cover image The Lightning Circle

The Lightning Circle

Vikki VanSickle, illus. by Laura K. Watson. Tundra, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-7748-8249-8

VanSickle (How to Decorate a Christmas Tree) paints a portrait of a classic mid-aughts summer camp in this slice-of-life verse novel. It’s summer 2006 and 17-year-old Nora Nichols finds herself employed as a counselor at Camp Cradle Rock, an all-girls outdoors program nestled in the Blue Mountains of West Virginia, where she’s one of six teen girls tasked with wrangling a gaggle of 13- year-olds. Quintessential summer camp staples such as friendship bracelets, rousing games of Never Have I Ever, heaps of boy talk, and living at the mercy of the weather feature throughout. Woven in between vignettes depicting prank wars, horseback riding, and sun tanning is a subtle exploration of healing from heartbreak, navigating body shame, and the strength that one can find in community, as evidenced by the titular Lightning Circle campfire tale: “At this point/ Kala leads us/ in forming/ a Lightning Circle/ of our own./ Six women,/ twelve hands,/ and the feeling that passes/ from hand to hand/ is something like/ electricity.” Sparse, exacting verse pairs well with Watson’s soft, sketchy line drawings in charcoal gray and sage green, which render the natural world, tidbits of camp life, and characters whose skin tones reflect the white of the page. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)