|________________ CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 5 . . . . November 2, 2001
Carrie and friend Laura plan a family camping trip to liven up their summer holidays. On arrival at their forest campsite, Carrie discovers she forgot to pack the food. Along with her older brother and his friend, the girls are left to set up camp while Mom looks for a store. The boys are hopeless. Their only interests are CDs and eating. Carrie and Laura are the ones who hold everything together until dark when Mom finally returns.
Girls may enjoy the obvious superiority in competence of the female characters. At times, though, they come across too much like 'know-it-alls,' lecturing the boys on everything from putting up tents to respecting wildlife. The boys are portrayed quite unsympathetically as having no skills while being thoughtless and selfish. Mom is inconsistent; it seems odd for her to leave the kids alone so long in a strange "wilderness" setting when they've "never spent any time in the woods," yet she worries over the girls' wish to sleep outside the tent in their lean-to. Also, although the girls get to practise their newly-acquired camping skills - "'We read it in a book,' I said" - they remain relatively unchanged at the end of the story. They are still keen on the adventure, with plans for a second night's stay. This story might better have been written from brother Ernie's viewpoint. He claims the last page, expressing a change of heart about staying over another night.
The scene in which a baby rabbit is "rescued" does not seem to serve much purpose. There is no tension created; they find it, let it rest, then let it go next day. It fails as an excuse for the girls' refusal to leave when Mom is gone so long, since their statement that they would all get lost without a compass does that job with more credibility.
There are plenty of useful camping tips and wilderness know-how sprinkled throughout the story, but the often didactic delivery is unfortunate. This book could benefit from closer editing with a focus on more creative vocabulary in some spots; the brief excerpt (above) contains the word "looked" four times.
A former teacher-librarian, Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction.
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