June 15, 2011

The Lens and the Looker

Book 1 in the History Camp Series By Lory S. Kaufman

Set in the year 2347, the book follows the adventures of three trouble-making teens; Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln. We quickly learn that History Camps have been created to simulate life in the past, and these camps are used as disciplinary tools for unruly youth. Our three protagonists are sent to a camp simulating Verona, Italy in 1347. Through a series of missteps the teens wind up travelling through time to Verona in the actual year 1347. We get to follow their personal ups and downs while watching how their knowledge and technology may wind up changing everything.

L&L is divided into three sections referred to as books, however this is a trilogy and I don’t want to get myself or any readers muddled up by confusing the sections of this particular book with other actual books in the trilogy. (Seriously, even that description was a little convoluted! Thanks for bearing with me.) For my purposes I will refer to these divisions as “sections” to avoid confusion.

Section 1: For me this was the least enjoyable segment of the book. The protagonists are essentially bratty teenagers, so they are a little hard to relate to. Keep in mind however, that this is YA lit. Teens today can probably relate to these characters a lot better than I can since I am a foremer teacher and as a youth was the consummate teacher’s pet. Section 1 made quick work of laying a solid foundation by familiarizing the reader with an unfamiliar world which includes new concepts, terminology, and technology.

Section 2: This is where I got hooked. By this section the trio is actually in 1347. They end up with a struggling family headed by a lens maker. He is a recovering alcoholic and is struggling to provide for his family. In their interactions with him the teens begin to see the importance of hard work, self-sufficiency, and responsibility. The lens maker’s wife suffers with some sort of mental illness (depression?) that includes hallucinations. Through this experience the trio begins to feel gratitude for the advances in medicine that they have always taken for granted. These brief examples highlight how their immaturity begins to fall away and the kids quickly grow into lovable characters.

Section 3: In a new twist they end up trapped in 1347. At this point I felt a sense of suspense that I didn’t know I was missing. Half way through section 3 I was scrambling for the next book.

I love the idea of creating History Camps. I think we could all benefit from experiencing what the past was really like. As a high school teacher I often wished I could make today’s youth understand life without cell phones, Facebook, and “reality” TV. This book was a fun read. If you enjoy YA Lit and/or historical fiction I would highly recommend it.

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