community service — you’ll have to read the book to find out why). I enjoyed Tan’s debut and this was no different.
The mystery of what’s happening with Vic’s parents kept me going through the initial petty camp drama that kicks off the book as Tan sets the stage. I also did enjoy the camp setting itself, with all the activities and challenges that come with adjusting to camp life. But the book gets even better when Vic starts working at the farm and eventually going to the market. I loved Vic’s relationship with her camp sister — who’s a seven-year-old genius. Their conversations were a highlight for me.
Finally, this book touches nicely on friendship, the value of hard work for kids, and the importance of literature (especially about Eleanor Roosevelt), to which Vic’s camp counselor introduces her. I also loved the sweet bond between Vic and Earl and how much farming and gardening came to mean to her. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a crush/tween relationship in this one, just like Tan’s debut. It would be more appreciated as an upper middle-grade selection, although there’s no kissing or inappropriate behavior.
This book does have a slow start; honestly, all the good stuff happens in the last forty percent or so.
Overall: Summer at Meadow Wood
Summer at Meadow Wood is an excellent follow-up to Tan’s debut novel, set in the same universe. This upper middle-grade book is an ode to the joy and ruckus of summer camps. It also highlights a sweet sibling bond; the gift of mentorship; the value of books, reading and hard work for kids; and the unmatched satisfaction that growing food can bring. Despite the fun topics, it tackles hard subjects like the disintegration of a marriage and how that can affect the children in it, peer pressure, and mortality. If you like immersive books set in summer camps on the background of important themes like friendship and parental separation, you’ll enjoy Summer at Meadow Wood. I listened to the audiobook and would recommend.
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More Books Like Summer at Meadow Wood
- Chirp by Kate Messner (summer camp/sexual harassment/grandparent bond)
- Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn (summer/sibling bond/grandparent bond)
- The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser (siblings/summer/kids working)
Have you read this book or Tan’s debut? What are your favorite middle-grade books set in summer camp?