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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman is a delightful, middle-school targeted adventure that finds three different but uniquely linked young pre-teens attending summer camp at Camp Inch, Michigan. Darby is a talented, young equestrienne but she is threatened by a recurring stutter that her mother clearly hates and it has brought her not only bullying and ridicule but has lowered her self-esteem to the point where she would rather not speak at all. Naz is part Moroccan, having grown up in Marrakesh. He speaks perfect French and Arabic but his English is sadly lacking, something he is all too aware of as he enters Camp Inch with instructions from his mother to only speak English at camp. Shy and knowing his speech limitations, Naz hopes the camp experience will bring him out of himself and help him forget how much he is missing his father back in Morocco. Justin has just lost his father to emphysema and is unable to put into words, especially to his mother, how he feels about the terrifying void in his life since his father died. He has closed up emotionally since his father’s death and now speaks little. All three children will be caught up in the whirlwind that is the ghost of the late Leroy Usher, Carnival King, as they try to fulfill his dying wish that his carnival land neighboring the camp be incorporated into Camp Inch so it will continue to resound with the joy and laughter of children. Along the way, these three youngsters may discover the answers to the problems that haunt their lives.
Summer of L.U.C.K. is an absolute joy to read and inspiring even for one who is as far away from the author’s target audience as one can probably get. Author Laura Segal Stegman has woven a tale that incorporates not only topics that young pre-teens find so exciting – magic, carnivals, friendship, and fun - but also manages to thread the exciting plotline with pearls of wisdom about life, bullying, self-worth, and self-esteem and that’s what lifts this book above others in its genre. For a debut novel, the author has struck the perfect balance between adventure and moral tale, without becoming in any way preachy. I found the three main characters endearing, easy to empathize with, and importantly, to identify with the issues they faced, as I have no doubt many young readers also will. The writing style and language were perfectly age-appropriate, as was the potentially scary magic and fantasy aspect of the story, which indicates an excellent understanding of the age group’s interests and sensitivities. As a side issue, for someone who didn’t grow up around the “Summer Camp Experience”, I found the descriptions of what happens at these camps fascinating and instructional. I particularly enjoyed the way the author used Naz’s lack of English to educate young readers in some difficult and advanced words that Naz discovered and required interpretation but also may have been revelations to readers, as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can only say bring on Book 2 of the Camp Inch story, and that I highly recommend this tale.