2-1 | Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp

Book Review

Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp

Leslie Paris
New York: New York University Press, 2008. Notes, index, photographs. 363 pp. $39.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780814767078

by Jay Mechling

First Paragraph:

Historians of childhood and youth are forever in search of the agency of their young subjects, the ability of children and youth to have some control over their lives in a world where they are relatively powerless. Our own experiences as children tell us that the adult regime is not omnipotent. As children, we found some spaces to resist adult power and to create autonomous folk cultures. Leslie Paris’s fine book on American summer camps nicely demonstrates how social and cultural historians can connect this autonomous world of children with the history of childhood. As Paris notes, at summer (sleep-away) camp, adult control and adult surveillance of kids proved far less complete than in schools. Adults might have constructed the formal organization of the camp, but what happened at camp—the actual experience of camp, its informal organization— was a collective project where adult aims and the folk cultures of children and adolescents interacted to create a third thing.