Be Prepared

Eisner- and Harvey Award-winning author/illustrator Vera Brosgol's (Anya's Ghost, Leave Me Alone!) second work of graphic nonfiction for children, Be Prepared, is a memoir about her childhood experience as a Russian immigrant, trying to find a place to belong.

Desperate to fit in, nine-year-old Vera tries to do everything just like her all-"American" classmates, but finds she is always the outsider--she is "too poor.... too Russian.... too different." When Vera learns about an affordable Russian summer camp, she thinks it will be a place where she'll finally find acceptance, where she may even make friends. Of course, camp isn't exactly what she expects: there's no running water (baths are in the lake), everyone must speak Russian and all campers have to attend two hours of Russian history classes each day. On top of that, bears live in the woods. Vera quickly learns that every camp has its cliques and that blending in and making friends can be difficult, no matter where you go.

Mixing the humor of outdoor mishaps with the loneliness of growing up as an outsider, Brosgol's depiction of her own childhood is both funny and touching. Vera's struggles with friendship, growing up, family and heritage and wanting to belong will resonate with many readers. Fans of other graphic memoirs, such as those by Raina Telgemeier (Sisters), Cece Bell (El Deafo) and Shannon Hale (Real Friends), will devour Brosgol's insightful take on girlhood. That Vera eventually finds friendship and confidence in herself makes Be Prepared an ultimately uplifting story. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

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