I’ve never been to summer camp. This isn’t much of a surprise to those who know me, considering I don’t like camping. Camping consists of all the things I don’t like—bugs, being cold, being dirty, sleeping in uncomfortable spaces… did I mention bugs? But, I always sort of regretted the fact that I never had the summer camp experience.

I read a lot of summer camp stories—all of my favorite book series had at least one summer camp story:

  • The Babysitter Club: Babysitters’ Vacation
  • Babysitters Little Sister: Karen’s Pony Camp
  • The Boxcar Children: The Summer Camp Mystery
  • The Baily School Kids: Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp
  • Sweet Valley High: Camp Killer
  • Goosebumps numbers 14, 33, 45, and 56 all took place at summer camps (there was also the choose your own scare #19 that took place at a summer camp.)

Many standalone novels took place at a summer camp, but I’ll spare you the mid-post list for those—and it’s still a popular setting to place a story today.

What is it about the summer camp setting that makes kids like me (or like I was—let’s be honest… I’m not a kid anymore no matter how much I’m in denial) want to camp knowing that it contained everything I didn’t like? What made me want to have the summer camp experience?

Oh—and by “Summer Camp Experience,” I mean summer crushes, first kisses (sorry parents), coming-of-age triumphs, solving mysteries, and surviving spooky scenarios—you know, the things I read about in books.

Summer is a magical time for kids—it’s a liminal sort of space, that is to say, it’s a transitional stage going between grades or even schools. It’s a time free of (most) responsibility, hanging out with old friends, maybe making some new ones, traveling, trying new hobbies, and exploring possibilities.

At summer camp, you have all of those things, plus the time away from parents or regular caregivers, which feels exciting and a little scary.

At summer camp, you can be whoever you want to be. It’s a time of growing independence and creating identity. But, in a greater sense, it’s a liminal space between childhood and young adulthood.

But also, there are bugs.

So, if your kid is like I was and wants that summer camp experience without the icky parts of camping or being in the wilderness—or needs a book to tide them over until the next time they can go to summer camp—explore the books on this list:

Great Summer Camp Reads! | Main library (jcls.org)