Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review - How I Survived My Summer Vacation by Bruce Coville

Short review: Stuart Glassman goes to a movie summer camp, meets a ghost, and has trouble with the locals.

Camp Haunted Hills brings
Stuart ghosts, monsters, good friends
Plus silly hijinks

Long review: How I Survived My Summer Vacation is the first installment of Bruce Coville's Camp Haunted Hills series. Like the other Camp Haunted Hills books, this volume takes the kitchen sink approach to storytelling, throwing just about everything into the mix and shaking it up until some sort of silly, funny adventure falls out.

In this volume was are introduced both to Stuart Glassman, a kind of nerdy movie fanatic, and Camp Haunted Hills, a summer movie camp run by a man known for making scary special effects laden horror movies. This is, of course, heaven for Stuart, who immediately gravitates to Harry Housen, the special effects teacher and gets involved in making special effects for the Camp movie. Along the way, Stuart runs into the usual cast of characters that inhabit books aimed at younger readers: the pretty camp counselor that he has a case of puppy love for, the cool camp counselor, the jerky camper, his friend the nerdy but nice camper, and so on. Stuart also makes friends with Robert, the Camp's resident ghost (and the reason why the camp is "Camp Haunted Hills"), who only he can see or hear. This, of course, causes Stuart no end of trouble, which is amusing for the reader as Stuart tries to explain why he always seems to be talking to himself.

The book sort of wanders along with some typical summer camp hijinks until the final stage in which the campers set out to make a movie as their final summer camp project. Stuart is selected to play a bigfoot type character, which results in him getting into a rather hairy situation. It turns out that being friends with Robert has benefits after all, and the camp counselors have to mount a rescue effort to extract Stuart to safety. This being a humorous book aimed at younger readers, all is well that ends well, and everyone gets home safely.

While there isn't anything particularly deep about this book, it has the usual Coville message that being nice to others is a good thing, and good friends are the most valuable thing one can have. This being a Coville book, this message is also surrounded with an array of silly and supernatural elements. Unfortunately, like the other Camp Haunted Hills books, this book seems to try to pack just too many elements into one hundred and six pages, and the result is somewhat unfocused and disjointed.

Subsequent book in the series: Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters

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  1. God, I haven't read a Bruce Coville book in so long. I don't remember ever reading this one but I do remember devouring some of his other books when I was in elementary school. This brings back a lot of memories.

    A friend of mine is from Syracuse and she said that he used to teach at a school there. I don't know if it was her school, but I think she said that he came to speak to her class once about writing.

  2. @gabrielreads: I recall reading about Coville and remember seeing that before he was able to turn to writing full time he was indeed an elementary school teacher for a while.

    I really like Coville's books, even though he didn't get published until I was already pretty much an adult. I started reading them when my kids got to the age that they were reading his stuff - I try to read the books they read just so I can keep up with what they are doing. I started out just reading those of Coville's books they were reading, but before long I was hunting down any of his books I could find and reading them even if my kids did not!

  3. If you haven't read it yet, he co-authored a book with Jane Yolan called Armageddon Summer. It's about two teens, a boy and a girl, whose parents get caught up in a cult that believes the world is going to end that summer and that they are they only 144 people who will survive to start the world anew. It's a really great book and I highly recommend it.

  4. @gabrielreads: Thanks for the recommendation! I have that book but I have not read it yet. I guess I'll have to push it to the top of Mount To-Be-Read.