Max, the hero of what is really a clever exercise in reverse psychology, could just be the secret weapon that parents (and Jewish educators) are looking for in convincing recalcitrant kids to give Jewish camp a try. Resisting his mother's attempts to get him into the tub, Max regales her with stories of the special activities he had Sunday through Thursday at camp-none of which culminate in a bath ("On Wednesdays we go canoeing in the lake. The water is green and muddy and sometimes we catch frogs...but there are NO BATHS AT CAMP!") So does Max ever take a bath at camp? Sure, in preparation for Shabbat -24 hours that are so magical in so many ways that even the most defiantly schmutzy (dirty) kid would deem the occasion bath-worthy. Vasquez's (Ten Little Apples) collaged scenes of non-stop camp life, created from cutout drawings and photographic elements (a blazing campfire made of a photo of flames is particularly impressive) bring to life Fox's cheery but literal text, and lend an appropriately arts-and-crafts feel to the pages. Brimming with what veteran Jewish campers will immediately recognize as ruach (spirit), this book should prompt many youngsters to ask, "Am I old enough to go?" Ages 3-8
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Max insists that he never took a bath the entire time he was at summer camp. When Mom announces bathtime, Max gives her a complete account of all his adventures, with lots of grimy details, from Sunday to Saturday of each week. There's rock climbing, theatrics, marshmallow roasting, canoeing and swimming, painting and barefoot dancing. This particular camp focuses on Jewish traditions. They perform scenes from the Old Testament, dance the hora, and on Friday night observe Shabbat, lighting the candles, saying the blessings and eating a special meal. Saturday is spent quietly with walks, stories and conversations until sundown, when they say goodbye to the sweetness of the Sabbath. Max narrates his story in simple descriptive language and syntax, joyfully emphasizing that there were no baths on the schedule. Vasquez's double-paged, bright, textured illustrations clue readers into Max's misleading assertions. He may not have taken baths, but there he is washing at the water pump, splashing in the spray from the hose, having a jolly water-balloon fight and happily taking a shower and shampoo before sundown on Shabbat. Of course Max takes his bath, albeit reluctantly, obliging his Mom. Fox maintains a light, nonpreachy touch, weaving details of children's participation in Jewish traditions with the universal fun of summer camp. Charming, funny and appealing. (Picture book. 4-8)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Max spends his summer at a Jewish overnight camp. However, despite the religious rituals that are part of the week's activities, this could be Any Camp USA, which widens its appeal to a greater audience. Camp activities are universal: arts and crafts, water balloon fights, swimming, rock-climbing, and a campfire over which the campers cook marshmallows (hopefully, kosher). Despite the constant presence of water in these activities, Max insists that baths do not exist at camp. The reader discovers that there are many ways to stay clean in the outdoors, despite the lack of a bathtub. From swimming in the lake, to hosing down after crafts, to washing hands at an outdoor tap, to showering before Shabbat services, there is water, water everywhere. The only thing that is missing is a bathtub! The books cheerful illustrations are bright and multi-cultural even though the camp is clearly parochial. Jewish readers will relate to the Sabbath service and the practice of havdallah to end the Sabbath and welcome the week. The illustrations appear to be flat cut-outs pasted on the colorful background, but somehow this gives them more movement. The story itself is upbeat and fast, conveying the energy of Max's summer experiences. All the campers are in action and having fun, and it will be equally exciting for readers to spot the way that Max gets clean despite the very rustic bathing options. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross