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Camo Girl
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Camo Girl

4.7 21
by Kekla Magoon
 

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Set in a suburb of Las Vegas, Ella and Zachary, called Z, have been friends forever, but Z has always been “the weird kid” in their class. He collects stubby pencils, plays chess, and maintains an elaborate –and public– fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Z’s games were okay back in 3rd or 4th grade, but by now their

Overview

Set in a suburb of Las Vegas, Ella and Zachary, called Z, have been friends forever, but Z has always been “the weird kid” in their class. He collects stubby pencils, plays chess, and maintains an elaborate –and public– fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Z’s games were okay back in 3rd or 4th grade, but by now their other friends have ditched them both. Z doesn’t care, but Ella longs to be part of a group of friends, even though most of the class makes fun of her. Ella’s mother is black and her father (now deceased) was white, and she’s the only black girl in their sixth grade class. When a new boy, Bailey, moves to town, he befriends Ella, because they are now the only two black kids in class. But Bailey is popular – popular enough to make Ella cool and give her a wider circle of friends – but only if she stops hanging out with Z. Ella’s faced with a difficult decision – remain loyal to the boy who has been her best and only friend for years, or pass up the opportunity to be one of the popular kids that she has always longed to be.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Magoon (The Rock and the River) offers a sensitive and articulate portrayal of a pair of middle-school outsiders. Sixth-graders Zachary ("Z") and Ella are longtime friends, loners who have bonded over the loss of their fathers. On their own, they refer to themselves as Sir Zachariah and Lady Eleanor, using the trappings of royalty and chivalry to steel themselves against real-life bullies at their all-white school, who call biracial Ella "Camo-Face" and consider Z, who is extremely immersed in his fantasies, to be "reality-challenged." When another black student, Bailey, begins attending their school and shows an interest in Ella, it challenges her friendship with Z, casting a new light on his behavior and vulnerability. Ella's relationships—with her mother, grandmother, Bailey, and Z—are especially well rendered; the decisions Ella must make regarding Z are all the more poignant as she herself has seen a close friend become an ex-friend in recent years. This poetic and nuanced story addresses the courage it takes to truly know and support someone, as well as the difficult choices that come with growing up. Ages 8–14. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"This elegantly crafted story features strong writing and solid characterizations of both main and secondary characters. Ella and Bailey’s racial identity is one element in a full and richly textured narrative. An out-of-the-ordinary setting—just outside of Las Vegas—and the nuanced picture of young teens and families under stress make this an outstanding follow-up to Magoon’s Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning debut, The Rock and the River (2009).

-KIRKUS, December 2010, *STAR

"Magoon writes with insight, wit, and compassion. Characters are appealing; action is well paced; and adolescent angst is palpable. Although Ella’s skin condition and Z’s psychological problems are not clearly defined, the trauma of both is conveyed. Ella is caught between a desire to hang out with Bailey and the popular crowd or remain loyal to eccentric Z, and her actions, musings, and guilt will resonate with readers.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

-SLJ, January 2011

"This novel, by the author of The Rock and the River (2009), is a sensitive, quietly powerful look at discovering inner strength, coping, and thriving—or not—in the face of tragedy.— Heather Booth

BOOKLIST, February 2011

"All characters are well constructed. The story is written in a style that many early teens would appreciate for its real life parallels and issues. "

