Be Prepared

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Be Prepared Book Poster Image
Smart, funny account of summer camp discomfort.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows what summer camp can be like and offers insight into the cultural differences between Russia and the United States. Offers opportunities to discuss what it's like to feel like an outsider.

Positive Messages

The best way to make friends is to be yourself while being kind to others. It's best to have realistic expectations about new experiences.

Violence

Two girls get into a scuffle about a boy. Some bullying: The older girls tease Vera for not wearing a bra and for not knowing what a maxi pad is for; and someone takes a girl's underwear, bloody from getting her period, and runs it up the flagpole.

Sex
Language

A boy stung by a wasp is nicknamed "Tit Head."

Consumerism

Vera gets in trouble for bringing Skittles to camp.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Be Prepared is a nonfiction graphic novel memoir by Russian-born Vera Brosgol (Anya's Ghost), who moved to the United States when she was 5. It portrays 9-year-old Vera's struggles to be accepted at a camp for Russian speakers only. Two girls compete for the affections of one of the boys and get in a mild physical scuffle. There are discussions of bra sizes, maxi pads, and menstrual periods. A camper stung by a wasp is called "Tit Head." 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBookmom2020 February 15, 2020

Mature topics

* Parents note* I was not prepared for the mature topics in this book as it was filed in the children’s section of the library. In the book, the boys steal a g... Continue reading
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byMQueen September 12, 2018

Okay...

this book was an okay graphic novel. there are some inappropriate love scenes you might want to watch out for. and it can also get boring at times. but there ar... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySloogCat August 31, 2019

Not bad!

The art is phenomenal and the story is kinda relatable. But I don't like the main character, she complains about everything. It's been a while since I... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 21, 2018

Good but inappropriate

I feel like only kids who know what a period is should read this book. They mention periods several times throughout the book, and have shirtless girls in the... Continue reading

What's the story?

At the beginning of BE PREPARED, 9-year-old Vera wants nothing more than to go off to summer camp, even if it's one that emphasizes Russian language and traditions. She's not prepared, however, for outhouses, swarms of bugs, mean tent-mates, or hiking in the rain. Gradually, Vera learns to stick up for herself and reach out to people who want to be her friend.

Is it any good?

There are plenty of tales of summer camp hijinks, but few capture the experience with such awkward hilarity as this keenly observed graphic novel. Vera Brosgol puts her own unique spin on Be Prepared. depicting her struggle to fit in at a sleepaway camp for speakers of Russian. She depicts the semi-sadistic antics of the mean girls, the inscrutability of the daily lessons, the horror of the outhouses. The dialogue rings true, and the artwork says in a few panels more than many storytellers achieve in a page or more. Summer camp stories usually follow a prescribed template, but Be Prepared forgoes the usual path and strikes off into new territory. Highly recommended.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Be Prepared works as a graphic novel. What effects can be achieved in comics that are more difficult in prose?

  • Vera's family is from Russia. What does she not understand about American culture? How can one learn to fit into a new culture?

  • Vera's forced to share a tent with older girls. Why does a two- and three-year gap in age make such a difference to boys and girls? How can the imbalance work to kids' advantage?

  • What are some good ways to make new friends? How can you find someone who shares your interests?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and summer camp tales

Themes & Topics

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