“‘Why can’t I go to summer camp, too? It’s not fair Willow gets to go have fun and I don’t’. ‘Sorry, kiddo. It doesn’t work that way. Besides, you have a whole new house to explore. Hey, Wil, did you remember everything?'”
This was the first graphic novel I ever read, and was a fantastic introduction to the world of comics! Secrets of Camp Whatever Vol.1 is Chris Grine’s first comic in the Camp Whatever series. Due to be released in March 2021, so far, all its early reviews are highly favourable.
It’s a wonderful story of friendship and courage and the perfect fantasy tale for young children. It involves magic and loyalty and the bravery of a young girl who stands up for what’s right despite her hardships.
This graphic novel follows eleven-year-old Willow as she reluctantly moves to a new town with her family. Her parents send her to her dad’s old summer camp while they settle in, but this sets off a train of events that nobody can predict. Willow and her new friends battle against corrupt figures of authority and time itself as they rush to save the strange creatures that live on the camp’s island. From a vegetarian bigfoot to frozen gnome statues to suspected vampire cooks, Willow is neck-deep in the mysteries that surround Camp… Whatever. And only she can save it from the new tyrannical director.
Secrets of Camp Whatever Vol.1 is an interesting novel full of a lot of highlights best suited to children.
The art is incredible throughout the novel. The characters are interesting-looking and unique, with strange hairstyles and large facial features. The scenery is mysterious and colourful, with swirling mist and accurate camp life depictions. However, as far as characters’ names go, the author was trying too hard. Willow’s family includes names like Gryphin and Elena. Even secondary characters are called Tooter, Mim, and the Stump twins. There’s a certain level of originality needed to make books interesting, but here, it’s been taken too far.
Despite the simple story, there are numerous plot twists. Good characters turn evil, creatures appear in the strangest of places, and the main character herself has some surprising ideas. It keeps the reader on their toes and makes some parts of Secrets of Camp Whatever Vol.1 completely unpredictable. The main character also has a disability; she’s entirely deaf and wears hearing aids. It’s treated respectfully and realistically throughout the story. While some characters overcompensate, others undercompensate which ends up making things awkward anyway. Sign language plays a central role in the comic, which is a pleasant change from the norm.
The fact that Willow’s parents sent her to the camp, to begin with, is unrealistic. They’re told by numerous people that the camp is dangerous and mysterious. Her father even admits that a child went missing during his time in the camp. Yet they still send her? Even as Willow gets on the boat, her parents question if it’s a good idea, but they decide to smile and wave anyway. There are also too many supernatural creatures included for the short length of this novel. From werewolves, vampires and witches to gnomes, chickcharnees and bigfoot, there are too many types to keep track of.
Overall, I’d give Chris Grine’s Secrets of Camp Whatever Vol.1 three stars out of five. It’s a simple yet entertaining graphic novel that teaches children many important life lessons. I’d recommend it for nine to twelve-year-olds, but no one older. It’s interesting enough to keep children hooked, but for teenagers and adults, it’s too basic to hold their attention.
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