Tuesday, July 2, 2024


I was not a big summer camp fan. I hated bugs and outdoorsy stuff -- the woods, the camp fire, the ghost stories, the mean girls. When I was young, my Dad would spend his 'summer vacation' as a camp doctor, thus affording my sister and me the 'pleasure' of 2-4 weeks at overnight summer camp. My sister loved it; I hated it. But when I was 13, I went to the best summer camp ever (my father was not camp doctor): The New Hope Academy of the Performing Arts at Ramblerny. Oh my. Great fun with like minds and talented peers. This was not a common overnight camp at the time. Ramblerny was an Arts Camp, a summer camp for the performing arts -- no counselors, little or no supervision, no sports, no bells, or taps. Rather, there were drama workshops, music classes, dance practices, play-writing. Case in Point: The large cracked swimming pool became an amphitheater! Ramblerny summer camp was a world to itself, as, most summer camps seem to be, but this one opened a new world for me. I cherished the amount of freedom, but I also learned a lot about various arts: Drama: I will never forget the well-known actors who came down from NYC to teach and encourage us 'misfits' ("Breathe through your diaphragm"), Art: famous artists who worked with us on various projects such as set design, as if we were peers; world famous playwrights who critiqued our work (gently). Wowza. And to date myself, this was a very long time ago, and way before the hippie era.

As I was writing this memory, I thought I should do some fact checking. Memory, as we all know, can be faulty. Thanks, Internet, for this copy of the Ramblerny brochure. I wasn't too wrong..I didn't, though, remember ANY sports element. (I did find a further mention that teens could choose their own sports, if they wanted, at any time, with equipment found around the property! Yes! Be sure and check out the Policy statement re: rules. And, who knew that so much later in my life, after a multitude of careers and years of academic study, I would come full circle and establish a theatre company and write and produce plays? Back to my roots, as a 13 year old girl at Ramblerny!

But back to crime fiction. Since I had had a taste of the traditional summer camp, the kind that most of my friends attended for the entire summer (usually for 2 months!!!), I understand why summer camp would be the perfect place to set a mystery. I do realize I missed out on life-long friends who built memories as they reunited every summer. Traditional summer camp had its merits, but not for me at that time. Remember, there were no computer camps (there were no computers!), no French camps (that I knew of), no CSI or Science Summer Camps. O.K. there were scout and religious overnight camps. but again, not for me. 

So in regards to mystery fiction, there are so many ways to commit crimes at summer camp, and some to those crimes never got reported and festered for years leading way to the unsolved crimes later in life. Summer camp was clearly not all S'mores and the Lake. I've separated out the YA and children's crime fiction from the adult summer camp mysteries on my Summer Camp List, but there really is a cross-over between YA and adult.

So while you're packing the kids up for camp, throw a few of these books into their trunk! They'll thank you for it. Or better still, ask them to write a mystery about their camp experience for you in their spare camp time!

Summer Camp Mysteries:

The Camp by Nancy Bush
Summer Camp Culprit by C.K. Fyfe
The Counselors by Jessica Goodman
You Will Pay by Lisa Jackson
The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
The Honeys by Ryan La Sala
The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka
Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy
The Wild One by Colleen McKeegan
I'll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie
The God of the Woods by Liz Moore
Don't Lie to Me by Willow Rose
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

YA & Children's Books:

The Summer Camp Mysteries (Cam Jansen Mysteries) by David A. Adler
The Meadow-Brook Girls Under Canvas by Janet Aldridge
You're Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron
The Summer Camp Science Mysteries by Lynda Beauregard, Der-shing Helmer
Code Name Cassandra by Jenny Carroll (Meg Cabot)
The Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan
Mystery at Camp Windingo by Lisa Eisenberg
The High School Boys in Summer Camp by H. Irving Hancock
The Girls from Hush Cabin by Marie Hoy-Kenny
Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil
Detective Camp by Ron Roy (Scholastic)
Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin
Lights Out by RL Stine
The Summer Camp Mystery (The Boxcar Children) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Scatter: Her Summer at Girls Camp by Leslie Warren
Camp Creepy by Kiersten White

Short Stories:
"Evil Little Girl" by Barb Goffman in Don't Get Mad, Get Even 

As always, let me know any titles I'm missing or if you have any favorites. 


Barb Goffman said...

Janet, I have a summer camp short story. “Evil Little Girl” first appeared in my collection, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.

Jambalaya Val said...

I absolutely ADORED summer camp. It was a chance to get away from home and do some of the things I really loved at that point in my life (crafts, canoeing, hiking, music). I don't tend to read mysteries set at camp because I don't want it to besmirch my memories, about 99% of which were wildly good. (I could never watch those Friday the 13th movies for that reason.)