The Big Swim
Cary Fagan, . . Groundwood, $14.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-88899-969-6
Fagan (the Kaspar Snit books) shifts gears in this touching novel set at a Jewish sleepaway camp. Ethan did not want to be sent to Camp White Birch, but is pleasantly surprised to find that he doesn't mind it that much (even though he ends up with the nickname “Pinky,” thanks to the hypoallergenic blanket his mother sends to camp with him). It's an uneventful summer until a new camper named Zachary transfers in. The rumor mill has Zachary responsible for everything from minor pranks to animal torture and car theft, but when he moves in, he prefers to simply avoid the other kids. A chance encounter and conversations between Zachary and Ethan, Ethan's crush on a girl named Amber, and the titular Big Swim—an endurance swimming contest that even the counselors find challenging—form the basis for the rest of the novel. Although there isn't much meat in this brief book, Fagan perfectly captures the summer camp experience, and gives Ethan a realistic and likable voice that makes the story satisfying and charming—though readers may wish Ethan's summer went by slower. Ages 9–12.
Reviewed on: 03/15/2010