Tuesday, February 19

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

written and illustrated by Marla Frazee
Harcourt 2008

James and his friend Eamon are going to Nature Camp for a week. It's a day camp near Eamon's grandparent's beach front house where the boys spend their week. If you want to see what they did at camp all you need to read are the endpapers which are snapshots of their time at camp. Their best week ever happened at Bill and Pam's (Eamon's grandparent's) house.

Bill's a nice old guy who has traveled the world, loves penguins, and wants to talk about Antarctica all the time. The boys couldn't care less. Pam's cooking is better than anything the boys get at home, but probably because all she serves them is banana waffles. The boys stay in the basement, sleep on an inflatable mattress that serves as a fort, a trampoline, and a couch for their video game playing. They wear the same shorts all week long.

James and Eamon are boys, true boys, marginally overseen by adults, living the summer that boys dream of. Their week over, the boys look out over the ocean at night, feeling something they can't articulate. But they know what to do: they collect driftwood, small rocks and mussel shells and assemble a miniature Antarctica complete with penguins on the deck. They hug Pam and Bill and hope they can go to Nature Camp again soon.

Frazee knows boys. At the very least she knows these boys, and she knows that with boys everything is indirect. Bill asks them if they want to go see the penguin exhibit at the zoo, they boys say they'll think about it, and then they run away. They aren't trying to be rude, they're just boys doing what boys do, which is run away from conflict. I don't have a problem with this, because Frazee presents this with the same carefree attitude that boys bring with them. At the very end of their week when the boys don't know how to address their feelings of sorrow they do what boys do best: they build things, the express their feeling physically.

I'm on the fence between calling this a good picture book and a great picture book. It's heart is in the right place, the humor is dry and authentic, but I'm left feeling like their best week ever needed a little more of an anchor, maybe one or two more activities to solidify their week. Their days are taken up with Nature Camp -- which is never shown, and I'm fine with that -- but I wish they'd had more time at Pam and Bill's to build or create or invent some week-long project that could mirror the building of their summer friendship.

Will boys like it? Probably. Will they get it? Maybe. Does it matter? Nope.
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