Be Prepared is a complete delight, from the first sly jokes about the American Girl-ish doll Complicity to Brosgol's evocative artwork, which ranges from droll to wistful to outright lovely. Vera is a heroine for the ages, enduring day after lonely, buggy day without losing her spirit, compassion or love of beauty. Her sincerity is a beacon in the darkest latrine. Her triumphs are subtle and richly deserved. And her struggles are an eloquent reminder that even without outright tragedy, childhood is filled with challenges, cruelties and opportunities for courage.
The New York Times Book Review - Nalini Jones
Unlike her debut, Anya's Ghost, Eisner-winner Brosgol's second graphic work is a summer camp memoir set in the real world. Without fantasy elements to distract, execution is crucial, and Brosgol delivers. Vera, Brosgol's nine-year-old self, is a wide-eyed Russian immigrant kid desperate to fit in with her suburban classmates. They all go to camp every summer, and when she finds out about a Russian Orthodox camp that her family's church will help pay for, she talks her mother into letting her go. It doesn't take her long to realize that she's wished for the wrong thing. Mean girls, stinking outhouses, and baffling camp traditions make her first weeks miserable. Triumphs come, but not before she undergoes moments of humiliation that are both funny and cringeworthy ("Is that candy?" Vera asks her older tentmates about a pack of maxi-pads). The dialogue rings true, the pace is seamless, and the panel artwork, in woodsy browns and greens, conveys feelings with clean, assured lines. By turns sardonic, adorable, and noble, Vera is a beguiling hero who learns how to recognize who's really on her side. Ages 10–14. Agent: Judy Hansen, Hansen Literary. (Apr.)
New York Times Book Reiview Notable Children's Book of 2018 A Boston Globe Best Children's Book of 2018 Selected as the Best Graphic Novel of 2018 by Parents Magazine "Beautifully drawn, brutally funny, brilliantly honest. Vera is such a good cartoonist I almost can’t stand it.” —Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile "Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends (2017), this will easily lodge a place in readers’ hearts, even as it has them rolling in the aisles."— Booklist, starred"The story, both culturally specific and universal, is a welcome addition to the growing canon of comics tales by talented women cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier, Tillie Walden, Zeina Abirached, Cece Bell, and many others) based on their own lives."— Horn Book, starred "The dialogue rings true, the pace is seamless, and the panel artwork, in woodsy browns and greens, conveys feelings with clean, assured lines. By turns sardonic, adorable, and noble, Vera is a beguiling hero who learns how to recognize who's really on her side."— Publishers Weekly, starred"A gorgeous, emotional memoir worthy of any graphic novel collection."— School Library Journal, starred "While the culturally specific references will particularly resonate with kids of Russian heritage, the larger story will strike chords with any kid who has ever struggled to find a place to belong."— Kirkus"There’s no real villainy here, just the quotidian slings and arrows carelessly shot by kids more concerned with fun than empathy. That makes Vera a character with appeal to every tween who’s ever felt disappointed by peers—or by a fulfilled wish that didn’t live up to its bright, shiny promise."— The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Gr 5–8—Brosgol has worked on acclaimed animated films, but she was once a lonely nine-year-old aching for friendship. Here, she relates the story of her monthlong experience at Russian summer camp, where she coped with the horrors of outhouses, feral wildlife, and bug bites, as well as with mean older cabinmates and alienation from her fellow campers. The author/illustrator reprises her cartoony character art and her detailed yet subtle background work. The book eschews the plot-driven and suspenseful storytelling of Brosgol's Anya's Ghost in lieu of a slice-of-life narrative in which problems aren't always neatly resolved. This lends a hard realism to the memoir, in spite of the adorable art style, as young Vera earns small victories and an understanding of herself rather than soaring triumph. The text is simple and accessible, but the relaxed pacing, characters who go often unpunished for cruel behavior, and the brief inclusion of an ill-fated romance set this title apart from more gentle middle grade works. VERDICT A gorgeous, emotional memoir worthy of any graphic novel collection.—Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library
Brosgol (Leave Me Alone, 2016, etc.) draws on her bittersweet memories of attending Russian summer camp in this accessible graphic novel.Convinced that she will never fit in with the American girls in her class because her family is "too poor," "too Russian," and "too different," 9-year-old Vera jumps at the opportunity to attend Russian summer camp in hopes of finding a peer group she can belong to. However, Russian camp in the Connecticut woods is not at all what she had expected: Her tentmates are two mean girls five years her senior, she doesn't click with any of the other girls, and the outhouse, nicknamed "Hollywood," completely weirds her out. When all of Vera's misguided attempts to fit in with the other kids backfire, she resigns herself to waiting out the miserable days till her mother picks her up—until she unexpectedly succeeds in making one good friend. Vera's wide-eyed optimism and subsequent frustrations come to life through the vivid interplay between Brosgol's humorous text and her black, white, and olive-green illustrations, colored by Longstreth. While the culturally specific references will particularly resonate with kids of Russian heritage, the larger story will strike chords with any kid who has ever struggled to find a place to belong. It will especially speak to that segment of the population who dreads summer camp, an experience that translates across many cultures. Vera, her schoolmates, and her campmates are all pale-skinned.A funny summer-camp story with a culturally specific slant. (author's note) (Graphic memoir. 8-14)