I just finished To Night Owl From Dogfish – a middle grade book about two girls who land in a Parent Trap-type situation at summer camp.
It’s a well-written book and highly-reviewed on Amazon and Goodreads – but what struck me was that it was nothing like the camp books I grew up with. Camp books in the 1980’s seemed mostly about meeting cute boys and dealing with difficult campers and an occasional mean girl. In To Night Owl From Dogfish, these familiar plot lines were met with anxiety – specifically by one of main characters – but by the adults as well. It just seemed so much more fraught than ’80s camp books or the Parent Trap movies.
Is this just a reflection of today’s kids? Or that we are more anxious as a society? Or maybe middle grade books are just more realistic, well-written, and take kids’ emotions seriously?
Even in Be Prepared – a funny graphic novel about a sleep away camp published in 2018 – the illustrations consistently make the main character appear worried and anxious.
I’m left wondering if these books are helpful for kids (to see their fears and anxieties displayed with compassion and acceptance) or if they make normal rights of passage (like attending summer camp) seem overwhelming and stressful?
I have a 10-year-old son, and I think I would rather have him read middle grade books where the characters deal with normal coming-of-age issues with calmness and creativity rather than anxiety…
But I would love to hear your thoughts!