When parents who are camp alumni return home from visiting their kids at camp, they are typically overwhelmed with intense feelings of camp nostalgia and wonderful lifetime memories. Each summer I happily experience this when I visit camps. Here are some great books, movies and songs that tell the great story of camp, its traditions, friendships, lessons and fun!
Books on the summer camp experience and traditions
- Sleepaway: The Girls of Summer and the Camps They Love
By Laurie Susan Kahn
Nothing bonds girls more than their female friendships at camp. Many girls find they make lifelong friends at summer camp! This book does a great job visually capturing memories and experiences. It shares camp history and conjures up your own ‘firsts’ at camp. This book takes you from cubbies to counselors to Bug Juice and meal tickets, to traditions, rituals and getting in trouble, to saying good-bye, and most importantly, why girls thrive at camp.
By Michael Eisner
The former Disney chairman uses his own camp experience at Keewaydin, an all boys camp in Vermont, to illustrate how camp changed his life and positively impacted his leadership skills and business success. When I read it, I wanted to run to Keewaydin to experience all that Mr. Eisner experienced — and I did visit the camp that very summer! His reflections apply to both girls and boys.
- Cabin Pressure
By Josh Wolk
This funnier book (but it is serious, too) chronicles one man’s desperate attempt to recapture his youth as a camp counselor. Josh returns to his beloved boys’ camp in New England (the name is changed to a different one in the book) for the second time as a counselor, but as an adult now. This time his return occurs the summer before he is to marry while he takes time off between jobs. Things look different now, yet the lessons remain similar — and are perhaps even greater (from an adult’s perspective). His look back is enjoyable and poignant; I did not want to put the book down.
- Campingly Yours: A Heartwarming Journey of a Lifetime at Summer Camp
By Thomas C. Adler
This book takes the reader through a summer camp adventure that lasts a lifetime. The young boy did not want to go to camp, begging his parents not to send him… but ultimately he never left. It’s a book that anyone who went to camp will enjoy. It captures the magic of camp, making you want to send everyone to camp. And to that point, the majority of the author’s proceeds help send children to summer camp.
Summer camp history
- Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp
By Leslie Paris
Few people understand why and how camps came about — but they should. This book helps explain camp’s mesmerizing experiences and benefits. For those seeking to understand child-rearing trends and the benefits of camp, this could be the book for you. It helps explain American children’s first community experience other than their own family.
- A Manufactured Wilderness: Summer Camps and the Shaping of American Youth
By Abigail A. Van Slyck
The author helps answer questions many people have about the American camp phenomenon: Why were summer camps created? What motivated their founders? How did camps change over time? And it’s full of great period photographs.
Humorous Camp Books
- Camp Camp: Where Fantasy Island Meets Lord of the Flies
By Roger Bennett and Jules Shell
This book makes me laugh and smile! Told from the camper’s perspective, its pictures are hysterical — conjuring up one’s own camp memories. Camp Camp is a history tell-tale of how camp is specifically designed to ensure everyone becomes part of a community and how it offers kids a second chance to start over, as well as camp culture. As the authors state in the book’s introduction, “Camp Camp is a coming-of-age story of self-definition, friendship and mentorship, and experimentation.”
- P.S. I Hate It Here! Kids Letters From Camp
Selected and Edited by Diane Falanga
This is a very funny compilation of parents’ keepsake letters from their kids at camp. If you want a trip down memory lane, confirmation your child really does not hate camp, or what NOT to write to your kids, read this hysterical book!