Middle-Grade Review: Camp Prodigy by Caroline Palmer

 

About This Book:

Perfect for fans of Victoria Jamieson and Raina Telgemeier, this heartwarming middle grade graphic novel follows two nonbinary kids who navigate anxiety and identity while having fun and forming friendships at their summer orchestra camp.

 

After attending an incredible concert, Tate Seong is inspired to become a professional violist. There’s just one problem: they’re the worst musician at their school.

Tate doesn’t even have enough confidence to assert themself with their friends or come out as nonbinary to their family, let alone attempt a solo anytime soon. Things start to look up when Tate attends a summer orchestra camp—Camp Prodigy—and runs into Eli, the remarkable violist who inspired Tate to play in the first place.

But Eli has been hiding their skills ever since their time in the spotlight gave them a nervous breakdown. Together, can they figure out how to turn Tate into a star and have Eli overcome their performance anxieties? Or will the pressure take them both down?

 

*Review Contributed By Karen Yingling, Staff Reviewer*

Summer Music Camp

In this graphic novel, we meet Tate Seong, who became enthralled with the idea of playing viola after hearing a prodigy his age, Eli Violet, backstage before a concert. Unfortunately, Eli (who uses they/them pronouns), was so anxious that they didn’t go on stage, but Tate did pick up the viola. He isn’t very good, but his parents are behind him 100%, but also want him to think about playing a sport, since that would make him a well rounded young man. Tate is uncomfortable identifying as male, but isn’t sure how to go about telling anyone this. At Camp Prodigy, there are a lot of different campers, some of whom, like Xin, are very driven, and others who want to take advantage of typical camp activities like gimp bracelet making, hiking, and swimming. Tate meets Eli, who reluctantly agrees to help tutor Tate as long as he keeps their secret about erstwhile fame. Tate works hard, but struggles with not only the viola, but with a lot of anxiety about playing in public as well as a deep seated feeling of confusion about what to do about his nonbinary status. Eli is a good ally, and he seeks their advice about when they came out to their moms. When Tate gets a big solo and is unsure whether he can stand up in front of the audience, his new friends come to the rescue, reminding him that he doesn’t have to do everything alone, and there are other people who can step in to help. At the end, Tate comes out to their parents, retaining their name, and the parents are very supportive.

Good Points
Palmer’s illustrations are solid, and often fall into the popular Manga style eye pops and dramatic emotions, which graphic novels tend to love but remind me of Speed Racer. The characters look different enough from each other that I was never confused, and it was very helpful when the new campers were introduced and appeared on the bottom of the page with their names. I’d love to see more books do that. There are notes on the evolution of the drawings at the end of the book.

Many middle grade readers have struggled with anxiety since the Pandemic, and Eli and Tate’s journey toward understanding the underlying causes of their stress and fear are well portrayed. The other campers, counselors, and parents are all supportive, and even a character that is very competitive at the beginning, Xin, helps in the end.

Readers who are huge fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Drama or Chmakova’s Berrybrook Middle school will enjoy this look at a high pressure, elite musical camp.

*Find More Info & Buy This Book Here*