Sweet Summer (Camp) Reading

As a kid I looked forward to summer for a break from school, the county fair, time at the pool, days at 4-H camp, and the chance to read as many books as humanly possible. Now, as a college student, I long for summer for a much-needed break from academia, time spent with my family, and of course, the chance to read as many books as humanly possible.

Of course, summer in college often comes with the additional responsibility of a job or an internship. The summer after my freshman year, I put in 40-hour weeks at Scott County Hardware in my hometown of Scott City, Kansas, working as a cashier. 2017 took me to the Library of Congress Young Readers Center and what was hands down the most influential experience of my life. Last summer, I was at Camp Kawanhee for Boys in Maine running the camp history museum, doing a host of other odd jobs, and having a whole different type of incredible experience.

This summer, after a few wonderful weeks at home in Colorado I’m headed back to Maine, this time to run the camp library and do some more odd jobs, but I’m also preparing for a move to Boston this fall to start grad school in the dual MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library and Information Science program at Simmons University. It’s a season of change, but I’m excited for all that’s to come this summer.

But even with a job and a whole lot of panic about the future, the summer is still about reading for me (I’ve already read 18 books this summer). With the added bonus of getting to serve as camp librarian this summer, I’ve prepped a list of sweet summer reads: books about summer camp, books to reread at summer camp, and part of my personal list of books to read at camp this summer.

Books About Summer Camp

These books can either get you excited about camp, take you back to your own camp days, or serve as a good read for the middle of winter when you’re really missing the warmth of camp and a free swim on a hot summer day.

Five in a Tent by Victoria Furman

I’ve already written about my love for this 1966 novel for the Kansas State Collegian, “REVIEW: ‘Five in a Tent’ brings back summer memories.” I was overwhelmingly pleased with Furman’s descriptions of an all-girl’s camp, Camp Alpine, in New Hampshire. Things that I’d seen and experienced at Kawanhee popped out of the pages of this novel. This book may be a little more difficult to get a hold of, but I can’t recommend it enough.

A huge shout out to one of my favorite professors, Anne Phillips, for loaning me this book last fall!

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

For the graphic novel (technically memoir) crowd. Maggie Tharsh’s Honor Girl features another all girl’s camp, Camp Bellflower, this time set in the Kentucky Appalachian’s. Thrash’s graphic memoir is about coming to terms with her sexuality, a crush on a counselor, and her skills on the rifle range. Thrash’s simplistic art style is perfect for the story and captures the camp atmosphere really well. This is a great LGBTQ+ read and has the benefit of being nonfiction!

Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

My sisters and I have been reading Miranda Kenneally’s work since her first novel, Catching Jordan was released in 2011. Things I Can’t Forget is Kenneally’s third Hundred Oaks novel, published in 2013. Protagonist Kate spends the summer as a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp (a Christian camp) and reconnects with an old camp friend, Matt. This is a super cute YA romance that just so happens to be set at camp.

One thing I like about this book is that Kenneally doesn’t shy away from discussing religion and Kate’s religious morals which is something that you don’t see a lot in YA. While summer camp is at the forefront of the other books on my list, it’s the romance of this one that makes it a winner.

Wolf Camp by Katie McKy

Because I’m going for variety on this list along with theme, Wolf Camp by Katie McKy is my representative picture book. This book is one I pulled off the shelf of the camp library last summer to read at a story night. It’s about a girl named Maddie who goes to a new camp—Wolf Camp—and comes back acting like a wolf. It’s a hoot-and-a-half and the illustrations are great as well.

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke Allen

Lumberjanes is a comic series produced by Boom!Studios. Their website shares the following synopsis: “At Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way!”

I will admit that this is the one thing on this part of the booklist that I haven’t actually read (despite the fact that it’s been on my list for years), but I’ve been a fan of one of the writers, Noelle Stevenson, since her breakout graphic novel Nimona was still being published online as a webcomic. I can’t wait to finally have a chance to check this comic series out, but if you’re looking for some more badass female characters at camp!

Books to Reread at Summer Camp

While it’s fun to read about camp, it can also be fun to read at camp. Reading at camp can mean discovering new books or returning to old favorites. Here are some of my childhood reads that I think are perfect for camp rereading.

The Warriors series by Erin Hunter

I reread the first two books of this great series about cats last summer at camp and was taken back to sixth grade, when I tore through these books one by one from my middle school library. These books are set in the middle of the forest (for the most part) and do a great job at connecting to the natural setting, something I found to be pivotal at camp

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky

I also reread the first two books of this series last symmer, which I think would be my top childhood favorite series (not including Harry Potter). I own this entire series and was delighted to see some of them in the camp library. Owls make for fascinating fictional reading material and these novels are pretty short which makes them easily digestible in the fast pace of camp.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet is like *the* survival novel of my youth, and probably the youth of many others. Is there a better story to read at camp? What more do I need to say?

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

I first read My Side of the Mountain in sixth grade in Mrs. Frank’s class. I went on to read the remaining two books in this trilogy from the public library, and it’s a great story of resourcefulness and connection to nature, two things that are key at camp. Plus, the main character acquires a falcon, which I was way into as an 11-year-old.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

To be honest, I think the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a bit ridiculous, but I read them as a kid and thought they were great at the time. Kinney has found a formula that really works, and with the antics of Greg and the rest of the characters in these books, they’re super engaging for kids and are really quick reads, perfect for the craziness of an all-boys camp. Zoo Wee Mama!

Books I’m hoping to read (or reread) at camp this summer

Because I just can’t stop reading, I do have a list of books that I’d love to read this summer (not including what I’ve already read, or the TBR pile on my shelf at home that’s a little bigger than I’d like it to be. Here’s at least a bit of what I’m hoping to take on while at camp this summer.Because I just can’t stop reading, I do have a list of books that I’d love to read this summer (not including what I’ve already read, or the TBR pile on my shelf at home that’s a little bigger than I’d like it to be. Here’s at least a bit of what I’m hoping to take on while at camp this summer.

Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler

The camp library has four copies of this book, and it’s one I hope to be able to recommend to kids to read or to counselors to read aloud in the lodge at night. But, in order to really put my full recommendation behind it, I need to read it first. So, I’ll be tackling this one pretty quickly after making it to Maine.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’ve never actually read any Stephen King before, mainly because I haven’t read much horror since I tore through R.L. Stine books in the summer when I was in middle school. But spending my second summer in Maine, I’ve decided it’s finally time for me to tackle King’s work. And, if I’m going to do it, it’s going to be 11/22/63 which is sort of an alternative history novel rather than horror.

The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

I saw Thomas speak on campus at K-State as a sophomore and have followed her on Twitter ever since. It’s safe to say that I’ve been excited about this book considering diversity and fantasy in YA fiction and pop culture. I might save this one to closer to the end of the summer when I want to start getting back in the academic mindset for grad school.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

This is the lone reread on my list for the summer (in part because I know the camp library has a copy of it). I loved The Borrowers and reread it multiple times as a kid. I’m excited to go back to this classic and fall into the world of the Borrowers (although I liked some of the other books in the series a bit better than the first).

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This book has been on my list for a painfully long time. I adored the beautiful animated Netflix adaptation of this book, so hopefully this summer is the time I actually sit down and read the English translation of this French novel.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The only thing I’ve actually read by Jack London is the short story “To Build a Fire” which I was randomly assigned to do a literary analysis over as a senior in high school. This is another book that I hope to recommend this summer and thus, need to read.

With books about camp, books to reread at camp, and a hint of my own personal reading list, there are definitely have plenty of reads to consider this summer. I’d love to know what your summer reads are going to be. Reach out and let me know!

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