The Sun Will Come Out
The Sun Will Come Out
I walked into the huge gym at the Jewish Community Center and had to stop at the doorway to take it all in. The room was crowded with kids of all ages, right up to teenagers. And their luggage. Lots and lots of luggage. Army-green-duffel bags, superhero-themed hard-sided cases, pink backpacks with cute kitty logos, black wheeled bags. You name it, it was there. And the noise in the room was made louder by the echoes of a thousand people talking at once.
It was a bit overwhelming. No, it was a lot overwhelming.
"Go on in, Bea," Mom said, giving me a nudge from behind. "We're already late."
In spite of being an intensely shy, 11-year-old, Bea (never Beatrice!) was really looking forward to her first year at a proper sleepover camp with her best, and very outgoing, friend Frankie. The only negative was that they were going to a Jewish lakeside camp rather than the horse camp that they both – naturally, being horse-mad girls! – longed for. Then, out of the blue, Frankie announces that she is going to Circle M camp after all. Without Bea! Doom and devastation, but Bea's father insists they cannot afford Circle M and lectures her about "silver linings" and the fun of "getting out of herself" and "meeting new people".
Things look up when Bea meets Regan, an Irish girl who also knows no one, and they team up – kindred spirits who can exchange eye-rolling glances over the snide remarks of a couple of meanies who share their cabin. The prospects get even brighter when it is announced that the campers will be performing a musical for parents on the last night of camp and that musical is to be Annie, Bea's absolutely top favourite show. Not that she wants to perform in it. No way! The very thought makes her break out in hives. But she is prepared to help in any way she can, and she begins by coaching Regan before the auditions and then more after Regan gets the part.
The four weeks of summer camp roll on, a series of ups and downs where each "down" has its corresponding silver-lined “up”. Bea's attacks of hives (which the reader realizes are triggered by stress long before Bea or the nurse do) plus a sprained ankle lead to time in the infirmary which, in turn, fosters her friendship with the son of the camp directors, a funny-looking boy with a peculiar disease that Bea can't google because cell phones and computers are very strictly forbidden. When Bea finds out that progeria means that he has a life expectancy of maybe two more years, she freaks out, and he gets mad because he's afraid she will stop treating him like a normal human being. They both have a good cry and then make up. The "up" of being friends with Regan comes crashing into a "down" when it turns out that Frankie's older brother, on whom Bea has a mad crush, doesn't "like" her, as in like like, but "likes" Regan. And they've been seen kissing! (The meanies have a great time making sure Bea knows all the gory details.) A very understanding counsellor (another “up”), plus Bea's own reasonably good sense manage to get that friendship back on track, naturally, and the meanies get their comeuppance when they overstep the verbal bullying and get physical, something for which the camp has zero tolerance.
So the story unfolds as one might expect, with its friendships, misunderstandings, reconciliations, boy/girl interactions, empathetic relationships. It is all pretty predictable, even to the denouement of Bea's having to step into the role of Annie at the last minute when Regan has to leave camp early. Somehow we were expecting this with only the excuse for its happening being in doubt. (Laryngitis? Broken leg? Wrong. Illness in the family.) So, The Sun Will Come Out is a story very much on target for its pre-teen audience, especially its pre-teen Jewish audience, although the religious aspect is very low-key and certainly not overemphasized. For those of us outside that age window, I'm afraid it's a bit boring.
Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and her pre-teen years are a long way behind her. She has also read rather more of this type of stereotypical literature than most 10-year-olds and so is more prone to recognize the patterns.