A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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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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?
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