There is nothing Max wants more than to go to camp with his best friend Ian but his mother can’t afford the fees. Max and his brother Duncan, who needs a lot of extra care, can go to camp for free if Max goes along as his caregiver. Max doesn’t like the prospect but staying home with his mother and her new boyfriend, Derek, would be even worse. Reluctantly, Max agrees to go to camp with Duncan and soon he is in a cabin full of kids with special needs. He has his hands full trying to keep Duncan on an even keel and his responsibilities prevent him from spending much time with Ian.
Camped Out by Daphne Greer is one of the Orca Currents series, which is dedicated to publishing books about contemporary issues for readers 10 to 14 who are reading below grade level. It’s Greer’s second book about Max and Duncan (the first was Maxed Out). The boys are still mourning the death of their father two years before, which makes it even harder for Max to accept Derek as the new man in his mother’s life. Despite the challenges of caring for Duncan and getting used to the sometimes odd behaviour of his cabin mates, Max eventually finds ways to enjoy camp, including canoeing, an overnight camp-out, early morning swims and a girl named Ainslie (who also has a brother with special needs). As time goes on, Max learns to be more tolerant of his fellow campers and when his mother and Derek come to visit he discovers that Derek isn’t so bad after all.
Camped Out has just the right blend of fun and conflict to keep the reader engaged. Max rings true as a good-natured, easily embarrassed young teenager who loves his brother but wants to have his own life. Greer has a relaxed, easygoing writing style, which is reflected in her amusing descriptions of the ups and downs of communal living at summer camp. Although Duncan is never labelled as “autistic” in the book, his behaviour suggests that he is. The challenges that come with autistic children are accurately portrayed with sensitivity and acceptance. There’s a lot packed into this slim book: lessons about compassion and understanding, likeable characters and a story that keeps the reader turning the pages to find out what happens next.
Orca Book Publishers