From the Publisher
Stephanie Zvirin (Booklist, January 1 & 15, 1998 (Vol. 94, No. 9 & 10))
Camilla, who loves lima beans but won't eat them because it's not cool, finds that deferring to others isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, her desire to please and be popular causes her some spectacular problems: she suddenly breaks out in stripes, then stars, then turns "purple polka-dotty" at the behest of a delighted classmate. Her weird mutations, which stymie doctors and send the media into a frenzy, become more and more extreme until she finally blends into the walls of her room--her lips the red-blanketed mattress on her bed, her eyes the paintings on the wall. Will she never be herself again? Shannon's over-the-top art is sensational, an ingenious combination of the concrete and the fantastic that delivers more than enough punch to make up for the somewhat heavy hand behind the story, and as usual, his wonderfully stereotypic characters are unforgettable. The pictures are probably enough to attract young browsers (Camilla in brilliant stripped glory graces the jacket), and the book's irony and wealth of detail may even interest readers in higher grades. Try this for leading into a discussion on being different. Category: For the Young. 1998, Scholastic/Blue Sky,
Horn Book (Horn Book Guide, Fall 1998)
A girl obsessed with what people think about her contracts an ailment that literally turns her into whatever anyone--classmates, doctors, etc.--decides she should be. The story is heavy-handed, but the girl's graphically depicted symptoms, from multicolored stripes to twigs and other spiny appendages protruding from her body, contribute to the dark comedy of the retro-style paintings. Category: Fiction. 1998, Scholastic, 32pp. Ages 5 to 9. Rating: 4: Recommended, with minor flaws.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1998)
Camilla Cream wants to fit in, so she conforms, denying herself the things she craves--lima beans, for example--if the other kids frown upon them. She wakes up one morning covered head to toe with party-colored stripes--not the state of affairs aspired to by a conventionalist, but it's only the beginning of her troubles. Her schoolmates call out designs and Camilla's skin reacts: polka dots, the American flag--"poor Camilla was changing faster than you could change channels on a T.V." Specialists are called in, as are experts, healers, herbalists, and gums. An environmental therapist suggests she "breathe deeply, and become one with your room." Camilla melts into the wall. It takes a little old lady with a handful of lima beans to set Camilla to rights. Shannon's story is a good poke in the eye of conformity--imaginative, vibrant, and at times good and spooky--and his emphatic, vivid artwork keeps perfect pace with the tale. 1998, Blue Sky/Scholastic, $15.95. Starred Review. © 1998 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Pat Mathews (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March 1998 (Vol. 51, No. 7))
Camilla Cream "was always worried about what other people thought of her." She secretly loves lima beans and doesn't want her food fetish to ruin her popularity with her lima-bean-hating friends. Things quickly take an odd turn when Camilla gets a really weird disease. Initially she breaks out in rainbow stripes (but it gets weirder) and finally ends up turning into whatever the people around her suggest ("An Environmental Therapist claimed she could cure Camilla. 'Close your eyes,' she said. 'Breathe deeply, and become one with your room.' 'I wish you hadn't said that,' Camilla groaned"). Kids will giggle and gasp at the story of peer pressure run amok as one zany scene outdoes the other (Camilla's transformation into her bedroom, with mattresses for lips, is uniquely strange and very funny). The exaggerated, solid, puppet-like characters who encounter Camilla's chameleon ways are comically appropriate to this droll take on being true to oneself, and the
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
On this disturbing book's striking dust jacket, a miserable Betty-Boop-like girl, completely covered with bright bands of color, lies in bed with a thermometer dangling from her mouth. The rainbow-hued victim is Camilla Cream, sent home from school after some startling transformations: "when her class said the Pledge of Allegiance, she turned red, white, and blue, and she broke out in stars!" Scientists and healers cannot help her, for after visits from "an old medicine man, a guru, and even a veterinarian... she sprouted roots and berries and crystals and feathers and a long furry tail." The paintings are technically superb but viscerally troublingespecially this image of her sitting in front of the TV with twigs and spots and fur protruding from her. The doe-eyed girl changes her stripes at anyone's command, and only nonconformity can save her. When she finally admits her unspeakable secretshe loves lima beansshe is cured. Shannon (How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball) juggles dark humor and an anti-peer-pressure message. As her condition worsens, Camilla becomes monstrous, ultimately merging with the walls of her room. The hallucinatory images are eye-popping but oppressive, and the finalewith Camilla restored to her bean-eating selfbrings a sigh of relief. However, the grotesque images of an ill Camilla may continue to haunt children long after the cover is closed. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - C. Dennette Michaels
"Camilla Cream loved Lima beans. But she never ate any of them. All of her friends hated lima beans and she wanted to fit in." Before her mirror, while trying on number 42 of the possible outfits for the first day of a new school year, Camilla develops a striped skin. When a doctor summoned finds no "illness," she returns to school. There, on succeeding days, she become polka-dotted, an American flag variant, and sprouts vines. Physicians come, and go. School finally says, "Too much". One day, "a woman who called herself an Environmental Therapist came with promise of a cure-Lima beans, of course." Camilla rejects them at first, until she realizes that being laughed at is nothing to compared to her dehumanizing experiences. "Wait!" she cries. "The truth is, I really love lima beans." Happy ending and point made. This charming morality tale could, and I think will, became entrenched in the literary folklore of any family fortunate enough to make it part of their picture book experience.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Young Camilla Cream loves lima beans but never eats them. "All of her friends hated lima beans, and she wanted to fit in. Camilla was always worried about what other people thought of her." From the first page, the ending is predictable. It is a rollicking, uproarious journey getting there. Camilla comes down with stripes which spread to spots. Before long every peer, expert and specialist adds another oddity to her appearance. At the story's end, an old woman offers her lima beans and she witnesses Camilla's transformation with, "I knew the real you was in there somewhere." Camilla is a silly antidote for children who live in fear of being different. She allows them to laugh and be heartened by her changes. Read this to children to show them characters who are different but want to be who they are and act in ways they believe to be right even if their choices are doubted by many.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2A highly original moral tale acquires mythic proportions when Camilla Cream worries too much about what others think of her and tries desperately to please everyone. First stripes, then stars and stripes, and finally anything anyone suggests (including tree limbs, feathers, and a tail) appear vividly all over her body. The solution: lima beans, loved by Camilla, but disdained for fear they'll promote unpopularity with her classmates. Shannon's exaggerated, surreal, full-color illustrations take advantage of shadow, light, and shifting perspective to show the girl's plight. Bordered pages barely contain the energy of the artwork; close-ups emphasize the remarkable characters that inhabit the tale. Sly humor lurks in the pictures, too. For example, in one double-page spread the Creams are besieged by the media including a crew from station WCKO. Despite probing by doctors and experts, it takes "an old woman who was just as plump and sweet as a strawberry" to help Camilla discover her true colors. Set in middle-class America, this very funny tale speaks to the challenge many kids face in choosing to act independently.Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA
...[A] delicious visual metaphor for the disease of caring too much about what others think of you. -- The New York Times