by Colleen O'Shaughnessy McKenna
1993 | 199 pages | Middle Grade
Tagline from cover: Collette's not a happy camper.
Camp Murphy is the final title in the Apple paperback series about the Murphy family, which I remember vaguely from my own childhood. The other titles are as follows: Too Many Murphys (1988), Fourth Grade Is a Jinx (1989), Fifth Grade: Here Comes Trouble (1989), Eenie, Meanie, Murphy, No (1990), Murphy's Island (1991), The Truth about Sixth Grade (1991), and Mother Murphy (1992). The Murphys are a large family, and their adventures are based on the author's own family, and her own children, for whom the characters are named.
In this story, Collette, the oldest Murphy, has decided to use her babysitting expertise to create a summer camp for the kids in her neighborhood. The original plan is for her to share the camp duties with her friends Sarah and Marsha, but those plans are altered suddenly when Sarah learns she has to go on a family vacation instead. Marsha wants to hire John McKechnie, the cute boy she likes, to replace Sarah, but when they do, John gets hurt, and the only other available help is Marsha's sworn enemy, Roger Friday! As camp gets underway, Collette must deal with her own siblings, who insist on being part of the camp, the impending birth of her newest sibling, who will be born very soon, foster kids who miss their mother and hate being forced to attend camp, and Marsha and Roger fighting at every turn.
This book reminded me a lot of the Baby-sitters Club books, and especially of Kristy's Big Day, where the club runs a camp for all the kids who will attend Kristy's mother's wedding. The problems the kids encounter are mostly realistic, and they use their own skills and ideas to solve them. The treatment of the foster kids is somewhat problematic, and politically incorrect, in that the girls, adults, and campers alike pity Kicky and Eddie, and insist on giving them special treatment.
Here's just one example:
"Foster kids make me a little nervous. I mean, the only foster kid I ever heard of was Heidi."
Collette shook her head. "Heidi who?"
"Heidi from the movie. You know, Shirley Temple played this sweet little kid who had to go live in the mountains with her mean old grandfather when her parents died Then, he didn't want her for a long time and finally she was shipped off to be a foster kid with these rich people."
Mrs. Murphy reached out and tugged gently on Marsha's ponytail. "Well, that was a movie made in Hollywood, Marsha," she pointed out. "Mrs. Lister's foster children used to live in the North Hills, not Switzerland. I don't think we will see anything so dramatic."
Colleen bit her lip, feeling sorry already for the foster kids. They must miss their mother so much. She hated to think of how Laura, Jeff, and Stevie would feel if they were shipped away.
"Marsha, we have to treat these foster kids real special. I think they should win as many prizes as we can let them." Colleen thought for a second. "But we can't be real obvious about it. Don't try to give them your old clothes or compliment them every five seconds.
"Marsha will be great with all the campers," said Mrs. Murphy.
I could understand children having these ideas, but it bothered me that Mrs. Murphy didn't correct the patronizing ideas the girls had about foster families, and that the girls never fully learn to think of the foster children in their camp as anything other than unfortunate.
In terms of other truly dated references, there were only three, and they didn't take much away from the story at all.
- On page 7, Marsha brags:
"So stay with me then, Sarah," Marsha said. "My mom isn't a bit pregnant. And since we're both only children, you would feel right at home. My bedroom VCR has remote control."
Apparently, this was a major selling point! I don't remember having a VCR without a remote, but maybe we did.
- On page 11, when the girls speculate as to who can help them run the camp, they consider two girls named Lorraine and Peggy. I was 10 years old when this book was published, and I didn't know a single person with either of those names, except maybe someone's mother or grandmother!
- Finally, on page 109, Roger has a suggestion:
"Marsha has a cool idea," admitted Roger. "I'll bring a cassette player. The kids could parade to the music, like in a pageant."
Obviously, these days, kids have CD players or Mp3 players, but one word could easily be changed in this sentence, and everything else would still feel contemporary.
Old School Sunday is a weekly feature where I review old, outdated, and/or out of print books for children and teens. Click here to read previous Old School Sunday posts.
I purchased Camp Murphy from my local Wonderbook store.