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Brain Camp

Brain CampBrain Camp
Written by:
Susan Kim and Lawrence Klavan
Illustrated by: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: Square Fish
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9, 160 pages, Full Color, $9.99
ISBN: 978-1-25006-292-5
Lesson plan by Dr. Katie Monnin

For any parent, teacher, or librarian who has ever wanted to recommend a graphic novel to a unique and exceptional student who stands out from the crowd, Brain Camp might just be your best bet. Featuring two main characters that stand out from their peers, Brain Camp's clever plot takes readers on a journey of self-discovery. And along the way, readers will not only rethink their own assumptions about difference, but also rethink just why these two particular characters are in fact considered different in the first place. 

On top of a clever plot and engaging characters, Brain Camp also presents a familiar setting to young adult readers. Jenna and Lucas might be off to camp, but this is not just any other camp. Despite what they have been told about Camp Fielding – its beautiful scenery, its happy campers, its exciting activities – Jenna and Lucas find something else when they arrive at Camp Fielding. The campers are acting totally weird and mysterious!

But why? Doubting themselves, Jenna and Lucas first feel as though they are – once again – just not fitting-into-the-crowd. When they do try to fit in at Camp Fielding, however, they just can't seem to understand the other campers. Why are the other campers behaving so oddly? Why does their first friend at Camp Fielding initially seem so normal, and then, all of a sudden, begin to act oddly? 

What is really happening at Camp Fielding? Not able to turn to their parents or camp counselors for fear of being judged and misunderstood, Jenna and Lucas must solve this mystery on their own.   

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Jenna and Lucas do not fit in with the crowd. To teach them how to fit in with the crowd, their parents have decided to send them to Camp Fielding, where they will learn not only how to be "normal" but also exceptionally intelligent. But it seems like something else is going on at Camp Fielding altogether.

Setting: The homes of Jenna and Lucas, Camp Fielding. 

Characters: Jenna, Lucas, Clerkson, Tiffany, Jenna’s family, Lucas’ family, Mr. Oswald, Tracey Vanderheuven, Dwayne, Sherry, Don Fielding (Camp Director), Senator Hal Braymin

Themes: Identity, Friendship, Camp, Fitting In, Mystery, Problem-solving

Traditional Literature Pairing Suggestions: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and/or The Cask of Amontillado, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School English Language Arts

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works. 

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.

4. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Suggested Guided Reading Lesson Plan:

·Before Reading

Before students begin to read Brain Camp (and if teachers choose a canonical text as well) they need to be introduced to how a mystery story works. A wonderful resource for teaching the mystery genre can be found at: www.mysternet.com. Mysterynet.com not only explains the fundamentals behind the genre, but also offers teachers helpful lesson plans.

·During Reading

Once students understand the fundamentals behind the mystery genre teachers can ask them to keep a "clues list" while reading. While they read, students should specifically look for the subtle details or clues that might help them solve the mystery. After each section of reading and recording clues, teachers can ask that students pair-up to discuss their findings and make predictions.  When students near the end of the text teachers should engage the entire class in a discussion that asks: "Given what you have read, and the clues you have recorded, what are your predictions for this mystery? How will it end?"

·After Reading

After students predict how the mystery might end, ask them to finish reading the text. When they finish reading, ask them to summarize how the mystery ended. Then, looking back on their "clues list" and their summary of the ending, ask students to list the ways in which the clues they recorded did or did not support the actual ending of the mystery. 

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.