Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-Brosgol has worked on acclaimed animated films, but she was once a lonely nine-year-old aching for friendship. Here, she relates the story of her monthlong experience at Russian summer camp, where she coped with the horrors of outhouses, feral wildlife, and bug bites, as well as with mean older cabinmates and alienation from her fellow campers. The author/illustrator reprises her cartoony character art and her detailed yet subtle background work. The book eschews the plot-driven and suspenseful storytelling of Brosgol's Anya's Ghost in lieu of a slice-of-life narrative in which problems aren't always neatly resolved. This lends a hard realism to the memoir, in spite of the adorable art style, as young Vera earns small victories and an understanding of herself rather than soaring triumph. The text is simple and accessible, but the relaxed pacing, characters who go often unpunished for cruel behavior, and the brief inclusion of an ill-fated romance set this title apart from more gentle middle grade works. VERDICT A gorgeous, emotional memoir worthy of any graphic novel collection.-Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Vera feels too Russian for her friends in Albany. She can never quite get the hang of sleepover birthday parties, and she'll never have expensive toys like they do. So when she hears about a summer camp just for Russian American kids, she's sure she's finally found her place. But she's much younger than her tent-mates, and impossibly she's not Russian enough to fit in. She stumbles over the language, doesn't know all the songs, and generally can't quite get a handle on roughing it. But what's more Russian than suffering? With fantastic pacing and poignant emotional turns, Brosgol's winsome graphic memoir hilariously captures the lengths kids go to in order to fit in as well as the author's growth from a girl desperate for a place to belong into someone confident enough to stand up for herself. Brosgol's pitch-perfect art varies between serene, contemplative snapshot-like images of nature and comedic scenes between Vera cartoonishly drawn with huge, goggle-eyed glasses and her friends and campmates, all of whom appear in a relatively realistic style. Even though it's rendered only in black, white, and olive green, Brosgol's artwork has immense depth, from the facial expressions and gestures to the spot-on visual gags, and she strikes a perfect balance between heartfelt honesty and uproarious, self-deprecating humor. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale's Real Friends (2017), this will easily lodge a place in readers' hearts, even as it has them rolling in the aisles.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2018 Booklist
Horn Book Review
This book is a true story. And also made up. Brosgols (Anyas Ghost, rev. 7/11; Leave Me Alone, rev. 9/16) fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (lets be honestmostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp. Feeling like an outsider at school, Russian American preteen Vera is initially thrilled to attend camp with other Russian kids. Once there, however, she struggles to adjust to the strict rules, lack of modern electricity and plumbing, and drama involving her significantly older tentmates. The storys visual narrative, exposition, and dialogue are in balance as inky illustrations fill smartly placed panels. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric (there are plenty of potty references). Angle brackets in the speech bubbles indicate dialogue spoken in Russian, and untranslated words and signs build atmosphere. A monochromatic palette using shades of army green reinforces the natural setting, and a cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a sequel. Gaps between fiction and reality are clarified in an authors note, which also includes primary documents: real-life photographs and a letter written by Vera to her mom (Love, and homesick and crying, Vera. P.S. My stomach hurts every night. It does right now, too). The story, both culturally specific and universal, is a welcome addition to the growing canon of comics by talented women cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier, Tillie Walden, Zeina Abirached, Cece Bell, and many others) based on their own lives. elisa gall (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
Brosgol (Leave Me Alone, 2016, etc.) draws on her bittersweet memories of attending Russian summer camp in this accessible graphic novel.Convinced that she will never fit in with the American girls in her class because her family is "too poor," "too Russian," and "too different," 9-year-old Vera jumps at the opportunity to attend Russian summer camp in hopes of finding a peer group she can belong to. However, Russian camp in the Connecticut woods is not at all what she had expected: Her tentmates are two mean girls five years her senior, she doesn't click with any of the other girls, and the outhouse, nicknamed "Hollywood," completely weirds her out. When all of Vera's misguided attempts to fit in with the other kids backfire, she resigns herself to waiting out the miserable days till her mother picks her upuntil she unexpectedly succeeds in making one good friend. Vera's wide-eyed optimism and subsequent frustrations come to life through the vivid interplay between Brosgol's humorous text and her black, white, and olive-green illustrations, colored by Longstreth. While the culturally specific references will particularly resonate with kids of Russian heritage, the larger story will strike chords with any kid who has ever struggled to find a place to belong. It will especially speak to that segment of the population who dreads summer camp, an experience that translates across many cultures. Vera, her schoolmates, and her campmates are all pale-skinned.A funny summer-camp story with a culturally specific slant. (author's note) (Graphic memoir. 8-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.