CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 17 . . . . April 26, 2002
Camping is Nancy Hundal's third picture book collaboration with gifted artist Brian Deines. As she did in Prairie Summer(1999) and Number 21(2001), the author has drawn from her childhood memory bank to create her story. Nancy's family would like to spend their vacation visiting museums, malls, video arcades, fancy hotels. Nancy herself longs to visit Disneyland...
The thought of burnt food, bugs and work doesn't exactly delight Nancy, but it isn't long before the pleasures of camping begin to work their quiet magic. At night she wonders at the blackness of the night and the stars overhead.
Swimming in the lake, sitting blanket-wrapped around the campfire toasting marshmallows ("black charry bits scabbed to the stick") climbing trees, watching birds and just doing nothing combine with less TV and less washing to make "...more time, less o'clock," a phrase that surely sums up the essence of camping.
Brian Deines' vibrant paintings capture perfectly the setting and mood of the camping experience. His nighttime illustrations play up a city-bred child's fear of the all-encompassing dark of the countryside, providing a wonderful contrast with his super-bright renditions of summer days. Hundal's narrative style is, as always, playful and poetic. Metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia and alliteration abound in the fragmentary prose which makes up the text. Unfortunately a recurring problem with first person, present tense stories lies in matching the narrator's voice with appropriate levels of vocabulary and sophistication. When the author's poetic talent overrides the 10-year-old voice of the narrator, no matter how delightful the imagery, credibility is strained and the reader is jarred.
Campingis the sort of picture book that will appeal mainly to older elementary children. It will be best appreciated by teachers who wish to inspire their students to write about camping memories or to play with language as the author does.
Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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