Tonya Duncan Ellis
GENRE: Children's Middle Grade
There is no such thing as Big Foot! Or is there…
Sophie Washington and her classmates are on their way to Camp Glowing Spring for a class retreat. It’ll be two full days of swimming, eating s’mores around a campfire, tug-of-war, archery, and more! Sophie’s been looking forward to the trip all school year and can’t wait to spend extra time with her friends. It will also be great to get away from her bratty younger brother, Cole, and his constant stories about Big Foot. If Cole warns her about what to do if she sees the hairy ape man on the retreat one more time, she’ll put in ear plugs. Everybody knows Big Foot is a hoax!
Once the kids arrive at the retreat site things are as exciting as Sophie imagined. She has fun exploring nature with her besties, Chloe, Valentina, Toby, Nathan, and Mariama, and meeting new friends too. Then the kids see a giant footprint during a nature hike in the woods and the adventure really begins!
“Wake up, Sophie!” Chloe rubs my shoulder. “We’re here.”
I twist my stiff neck until it cracks and rub the sleepy stuff from around my eyes. I must’ve napped for over an hour. My jeans feel drier, thank goodness. I won’t have to change my clothes.
The bus tires crunch over gravel as we drive past a white and green billboard that reads “Camp Glowing Spring: Established 1965.” The only drawing on the big sign, besides the green letters, is a pine tree with a swirly line around it, which seems like the perfect symbol for this place.
It reminds me of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale forest, beautiful, but spooky. Giant evergreens surround a long, one-story building, with a lake behind it. The bright sky stretches overhead like a canopy bed. Spanish moss drips from some tree branches like frizzy, gray hair. As we pass a foot trail that winds into the greenery, I shiver, remembering Cole’s warnings about Big Foot.
Camp Glowing Spring looks exactly like the woods from my nightmare. What if Big Foot comes to our cabin to get us at night? I blink and shake my head to snap back into reality. Big Foot is a hoax. I need to enjoy being away from my little brother’s tall tales for the next two days.
As the bus drives deeper into the campground, the hum of excited kids gets louder.
“Check that out!” Toby bounces on his seat and stares at a water park on the lake. There’s a wooden pier in the center and an inflatable blue and yellow water slide. A giant-sized, red, yellow, and blue plastic pillow floats beside it.
“That lake is probably 100 feet deep!” Nathan leans over Toby’s shoulder.
I wonder what lurks underneath the greenish blue waters. Does Big Foot swim?
“That’s the Blob!” Chloe points at the huge, plastic pillow. “Some eighth graders told me how much fun it is. I can’t wait to jump out there. If a bigger person flops on after you, your body flies high in the air before you hit the water.”
“Cool!” Nathan’s eyeballs widen behind his glasses.
I bite my thumbnail.
I’m scared of heights, and the idea of bouncing over a huge lake doesn’t exactly float my boat. I better make sure that I’m the last one on the Blob if I do try it.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Tonya Duncan Ellis was born and raised in Louisville, KY. She loves reading so much that as a child she took books with her everywhere. She knew she wanted to become a writer after an article she wrote was published in her hometown newspaper when she was a teen.
Since then, Tonya has worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer. A graduate of Centre College of Kentucky and Washington University in St. Louis, she’s an Amazon bestselling and award-winning author of the Sophie Washington children's book series, geared towards readers ages 8 to 12.
The books recount adventures of Houston, TX preteen Sophie Washington and her diverse group of friends. Each funny and heartwarming story teaches lessons about friendship, responsibility, truthfulness and perseverance.
Books in the series include Queen of the Bee, The Snitch, Things You Didn't Know About Sophie, The Gamer, Hurricane, Mission: Costa Rica, Secret Santa, and Code One. When she's not writing, Tonya enjoys reading, biking, swimming, travel, and spending time with her husband and three children. She lives in Missouri City, TX.
3.75 out of 5 stars
Sophie Washington: Class Retreat by Tonya Duncan Ellis chronicles Sophie and her classmates as they visit a camp and face both real and imagined challenges. Getting up close and personal with nature, possibly dispelling a hoax, and dealing with the horrible rivals from St. Regis will make this an unforgettable trip…in more ways than one.
I love that current events are woven into these middle grade stories, and although I wish there was a better solution to the hurtful attitudes of the other kids, I am glad light is being shone on how both deliberate and careless words can cause pain. One of the best things about the books in this delightful series is the celebration of diversity among Sophie and her friends, and I like that they rallied around each other, but I wish they had gotten the adults more involved. I like that Sophie showed strength of character, but I’m a little puzzled about the presence of both schools at the retreat and the lack of adequate supervision. I have never been to camp, so I was astounded at the late nights being kept, let alone the hijinks being planned. There were some elements that didn’t seem to be quite as smooth as usual, but this is still a fun story, especially with the prospect of Bigfoot making an appearance. I can’t wait to find out what new adventures Sophie and her friends get involved with.
A copy of this title was provided for review