Nothing evokes feelings of fun, friendship, and relaxing days spent in a country setting like a book set in summer camp — and nothing captures the social discomfort, awkwardness, and insecurity as well. In short, camp books focus intensely on both the joy and the pain of burgeoning maturity.
The Sun Will Come Out follows twelve-year-old Bea’s first summer at Camp Shalom, during which she learns lifelong lessons in compassion, caring, and loss, and develops the ability to navigate the unexpected twists that life holds in store. All the while, she develops confidence, deepens her familiarity with Jewish traditions, and broadens her worldview.
Bea encounters the inevitable camp bullies alongside caring counsellors and new friends. As the camp season progresses, she learns that life can be more complex than expected but also that she is capable of rising to unanticipated occasions, providing comfort to others, and managing her fears.
The camp infirmary is a haven for Bea when stress-induced allergic reactions overwhelm her and she needs a respite from camp’s endlessly complicated social scene. At the infirmary, she meets Harry, a boy of about her own age. Harry suffers from a disease Bea has never heard of, progeria, which will result in his early death. Through her growing friendship with Harry, Bea learns that bullies, crushes, and friendship are important parts of life but that there are other things of even greater import; her personal travails pale when compared with the challenges faced by Harry every day. Bea is strengthened and inspired by Harry’s unique outlook on life and comes away with lessons she will carry into her future as she tries new experiences and faces new challenges.
The Sun Will Come Out provides material for thought and possibly for extended discussion with friends and family. It is a story of courage and hope set in the microcosm of Jewish sleep-away camp, an environment ripe for growing and overcoming obstacles.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.