A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever
Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee
Harcourt Children’s Books; $16.00
40 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0152060206
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Young James and Eamon are thrilled to begin a week of nature day camp one summer. They get to stay with Eamon’s grandparents; Bill takes them to and from camp every day, and Pam provides the cooking. While camp may not be all that the boys expected, like staring at a flower for an hour while on a nature hike, staying with Bill and Pam is lots of fun. Bill shares lots of details about Australia, the one place he would really like to go, and penguins; Pam makes peanut butter-and-honey sandwiches, banana waffles, and coffee ice cream-icebergs to keep the campers going.
Bill keeps encouraging the outdoors while the boys keep resisting. He gives them binoculars to take to camp, and a list of birds to watch for; he trots out atlases, and maps of Antarctica. And still James and Eamon find more joy in grossing each other out by turning the binoculars on each other ("His freckles are huge!" "Yeah, and his tongue is gross!"), playing video games, and just goofing off and doing kid things. It’s not until the night before they’re supposed to go home, when they finally run out of things to do, that James and Eamon demonstrate that they’ve actually absorbed quite a lot from nature camp, and from Bill in particular.
Marla Frazee’s lighthearted illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this charming story. The breezy style of the artwork captures the essence of summer, with frothy green waves and warm pink sunsets. Soft lines and colors emphasize the relaxed, vacation-feel of the story. Frazee’s pictures play up contradictions with the humorous, understated text (for example, we’re told James was sad when his mother left him with Eamon’s grandparents, but James wears a big smile and shouts "Bye!"; Bill and Pam worry about the boys being lonely at night, but Frazee shows them laying on the inflatable mattress surrounded by stuffed animals and toys). Frazee has a great ability to capture a kid’s point of view; Eamon and James are independent and energetic, absorbing the world around them even if the adults around them suspect that maybe they aren’t.
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever is a fun story that celebrates kids’ friendships, the freedom of summer, and all the great things that go with it. There’s a poignancy to the story that will probably be lost on younger readers, but that’s okay; parents will recognize that moment and enjoy it for all it’s worth. After all, who doesn’t remember their best week ever?