BOOKS: Mitchell discovers he loves surprisesMitchell McCabe feels safe at the ZigZag Afternoon Center. The biggest surprises he has to deal with come from the lunch lady — snacks made of crunchy green things.
By: Jean Patrick, Republic Book Columnist
Mitchell McCabe feels safe at the ZigZag Afternoon Center. The biggest surprises he has to deal with come from the lunch lady — snacks made of crunchy green things.
But everything changes when the ZigZag kids take a weekend camping trip to the ZigZag Nature Center. Suddenly, Mitchell doesn’t feel so brave.
“Bears Beware,” by Patricia Reilly Giff, begins with Mitchell’s worries. If he isn’t home, who will take out the trash? Who will his dog sleep with? And what about the poison ivy, lizards, snakes, coyotes and bears he might see?
But the surprises end up being different than his worries. The bus breaks down. The tent pole breaks. The nature leader’s grandson wears a ponytail and has oatmeal cookie dough all over his face.
Mitchell is even surprised by his own actions. When his friends disappear at the campfire, he goes into the Critter Cabin by himself to find them.
“Bears Beware” is the fifth book in the ZigZag Kids series. Like the other books in the series, “Bears Beware” has an active disjointed style. Funny events and remarks pop up in almost every paragraph, allowing readers to experience a true slice of Mitchell’s life.
Patricia Reilly Giff also allows readers to get a look inside Mitchell’s mind, even when he creates an imaginary character called “Gary Bopper.” Whenever he needs to be brave, he puts on his Gary Bopper face and uses Gary Bopper courage.
Unfortunately, readers sometimes miss out on Mitchell’s real life. Although Mitchell discovers his friends sneaking his birthday cake into camp, readers don’t get to experience the celebration. Rather, the party is only described when Mitchell remembers it the next morning.
Even so, the end of the book is satisfying. On the shores of the sparkling pond, Mitchell realizes that he loves camp-outs — and surprises.
Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of several books for children, including Newbery Honor Books “Lily’s Crossing” and “Pictures of Hollis Woods.”
“Bears Beware.” By Patricia Reilly Giff. Illustrated by Alisdair Bright. Random House/ Wendy Lamb Books. 2012 80