Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus by Kristen Tracy
Delacorte Press, 2009.
(hardback) 293 pages.
Fair: just, equitable, what is right.
Unfair: the life of Camille McPhee.
Imagine being Camille McPhee. She has low blood sugar, so she carries extra food in a cooler. Would you want to do that?
Didn’t think so.
And you wouldn’t want to fall under the school bus. That happened to Camille, too!
Her cat, Checkers, is lost. And her best friend, Sally, moved to Japan. It would be hard to stay optimistic, right? But Camille is what her mom calls hopeful. Because really? There are plenty of things to be positive about: gifted reading, a nonsqueaky mattress, eating banned foods, the big blue butterfly.
Even making a new friend. Imagine that!
There was something familiar about this read but it took me half-way through to figure it out–Junie B. Jones! The daughter read Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus… almost twice. When I mentioned the first person narrative voice reminded me of Junie B., the daughter concurred. The similar style isn’t a bad memory, but required adjustment all the same. I had to remember this was 10 year-old, 4th grade, Camille McPhee speaking, not Barbara Parks funny and endearing Kindergartner then 1st Grader Junie B. Jones. I had to adjust to the child narrator styling while reading a conversational first-person YA, a serious dystopian third-person YA, and Daniil Kharms (a well-written class of his own). Then there is the fact that the illustrated Camille on the cover reminds me of a writing professor I had once.
So if you and/or your child grew up as an early reader on the humorous antics and perspective of Junie B. Jones and Junie B., First Grader then Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus… is for you.
The antics are groan-worthy humor. You laugh and shake your head, sighing alongside Camille as she picks herself up off the ground, again. And yet, for all the humor and silliness, there is a great deal of seriousness in this story. Fairness/Unfairness can be a serious topic after all—especially if you throw in a parent’s arguments and eventual separation.
Camille’s mother likes to shop and spend money; money Camille’s father doesn’t feel they have. He is concerned about staying out of the hole. Mother is having a mid-life crisis at 40 and Father travels a lot for his job. Then there is the lying and half-truths. (The mother is rarely, if ever, viewed in the best light.) Besides the stress at home, there is all the neighborhood and school drama with which to deal.
Camille has decided to model her coping skills after the Dingoes she saw at the zoo once. She isolates herself to protect herself from making and losing another friend. This is difficult to do at times and it is a relief for everyone when she learns that maybe Dingoes are the best role models.
Camille McPhee is sincere and self-deprecating, and most importantly an optimist.
Camille McPhee Fell Under the Bus… is charming–and encouraging. A well-told story filled with great characters with the irrepressible Camille McPhee at the center.
Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 2009: “This book about friendship and loss kindly teaches that life is pretty much what one is willing to make of it.”
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2009: “At heart, Camille’s a survivor, ‘born with the power to bounce back,’ which she does with surprising panache and hope in this touching debut.”
I came by this read via a recommendation on a book blog, but I bookmarked the seller’s site in my to-request-from-the-library-or-possibly-buy-outright folder. This error should only encourage me to (1) mind my marking and (2) get that blogroll list finished.