Funny book: P.S. I Hate It Here, Kids' Letters From Camp

I like it when my kids say funny things without realizing they are being funny. P.S. I Hate It Here is a collection of unintentionally funny kid's letters from camp, collected by Diane Falanga. The letters are presented as scans of the originals, which is great, but I wish they book had included plain-text transcriptions too, because some of the letters are hard to read.

Camp letters are interesting, because it's one of the few times that kids communicate with their parents using the written word. Also, I doubt these letters (or the camp experience) would be as fun if email was allowed at camp.

Here are a few sample letters from the book:

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More after the jump. Buy P.S. I Hate It Here on Amazon

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  1. I remember sending many letters like these to my folks. I was bitter that they’d taken a trip to Hawaii and left me at summer camp. I wrote “Get me out” in the margins, like a decorative border.

  2. Another reason to be glad to have been raised in Australia, where kids aren’t tortured this way. I would totally have written letters like these.

    1. Dude, without summer camp, how do Australians learn about sex? Or poison ivy? Or sex and poison ivy?

  3. I don’t remember what I wrote at camp, but I recall it was forced under threat of no food to write at least twice a week, and I was bitter about that. Although at the time, I was also bitter about being forced to shower twice a week when we had a perfectly good lake!

  4. I heard the author being interviewed. What bothered me is that she never acknowledged that this is not an original idea. “Letters from Camp”, “More Letters from Camp”, and “Still More Letters from Camp” contained actual letters sent to the compiler by parents.

    1. Come on, many of us missed those other books containing letters from camp. This author has reached a whole new group of people like me, who were crying with laughter at the segment on CBS Sunday Morning, yesterday. I have the book on hold at my local B & N.

  5. But instead of camp to introduce children to the outdoors, you guys drop your kids in the middle of the Outback with a canteen and a compass, right? It’s more educational, although the attrition is worse.

  6. Thankfully, my parents never foisted this particular torture on my sister and I, though I did develop a love of tent camping in college – it’s a great cheap way to travel when you’re a broke college kid.

  7. “Dance of the Hours,” from La Gioconda.

    I was at camp just once. No showers, just a lake; I had a plaster cast on my arm and couldn’t swim, so I got pretty filthy.

    I will say it though: EGGS! EGGS! EGGS!

  8. Hahaha Camp!

    I went. Once. I can actually remember a lot about that place.

    Can’t remember exactly where it was, somewhere around the SF/Bay area and I must have been in the 4th or 5th grade.

    In retrospect, I had some good experiences, but that camp scared the F*** out of me. First of all, it must have been a sort of ‘take the underprivileged urban kids out into Nature’ sort of program. Of the 7 other kids in my cabin, 6 were Black and the other kid was a really pale French kid who had a thick accent. He was tormented out the second night, and the camp counselor was Hells of mad and made the bad kids sit outside in the dark for a looong time. I huddled in the cabin alone. They tried to get to me the first night. One of my cabin mates was a shambling fat kid who took me into the bathroom and showed me a double handful of frogs and salamanders. As a hippy-raised child and wannabe Naturalist; I was like ‘cool! Let’s release them into their natural habitat!’ He doused them in hot water and stunned them. Then turned on the cold water and revived them. I said in shock ‘I’ll give you all my money for them right now!’ But he chose to dunk them in the hot water again and was dully disappointed when they stayed dead.

    And the camp faculty at some point was also a little suspect re: preserving our native species. Out exploring my friend and I discovered a shack with cages in the back, a hand written sign said “If you let them out, you can go home too!” (what did they use to keep in there?) and a dug out faux-terrarium with ugly fake plants and gaudy paint, where a few depressed newts lounged in a skim of water. My pal was another Mission youth caught in the madness, but he was Filipino and got placed in another ‘Indian Tribe’, so it happened to be more fun for him. . . I remember going to his area to visit his cabin, and one of the ‘camp helpers’ was a high-school-aged guy with bad skin? one eye? some disfigurement that made him mad if you looked at him but impossible not to. . .so he chased me all around the damn acreage trying to take a cool piece of driftwood I found by the river.

