“But enough about me,” Winston continued. “It’s time to get to the new rules, which are going to help you all win as much as I do. I’ve used these on everyone from toddlers to senior citizens, and they are foolproof. First rule: win.”
“Second rule: win.”
“Third rule, and this is a new one for me: no more chanting ‘We’re number two.’ From now on, we’re number one. Anyone caught chanting ‘We’re number two’ does push-ups.”
When 11-year-old Mack arrives at Camp Avalon, he is ready for another slow season of water skiing and hanging out with his friends. Known affectionately as Camp Average to campers and counselors, Mack’s summertime second home is a place to relax and play (but never win) sports against nearby camps. His expectations are completely turned upside down, however, when he is introduced to the new camp director, Winston, a man whose sole focus is winning. At everything. Every time. With this new goal in mind, Winston introduces a whole new itinerary for the campers - a high-pressure training schedule that leaves no room for any non-competitive activities. Instead of embracing this new camp, Mack and his friends decide to take matters into their own hands. A plan to game the system is hatched, and the boys of Camp Avalon embark on a summer of scheming, squandering, and surprising their competitors and coaches at every turn.
Camp Average is a funny and spirited story perfect for any sports fan. Despite the characters’ efforts to actively reject the training schedule and winning attitude of their elders, the descriptions of the games and matches are pitch perfect. Battle’s attention to detail and pacing makes for a compelling and easy to visualize written event. Each character is well-developed and distinctive, building a realistic world where the reader can feel engaged in the adventure as if hanging out with friends. With timing and flair, Battle easily transitions between writing about the social laissez-faire moments of pre-teen summer camp interactions and action-packed sports sequences with a surprising emotional depth.
Eventually Mack realizes that his plan is problematic, and, though he never fully embraces Winston’s point-of-view, there is a great shift by the end that humbles Mack and drives the story home. Young readers who are yearly campers, huge sports fans, or just looking for a solid story full of humour and male bonding, will find something to love in Camp Average.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Guelph, Ontario, with a passion for children’s literature and writing.