cover image Gamerville


Johnnie Christmas. HarperAlley, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-305681-7

After he qualifies for the Gamerville Video Game Tournament, tween Max finds himself attending Camp Reset, a Black-owned sleepaway program for digital detoxing. Undeterred by his parents’ efforts to inspire more healthful habits (“No screens! No distractions!”), Max attempts to escape immediately. Instead, he’s paired with peer supervisor Dylan, who has his own objective: atone for his previous behavior bullying campmates. Max agrees to help Dylan break into Toy Tower—where all games, video and otherwise, have been collected and locked away since the camp’s founding—so campers can finally enjoy them, and Max can use his confiscated Game Guy to confirm his spot at Gamerville. With help from Zanzi, the most decorated camper and the great-great-granddaughter of the establishment’s founder, the boys scheme to find the key to Toy Tower and unlock their redemption. Christmas (Swim Team) explores common middle school issues such as bullying, friendship fallout, and expanding one’s perspective in this ambitious, fast-paced graphic novel. Video game aesthetics paired with brightly colored illustrations craft two distinct and complementary settings: one teeming with digital adventure and the other filled with wilderness whimsy. Even Max’s go-to game, The Lone Wolf of Calamity Bay, reinforces themes of camaraderie, change, and courage. Characters are depicted with varying skin tones. Ages 8–12. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary. (July)