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Camp Fossil Eyes: Digging for the Origins of…

Camp Fossil Eyes: Digging for the Origins of Words

by Mark Abley

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From February 2010 SLJ
Thirteen-year-old Alex and his older sister Jillian are spending several weeks at an unusual summer camp. Camp Fossil Eyes, located in the western badlands, specializes in geological expeditions, but the fossils that the campers dig up are words rather than plants or animals. The story is comprised of alternating emails from Alex and Jill, in which they describe their daily activities to their parents. Through these emails, interspersed with “memos” from the camp director, readers learn the origins of the various words whose fossils have been discovered that day. One day may involve an expedition to Indigenous Ridge; the next the campers might travel to Old English Hill or French Mountain or Nordic Spur. Alex’s enthusiasm and Jill’s derision are overblown to the point of caricature. Jill’s disdain for the whole camping experience must extend beyond her emails, as her counselor, Kelly, takes it upon herself to write to the parents: “My hunch is that she’s trying to punish you for moving and taking her away from her home and her old friends. Maybe she also thinks she might appear uncool if she let herself have fun like everybody else…. As you know, this is a camp where young people discover the fun of word origins and the joy of language.” The staff at Camp Fossil Eyes has a very strong reliance on email: even when Jill disappears with a friend during a hike into the Indo-European Wastelands, the director and the counselor rely on email to keep Mr. and Mrs. Boswell apprised of the search. Cartoonish illustrations are scattered throughout, but cannot lighten the didactic tone of the emails. Mark Abley’s passion for etymology is evident, and he weaves some truly fascinating facts into his narrative. His glossary and further reading suggestions both demonstrate a desire to share this love of language with his audience. The sad reality, though, is that very few middle-grade students will not have the patience to stick with Abley’s farfetched premise, clumsy plot, and two-dimensional characters. ( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
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See into the past and discover how English evolved from more than 350 languages as 15-year-old Jill Boswell and her 13-year-old brother, Alex, hike from ridge to ridge in search of their ancient quarry.

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Annick Press

2 editions of this book were published by Annick Press.

Editions: 1554511801, 155451181X

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