Going to Camp with Amy Rebecca Tan’s Summer at Meadow Wood
I’m not surprised I adored Amy Rebecca Tan’s latest middle grade novel, Summer at Meadow Wood, although maybe I liked it even more than I thought I would? That’s saying something. It also made me desperately want to go to summer camp or, at least, the idealized kind I have in my head thanks to The Parent Trap.
Full disclosure, I received a review copy of this book from the author, who I regularly bother on Instagram by raving about her debut, A Kind of Paradise. However, you may have noticed by now that I keep quiet when a book is not for me (for reasons I can go into at some point if you’d like) and I am not being quiet. I’m going to give a big camp cheer: This book is B-A-N-A-N-A-S GOOD! You’ll get that when you read it.
The book comes out Tuesday, May 19. It would make for the best book mail, not to mention that pre-orders are so helpful for authors.
Summer at Meadow Wood follows Jamie’s best friend, Vic, at summer camp. I found myself sneaking in pages at every chance and then sad when the book was over. Tan has such a gift for making you want to know her characters and be in that world. Like A Kind of Paradise, Tan doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff, but the nostalgic and transportive feel of everything she weaves together makes you feel really satisfied and happy. She shines at making unlikely relationships feel authentic and yet ideal and the way she casually drops life wisdom throughout the book without it be annoying made me repeatedly want to reach for a pen.
Some of that life wisdom:
- “To fix a problem you have to name it.”
- “You never know what you can handle until you try to handle it.”
- “Read more, know more.”
- “Sometimes when you rush you don’t move forward at all.”
- “Getting old, it happens so fast you don’t see it coming.”
- “What if is a waste of time. What now is the question we should be asking.”
Wondering if the book is for you? Here are a few key words for your brain algorithm:
- Eleanor Roosevelt!
- Summer camp!
- Unlikely friendships!
- Farmers market!
- Friends becoming family!
- Coming of age!
- Apple cider donuts!
Now let’s take this book to camp. Below are some accompaniments that I think would make the reading experience even more fun, as well as what I’m calling the care package, which is basically other books, TV shows, and movies that might follow up this one nicely when you’re feeling blue that it’s over.
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Snacks are always important. I’m going to recommend cobbling together a trail mix of your own choosing. Want to go the s’mores inspired root and put in teddy grahams, mini marshmallows, chocolate, and pretzels? Or get inspired by Vic’s love of Kit-Kats and put in Kit-Kats, almonds, peanuts, and raisins? This could be your new self isolation hobby.
This book is also going to make you crave apple cider donuts. If you don’t have a place near you that makes them and is doing pick-ups, try out this recipe. Otherwise, be prepared to drool and dream away.
Vic likes a root beer, but I have to say that nothing says summer to me like lemonade- try this recipe– and nothing says camp drink to me like bug juice, which I’m pretty sure is just a mash-up of fruit juices. That feels like something you could get quite sophisticated with, or just keep simple. Either way, get something cold and put it in a mason jar.
Arts and Crafts
We mostly see Vic at Farm, but summer camp in my mind necessitates a craft. Have you seen these super cute macrame rainbows? I am definitely doing this.
You’re going to need a sheet tent. With twinkle lights. And as many blankets and pillows as you have. Alternatively, if you have a tent, set it up in your backyard and read with the sun streaming through the netting. We did this the other day and it was so much fun.
If you’re able to make a fire, that’s a must. Grab s’mores supplies, grab a lantern, grab the book. Have your dutiful campmates flip the pages for you when your hands get too sticky. See also: Watch The Parent Trap or, you know, talk around the campfire.
This is a book you’ll be sad is over, so here are some extra things for you to keep that feeling alive.
– Beverley Nichol’s Down the Garden Path
– Holly Goldberg Sloane’s and Meg Wolitzer’s To Night Owl from Dogfish
– Eleanor Roosevelt’s You Learn By Living
– Stan and Jan Berenstain’s Berenstain Bears Go To Camp (picture book)
– Katharine White’s Onward and Upward in the Garden
– all of Monty Don’s books and shows, some of which are streaming on Netflix
– Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
– Hope Larson’s Chiggers (graphic novel)
– Christopher Franceshelli’s Farmblock (board book)
– Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings
– Christie Purifoy’s Placemakers
– Teagan White’s Adventures with Barefoot Critters (board book)
– Anne Youngson’s Meet Me at the Museum
– Brian G. Karas’ On The Farm, At The Market (picture book)
– Susan Wojciechowski’s Beany Goes to Camp
– Reginald Arkell’s Old Herbaceous
– Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty
Are you going to read this one? I can’t wait to talk about it with you if you do. Also, please share your pairing ideas or any camp theming ideas because I can’t get enough! In the meantime, I’m going to be digging up an old American Girl magazine with an article about camping at home that I used to obsess over…
If you would like to join in on the fun, please go to the submissions page!