When Ethan arrives at summer camp for the first time, he has just three modest goals. First, to survive. Second, not to be hated. Third, not to be the worst at anything. But these goals turn out to be relatively easy to achieve. Instead, his real challenge comes in the form of a new cabin mate. Zachary arrives at camp late, surrounded by a cloud of rumors, and Ethan finds himself intrigued and somehow envious of the new arrival. Zach doesn’t seem to care what anybody thinks of him. He doesn’t even seem upset when he is forced to miss the Big Swim, the legendary camp event where a select few try to swim across the lake and back.
Then Zach attracts the attention of Amber Levine -- the girl with an easy smile and a freckle on one knee -- at the same time that Amber attracts the attention of Ethan. And life gets even more complicated when Zach decides to try the Big Swim on his own, and he manages to convince Amber and Ethan to help him. Original and smartly observed, this story will strike a chord with anyone who has ever been to summer camp.
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.