-Library Media Connection, May/June 2011

Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Ella is picked upon by the other kids because her skin is mottled—dark brown in some spots on her face and light brown in others. She is ashamed of her looks, thinking she is ugly. She had two friends up until this year—sixth grade. But Millie has been avoiding her except when they ride to and from school, so Ella is down to one friend who calls himself Zachariah, knight of his own realm. Everyone else makes fun of Z, but Ella—known to Z as The Lady Ellie-nor—is loyal to her friend. He helped her grieve when her father died by making up their fantasy world, which was good at the time. The problem is Zachariah slides ever further into the alternate world so he will not have to deal with the reality of his father having deserted him, leaving his mom and him to camp out at the Wal-Mart where she works. He becomes even more the object of torture for the school bullies; the Lady Ellie-nor coming to his rescue. Z's distress deepens when Bailey James enrolls at their school and seeks out Ella's company. She thinks it is because she is the only other black kid in the school. But he invites her to join him as he hangs out with the popular crowd and protects her from the bullies. She finds herself pulled toward other people and begins to reconnect with her friend Millie. Z goes on a mission to find his estranged father and Bailey helps Ella find him. Bailey has secrets of his own, including having his own father in a psychiatric hospital to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Z finally gets the help he desperately needs and Ella begins to move on from her father's death. This is a very well written novel and an enjoyable read. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
Kirkus Reviews
Ella and Zachary, sixth-grade misfits, cling to each other to get through the taunts, rejection and, sometimes, abuse from their classmates. Ella is the only black student, and her discolored skin tone has some calling her "Camo-Face," short for camouflage. Zachary, or "Z," is small for his age and takes refuge in fantasy to cope with abandonment by his father. When a new black student arrives and seems open to Ella, she has hope for a new friendship, especially because, even though he can fit in with the popular group, Bailey reaches out to her. The insecure Z sees this as a threat, and Ella is torn between her loyalty to him and her wish for some normalcy. This elegantly crafted story features strong writing and solid characterizations of both main and secondary characters. Ella and Bailey's racial identity is one element in a full and richly textured narrative. An out-of-the-ordinary setting—just outside of Las Vegas—and the nuanced picture of young teens and families under stress make this an outstanding follow-up to Magoon's Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning debut, The Rock and the River (2009). (Fiction. 8-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—The lone African American in her Nevada junior high school, sixth-grader Ella struggles with self-image, bullying, and shifting friendships. Tormented by the vitiligo on her face, she shuns mirrors and feels ostracized. Her one true friend is Zachariah (Z), a homeless loner classmate whose imaginative fantasies mask his troubled emotional state. When Bailey James, also African American, enrolls in her school and befriends Ella, her world begins to change. Ella is drawn to Bailey's popularity and friendship but doesn't want to lose Z. When he disappears, Ella and Bailey secretly hop a bus to Las Vegas to find him. Along the way, Ella discovers that Bailey has secrets and fears of his own. The three children have maternal support and love but miss their fathers. Ella's died young; Z's, a gambler, abandoned his family; and Bailey's soldier father is in treatment for PTSD. Ella's coming-of-age narrative reveals her growing awareness of the complexities of life and the burdens each person carries. Magoon writes with insight, wit, and compassion. Characters are appealing; action is well paced; and adolescent angst is palpable. Although Ella's skin condition and Z's psychological problems are not clearly defined, the trauma of both is conveyed. Ella is caught between a desire to hang out with Bailey and the popular crowd or remain loyal to eccentric Z, and her actions, musings, and guilt will resonate with readers.—Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416978046
Publisher:
Aladdin
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Pages:
218
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.86(d)
Lexile:
600L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I call him zachariah. he calls me eleanor, but the way he says it, it comes out sounding like Ellie-nor.

These are not our real names.

Most people, the sort of people who don’t need extra names, can get away with doing simple things like looking in a mirror or taking a bathroom pass out of the cafeteria in the middle of lunch hour. We are not most people.

Z and I have learned how not to see the things we don’t want to. It’s not that hard, but it makes us seem strange to everybody else. Z, especially, is . . . different . . . from the other kids in our class. Good different, as far as I’m concerned, but the kind of different that makes other people raise their eyebrows and sort of laugh under their breath, as if he’s not to be believed.

I’ve been gone maybe five minutes, but it’s too long. Heading back toward our table, I can almost hear that silly Sesame Street song humming in the air, converging on him. “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong . . .”

Z’s in trouble. I’m walking toward him and I see it, know I should never have left him alone, but some things can’t be helped. Our eyes lock across the room, and there’s nothing in his gaze but stark terror. I should never have left him alone.

Zachariah. Eleanor.

These are not our real names. These are our shadow names, our armor, our cloaks. They are larger than we can ever hope to be; they cause things to bounce off us so we can never be hurt. By anyone. Anything. Ever.

It doesn’t always work.

“Zachariah!” I practically scream it, running toward him.

“Ellie-nor,” he says, gazing at me with alarm.

These are not our real names, but none of that matters now. For the moment I simply throw my arms up over his head to stop the food from hitting him.

Spaghetti with mystery meat sauce.

Tiny rolling peas.

Vanilla pudding with cookies.

A carton of chocolate milk, unopened, thank goodness.

Z’s whole tray overturned by laughing hands. The bulk of it catches me in my shoulders, neck, and back.

Beneath me, Z sits stock still, clean but immobile, gazing innocently at the blank space of the table in front of him. He survived.

This, this is my superpower. My only power, to protect him. He wouldn’t understand what had happened. He would pretend not to see. Then he’d make up a story about how he had to crawl through a tunnel lined with bloody, mangled earthworms to get to freedom. He would smile, gooey strings of pasta hanging from his hair, and murmur, “All in a day’s work.”

Jonathan Hoffman tosses the soiled green tray onto the tabletop. He smiles at me in that way that is so infuriating. Is he proud of himself? As if no one else in the history of time ever thought to dump a lunch tray on someone’s head.

“Way to take the bullet, C. F.,” he says.

My face flushes with rage. I stand with my hands on my hips, ignoring the fact that I’m the one dripping with red sauce and noodles. I am Eleanor, Goddess of Everything, fearless in the face of danger.

“Do you ever get tired of being a gigantic jerk?” I snap.

Jonathan stretches lazily. “My work is exhausting,” he says, then saunters off to accept the high fives from his table of cronies.

