Graphic Novel Review: Be Prepared

Vera Brosgol has mined her childhood (as part of a Russian immigrant family in the United States) for this interesting take on a common childhood experience: overnight summer camp. But in Be Prepared, Brosgol gives us a glimpse of something else, too: how Russian immigrants created an entire community here after the Purges to help children keep their Russian roots.

I know this a reflection of the times we live in, but as I read Be Prepared, I couldn’t help thinking: is this story going to shift in some spy indoctrination story of young Russian children (Perhaps I’ve been watching The Americans¬†too much and reading the collusion headlines of this presidency). But no. This is about a girl trying to find her own place in the world, where cultural clashes and family tensions make friendships difficult.

This book was fun to read, and I really ended up caring deeply about the main character — Vera, a version of the graphic novelist, who tells us at the end that not everything here happened as it happened in real life. She’s funny, witty, creative and uncertain about herself, and in the end, she finds a friend and connection at the summer camp.

This book is appropriate for elementary and middle school readers, for sure, and high school students might enjoy it. Brosgol is a graphic novelist/cartoonist to keep an eye on, for sure.

Peace (in cultural frames),
Kevin

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