    I was too shy to try archery (now it’s a hobby I enjoy); I got in the boxing ring once and got punched a lot. Didn’t like it.

    Did enjoy my first Big Hunk and Abba Zabba candy bars from the commissary at that crappy camp.

    So hey, camp wasn’t that bad after all!!!

  9. Out exploring my friend and I discovered a shack with cages in the back, a hand written sign said “If you let them out, you can go home too!”

    So, duhh, someone let them out right away. I would.

  10. Dear Josh, Poison Ivy and wanking don’t mix.

    Any bets on whether the second kid refused to leave once Mommy and Daddy got there?

    I never went to a camp that was more than a week, so never wrote letters home, wouldn’t have occurred to me anyway. Though my brother and I would send some funny letters to our mother when she was away for Army training.

  11. Actually, the best part of the article is the link at the bottom: “P.S. I Hate It Here on Amazon”.

  12. All I got to do was boy scout camp. Boy scout camp sucks. 1-2 weeks in the woods in an old WW2-era army tent with other boys, and they expect you to work on merit badges, every day, all day, doing anything else, or doing anything for the simple joy of it was not allowed. Oh, how I envied the kids who got to go to non-boy scout camps which lasted a month or more where they slept in cabins and had their meals prepared for them, and didn’t have to do stupid merit badges, and actually might get to hang out with some girls. (Or sit around and play D&D all day if they wanted to)

    Damn boy scouts.

  13. The things I remember from camp when I was younger was the metal spiral staircase from the bunks to the bathrooms, the always angry camp leader guy who yelled a lot, the GOOD MORNING VIETNAM wakeup call and the kid who did some weird flip in the pool and cracked his head on the side of it, and yes, the angry leader guy was pissed. His face only went red from yelling once through the whole week. oh and Funky Colours, he was cool.

  14. I missed this thread when it appeared because I was picking up two of my children from overnight camp two states away.

    My favorite letter to home this year had to be:

    Dear Mom,

    (Younger sister’s name) is embarrassing!
    Send money!
    (Name) is my new BFF!!!!

    Luv ya!

    Yes, that was the entire letter, including the accurate amount and placement of exclamation points.

  15. I went to horse riding camp for a week when I was a kid. I never did like horse riding, I have no idea why my folks picked that particular camp. My assigned horse was old, gentle, slow moving, and completely blind.

    On the last day, I won the draw for another free week at camp. We gave it to my friend who had actually enjoyed his week.

  16. I went to for many years and later worked at an excellent summer camp in Algonquin Park, Ontario. I always find this kind of thing funny/interesting for two reasons: one, because the same kind of stuff went on at the camp I went to, but secondly, because the quality of summer camps range *wildly* and it’s interesting to see how other camps compare. You hear about stories like from other comments here more often than you hear about wholly positive experiences, of course :)

    Anyway, at the camp I went to letters are required once a week (most kids are there for a little less than four weeks). However, there is nothing stopping you from putting a blank piece of paper in an envelope and handing that in, and I know I wasn’t the only kid who did that at least once and when I was in charge of kids (usually older ones) I suggested it to them a couple of times. That’s after suggesting all kinds of other things, of course, but it was on me to get them to write and if they were really that uninspired, there’s nothing I could do short of writing for them, which is pointless.

    Of course the younger kids almost always write letters like the ones pictured here. Even if they don’t mean to point out to their parents all the bad things that happened and aren’t asking to come home, they end up sounding hilariously bad – what I mean is, the things that kids emphasize usually make things sound worse than they are, even if the kid was actually relating something they liked.

