I dedicate this blog to comics in all forms, manga, autobio, superhero, art books, etc. And of course, since I need a challenge, I've decided that I'll read and write (short) reviews for 365 comics during 2015.
This weekend I read two graphic novels about camp experiences, one from the perspective of a father spending a week at Boy Scout camp with his two sons and the other from the perspective of a young girl just growing into teenagerdom experiencing new crushes, friendships and drama at summer camp.
Both books deal with fitting it, changing friendships, and bullying. Whereas Hope Larson's book, Chiggers, takes place at a more typical co-ed summer camp, Mike Dawson takes on the more particular world of the Boy Scouts of America and details Troop 142's week at Boy Scout camp.
I think that reading these two books in conjunction made for an interesting reading experience, and also an argument for sending one's kid to a regular summer camp rather than enrolling them in Boy Scouts.
The biggest difference I saw between the two books was the representation of adults. In Chiggers, adults were always on the periphery. The story was much more focused on one group of girls and the dramas that went into play when the dynamics of their friendships started to shift after the introduction of a new girl.
The adults were a major presence in nearly every scene of Troop 142, however. The boy's summer was hardly a vacation, each day they were forced to engage in merit badge earning activities, such as water rescue, pioneering, etc. The badges are required for their promotion within the organization and some of the boys took that very seriously. However, should one's ability to retrieve a bowling ball from the bottom of a lake really determine one's ability to save a life? Other boys continue to earn lectures from adult leadership on 'cleanliness' and serving God when they engage in typical kiddy pursuits such as filling mad-libs with dirty words or skipping camp sing alongs.
I remember how envious I was of my brother's activities in Boy Scouts. It seemed like he was always doing awesome things, like canoeing, hiking in New Mexico (while me and my mother stayed at a hotel near Santa Fe), and camping outside. Now, maybe I should just be glad my gender excluded me from acceptance within that deeply flawed institution. Still, girl scouts, of which I was a member for too long a period, was in it's own ways worse. I was never lectured too much by girl scout leaders, but was often disappointed in our lame activities, such as attempting to earn our swimming badges in a hotel pool. Unfortunately the attempt had to be abandoned when a child pooped in the pool. Yes, my girl scout troop was about the lamest troop ever. We never even came close to sleeping in tents, never went hiking, canoeing, rock climbing or even biking. Once we went to a stable. Where we looked at, but did not ride, horses. We might have gotten our nice pants dirty.
I think I went to girl scout camp once. I don't remember much of it, except that I was miserable. I had to do the sweeping and got caught sweeping dirt under a rug and was yelled at for shirking. We got to cross a rainbow bridge for scout advancement. I did not cross that bridge. I never advanced.
The other camp I attended was more similar to the one in Chiggers. I was in a cabin with two of my friends, but as usual felt like an outsider. I attended the camp because it was billed as a 'horse riding' camp. It was actually an evangelical christian camp. As I read Chiggers I could definitely see the realism of the story Larson depicted. Campers got into fights, talked behind each others backs about other girls (usually within hearing of either the person they were talking about or that person's best friend, unless, of course, they were that person's best friend...it gets complicated). There was a bit of a supernatural theme to the book as well, but that also seemed to fit in with the camp feel, camp being a place where seemingly anything could happen.
Then after the week is over, everyone heads home, and those tenuous summer connections are usually broken until next year! Overall, I think I liked Troop 142 a bit more as it explored a little more difficult topics more fully and gave me more to think about. Chiggers was much lighter in comparison and the characters were less well fleshed out.