I enjoyed reading the delightful children’s story, Camp Max by Penny Reeve. The illustrations drew me into the book. The first page is an illustration of the main character, Tania Abbey, and several more exist throughout the book.
Camp Max goes beyond being a simple children’s story; it reveals powerful life lessons. Through Tania’s point of view, the reader observes her internal conflicts. In the story, Tania; her brother, Daniel; her friend, Emily; and Emily’s brother, Sam are planning to attend a summer camp, Camp Max. Tania and Daniel have been before and are excited to bring their new friends with them this year. In reality, bringing Emily is a solace for Tania, whose best friend, Sue, has moved away.
As the story unfolds, Tania learns that Emily and Sam gave their camp money to a hospital in India. This shocks Tania because she would be unwilling to make a sacrifice like that herself. By donating their money, Emily’s Indian friend’s mother is able to get a job at the hospital. Tania doesn’t understand Emily’s sacrifice until she reads 1 John 3: 17: “If anyone sees his brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” Understanding Emily and Sam’s sacrifice helps Tania to be willing to make a sacrifice of her own.
In addition, the story teaches a lesson about friendship. Tania learns of a talent show offering two Camp Max tickets as prizes. She and Daniel help Emily and Sam develop acts for the show so they can win the prizes. However, when Tania’s camp ticket gets lost in the mail, only two slots are left: the talent show prizes. If she hopes to attend Camp Max, Tania must also enter the talent show but only two of them, Tania, Sam, or Emily, can win the prize. Who will be the one who does not attend Camp Max? Is Tania’s winning a ticket for herself greater than helping her friends?
The ending reinforces these lessons and leaves the reader feeling she has learned something too. The reader sees her development by comparing Tania’s actions at the beginning of the story to her last action. The ending also sums up the pervading theme of Shanti’s story and her family. Though not what I expected, it was very satisfactory.
I recommend this story to elementary-age children, and I wish I had known about it sooner!
There are several coloring pages on Penny Reeve’s website as well as teaching notes. This would be a great book to order for your children during your time of sheltering at home. The teaching notes includes questions and activities.
BLOG BONUS! Next week Penny Reeves will be sharing what it’s like to be a Christian children’s writer in Australia. Make sure you come back next Monday!
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.