    The thing is that now I love writing long letters, as you can tell anytime I make a comment on boingboing (it’s worse on slashdot…) because I inevitably go into multiple long paragraphs. I think that came partially from my camp experience because getting letters from your parents (or whoever – from girls was better) while there was one of the greatest things possible. A friend who is a girl went to (and worked) at a nearby girls’ camp and I had exchanged mail with her, which impressed everyone else at the all-boy’s camp I went to ;)

    Watch any movie about camp (Meatballs is a good one) and you usually get a very good idea about what it’s like, and why kids are inspired to write letters like these. Most of the time, it’s because they’re too busy having fun, not because they’re miserable. And it’s almost always a positive experience, even if the kid was miserable the whole time and despite all the shenanigans that go on (Meatballs is only *slightly* exaggerated!) – perhaps I should say it’s *because* of all the shenanigans, which are usually more memorable than the actual camp program :)

  17. and the head coach
    wants no sissies
    so he reads to us from
    something called ‘Ulysses’

  18. These letters bring me back. My dad moved mountains to afford to send my sister and I($4,000 a kid), to this great summer camp in Freedom, Maine, for like 8yrs each. The place was awesome. Now that I am 26 I wish I could spend a month of my summer there, best times of my life. My kids will undoubtedly be sent there, I just hope they love it like I did.

  19. OMG, I LOVED Girl Scout camp. I probably went 4 summers in a row and begged my folks to let me stay all summer. All we could afford was 2 weeks. I loved the lake, the swimming, the canoes, the hikes, the cooking out, the friends I made, the bats (yes, our tent had 3 mosquito bats and none of us got any mosquito bites at night like everyone else did, other tents tried to steal our bats). One year, we spent a day and a night hiking the Appalachian Trail and got rained on all night and our sleeping bags adorned the mess hall for 2 days. Fun, great fun.

  20. I really must get this book. I went to a few different camps, and had some good times and bad at each one.

    My most ridiculous camp memory: being screamed at by the camp’s ANGRY GUY (every camp has one) because my elbow knocked into a basket of rolls and they fell on the floor. He told me I’d have to eat them all. I told him there was no way I was going to eat them. They had fallen on the floor, after all, and I really didn’t care if our leftovers weighed too much or whatever the heck weird food-related anxiety they were trying to give to us. He got REALLY REALLY REALLY STUPIDLY ANGRY with me – like to the point of being nearly out of control.

    Best part: this was a Christian Teamwork Camp! HA! Nice teamwork, ANGRY GUY. If you’re so concerned about the stupid rolls, YOU EAT THEM!

    Most important thing I learned at Christian camp:

    That creepy youth leader who is missing his thumb really is very creepy. It’s not just the thumb. This was an important lesson as a kid. I have since come to the conclusion that many adults wear a “Get Away From Me, Kids” badge – his being his lack of thumb.

  21. I worked in camps, one in particular, for a number of years and I’d have to say that – despite my being on staff – we must have had about an 80 or 90% “this is great!” rate. Our age range was about 8 or 9 to 17, and many kids came back every single year, finishing up as CITs. For me, I loved every minute of it (the fact that I was one of only 4 males on staff didn’t hurt), and laughed so hard at these letters I almost wet my pants (OK, maybe I did a little, but can you blame me?). Unfortunately in my late 20’s I turned into an ass hole and lost all my camp staff friends, so I don’t have anybody to share this with. There’s a lesson there for you kids – don’t be an ass hole because someday something funny might come along and you won’t have any friends left to share it with. Go Tocanja!

  22. When I went to Girl Scout camp in the summer after 3rd grade, it was one of the worst experiences everrr. My roommate was trampled by a horse (for reals). Then there was a nerdy girl with glasses who was kicked out of one bunkhouse after another for bedwetting so much it stank up the whole place. She was a pathetic sight, dragging her heavy, wet mattress around in the dark. I will never put my kids through that mess.

  23. Glad you liked the CBS Sunday Morning segment on my book, P.S. I Hate It Here Kids’ Letters From Camp. The producers totally captured the essence and spirit of camp life. I also loved getting to talk with Bill Geist and share our camp letter stories. Reading these letters aloud is a laugh a minute. Thanks for enjoying.

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