In today’s episode of Bounded Enthusiasm, I interview Elissa Brent Weissman, author of several middle-grade books about smart kids. Her latest is Nerd Camp 2.0, a sequel to Nerd Camp, which I reviewed in 2011. Listen in as we talk about her inspiration for the books and parenting little nerds-in-training.
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The Nerd Camp books were inspired by Weissman’s experiences as a camp counselor for Johns Hopkins’s Center for Talented Youth. In the first book, we meet Gabe, a nerdy kid who’s excited about going to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment for sleepaway camp. But he also wants to impress his new stepbrother, Zack, who is decidedly not a nerd. The first book explores the tension between the things Gabe loves about camp and the things he thinks won’t appear cool to an outsider. For young geeky readers, I think Nerd Camp is a great story about being yourself and celebrating your smarts rather than being embarrassed by them.
Nerd Camp 2.0 picks up almost a year later–Gabe and Zack have become good friends, each learning a little more about the other’s interests. This year, they’ll both get a chance to go to camp: Gabe’s returning to SCGE, and Zack is going to a more traditional summer camp at nearby Camp Seneca. But when a recent wildfire forces the two groups to share a single campsite, it leads to a lot of tension.
The story this time is told from two points of view: the chapters alternate between following Gabe and Zack, and we get a little more insight into the two stepbrothers. While the book could have devolved into a middle-grade Revenge of the Nerds, I think Weissman does a good job of keeping things from getting too mean-spirited. While the book is still primarily aimed at nerdy kids, it has lessons about getting along with people who aren’t like you that would be appropriate for any kid. Zack and Gabe, despite being on opposite sides of the camp conflict, find ways to look at things from a different perspective.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this book.