"i am Elephant, i am Butterfly" is a touching teen novel about Simone, who is sent to "fat camp" for the summer, after her doctor raises concerns about the effects of her weight on her health.
Simone used to be the star of her lacrosse team, until a life-altering experience resulted in her leaving the team. Now she will spend her summer doing all the stereotypical things you would expect at this sort of camp. But despite the focus on exercise and nutrition, and the weekly weigh-ins, this is not just a camp where girls go to shed pounds. They are also expected to participate in daily powwows, where they share their experiences and feelings, and to spend time in individual reflection.
One day during her reflection time, Simone meets another girl from a neighboring camp, the hated Camp Felina for skinny girls. Phoebe seems about as lonely as Simone and is struggling with her own secrets. On the wooded path between their camps, this unlikely pair become friends and start down the road to healing together.
Once I picked it up, I could not put this book down; I literally carried it around with me in one hand while the other hand did chores and ate meals. What I liked best was that the characters felt very genuine. I shed more than one tear as the girls' stories were revealed. Camp Kamama seemed like a great camp for anyone to experience, not just overweight teens.
I did feel that the relationship with Simone's father was tidied up too quickly, and I also thought the resolution for Camp Kamama was idealistic and unbelievable. These did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.
I highly recommend this book for lovers of contemporary teen novels.
Leslie Tall Manning has such an understanding of the adolescent psyche. I also appreciated the research that went into understanding the layered and complex relationship a person has with food and his/her weight, especially an adolescent girl. It flowed beautifully, keeping me engaged, which can sometimes be difficult. Tall Manning shows how initial resistance to something can often be what is most needed in the end. The questions and resources in the back are also wonderful addition.
Thank you for letting us into the world of Camp Kamama; I didn't want to leave. Highly recommended!
No one writes teen angst and emotion like Leslie Tall Manning. After much success with her young adult novel, UPSIDE DOWN IN A LAURA INGALLS TOWN, Tall Manning follows with her equally moving new work, I AM ELEPHANT, I AM BUTTERFLY.
This touching, insightful novel follows wounded (Aren’t all teenagers?) Simone to Camp Kamama, where she meets other equally wounded girls. It is at Camp Kamama that Simone and her campmates learn to trust, share, and heal through life changes. Leslie Tall Manning writes from the heart, holding back nothing. I felt all the pain, anger, confusion, and joy of each teenage girl at Camp Kamama and its neighboring Camp Felina trying to understand herself.
Though written for a young adult audience, I AM ELEPHANT, I AM BUTTERFLY is for everyone—because we have all been a Simone.
~ Padgett Gerler, author of What Does Love Sound Like?