The Forest Beckons

Top Shelf. (Order of the Night Jay). Jul. 2022. 160p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781603095105.
Gr 4-6–Comics-loving kid bear Frank reluctantly sets off on his first trip to Camp Jay Bird, a wilderness camp for small woodland creatures. While he makes fast friends with Ricky, an affable raccoon, Frank also faces bullies, camp-wide prejudices against bears, and his own fears about being in the woods for the first time. He copes by creating his own comic, The Adventures of Super Bear, and throwing himself into solving a mystery. The camp’s two biggest bullies, Jake and Spud, use a magnet to reverse the polarity on Frank and Ricky’s compass during an orienteering badge exercise. The incorrect reading leads Frank and Ricky to a mysterious cave with a secret message at its entrance. The more-curious-than-brave bear and raccoon set out to crack the code and reveal the secrets of the cave. There are many charming qualities in this graphic novel—beautifully drawn and colored natural settings, the age-appropriate explanations of practical wilderness skills, and the absolute cuteness of a group of animal campers. Additionally, there are interesting mini comic introductions for several characters, Frank’s “Super Bear” comics, and an excerpt from the beloved, fictitious Mega Bunny comic. However, these extras often overshadow the main characters and plot, making the transitions between the different types of material clunky. This story also revs up the action in the last few pages of the book and ends on a massive cliff-hanger. While this will have some readers excited for the next installment, the abrupt ending is likely to be a barrier to fully enjoying this volume’s story.
VERDICT A fun camp adventure for those who adore talking and clothes-wearing animals!

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