I sink into the seat beside Z and let my head fall onto the table.

“Ellie-nor,” he says. “Ellie-nor.”

His small hand covers mine. I manage to look up, into his close-to-tearful face.

“Ellie-nor,” he says, but I’m not her anymore. Now I’m just Ella. Plain old everyday Ella, the girl with drying pasta goo in her hair, on her skin and clothes. I think some of the peas rolled into my shoe. Little cold mush balls sitting in there.

“You fought the dragon and won,” Z says. “You fought the dragon and won.”

I smile sadly. “Yeah, I did.”

Z taps the table in a drumming rhythm. “Brave, brave, fair lady. You fought the dragon and won.”

It’ll work for him to pretend. Z’s not like other kids. He knows what happened, but he can’t admit what it was, what it means about us in the real world. He believes, really believes, that we sit alone at lunch by choice.

I shove my own lunch tray toward him. “Eat this,” I say. “I’m really not hungry. Anyway, I have to go change.”

Z’s hand falls on my sleeve, tugging me to stay with him.

“You would cast aside this badge of honor?” His eyes bug out, incredulous. “You fought the dragon and won!”

Sighing, I unwrap the napkin from his spork and use it to wipe my neck. I left him alone once already today. So, I sit here, watching him eat—he polishes off everything on the tray and some of what fell on the table—until the end-of-lunch bell rings.

People look at me funny as they clear their trays, but it’s not only because of the food mess. They’d be looking, anyway. If Z and I were business-minded, we’d build a wall around our table, and a window. We could charge admission for each single peek in. We’d either make a fortune or be left alone. Win-win.

I try to become Eleanor again. Smile as they pass, like I know something they don’t. Make them uncomfortable.

“Ellie-nor.” Z reaches up under his shirt and pulls out two fluffy rolls. On spaghetti day, you have to pay ten cents extra for rolls. Z does not have ten cents, let alone twenty. He hands me one.

“Thanks,” I say, accepting the stolen roll. The lunch ladies don’t pay enough attention. Not when we go through the line, and not when we get food dumped on us. I guess it’s only fair.

I keep two changes of clothes in my locker. It’s important to be prepared for occasions like this. I keep an extra shirt for Z, too, but he’d never actually use it. He meant what he said about the badge of honor. I go along with a lot of his fantasies, but I can’t quite get on board with that one.

Z’s waiting outside the girls’ bathroom for me. He observes my change with large, thoughtful eyes. Then he pushes up his glasses with his pebble of a fist, ready to move on. I tug at the hem of my clean shirt, feeling guilty. Maybe it’s a form of surrender, I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet. What the right thing to do is when things fall out of the sky and hit you.

© 2011 Kekla Magoon

Meet the Author

Kekla Magoon has worked with youth-serving nonprofit organizations in New York City and Chicago. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and her first novel, The Rock and the River, won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. She resides in New York City and you can visit her at KeklaMagoon.com.

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Camo Girl 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Adrionna Mcdonald More than 1 year ago
Omg i thouht i would not like this book and i had to do it for a school project and i took a night just to read it and i was like omg every one should read tthis so if you cant guess ILOVE THIS BOOK and so i really think that if you love a kinda romantic book read this book i think you would love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so... just so unexplainable. I loved it so much! The relationship between "Eleanor" and "Zachariah" is so strong and lovable. I absolutely adore Ella's personality and sincerety throughout the story. Thumbs up to Kekla Magoon!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do baily and ella kiss at the end ?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It is about a girl named Elanor who gets trapped between two worlds. Between Bailey James and Zachariah. Bailey is very popular and likes Elanor but Zachariah has been her BFF for a long time. I reccomend this book to anyone. It is fantastic. It is soo worth your money!!:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is marvolus. I endearly encourage you to read it because it tells you all about a girls life without her dad. And the bullying she goes throu and Bailly James changes it all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely positively love this book!! I recommend it to anyone and everyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would like become a camo girl
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The greatest book EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is such an amazing book. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in books about friendship and overcoming obstacles, or anyone really.... Spectacular story-line!
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
Review title: Who Are You, Truly? Readers learn the importance and need for true friendship and loyalty. A worth while novel for exploring the need for intervention when necessary as well as when to seek assistance for delicate situations. This novel assists readers to accept themselves as they are along with accepting others and knowing when changes are needed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The est book ever !!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am the same person who said they were 1/3 done of the book and i JUST finished the book like 30 seconds ago and this is my FAVORITE book ever. I love it so much and the story isnt what u would think it would be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for summer reading for school, and i loved it! I liked how it showed how kids or older kids, teens, can have a really close bond even if one kids has mental issues and the other doesnt. I also liked how it a little bit of romance in it i would read this book a million times because i love it so much! I would recomend this to all kids including adults!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It was awesome!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book