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Camo Girl

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  402 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Set in a suburb of Las Vegas, Ella and Zachary, called Z, have been friends forever, but Z has always been “the weird kid” in their class. He collects stubby pencils, plays chess, and maintains an elaborate –and public– fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Z’s games were okay back in 3rd or 4th grade, but by no...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Aladdin
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VCFA Student/Alum Books
22nd out of 134 books — 21 voters
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Mock Printz 2012
47th out of 51 books — 269 voters

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Community Reviews

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The author of The Rock and the River returns with another amazing book. Ella is not part of the popular crowd at school. In fact, she is the lowest of the low. Teased by about her uneven skin coloring, some of her classmates call her Camo Face, Ella has trouble even looking at herself in the mirror. She has her best friend, Z, who has been her friend for many years, but Z is getting stranger and stranger, losing himself in stories and roles. Now there is a new boy at school, a boy who doesn’t se...more
Ellie and Z are best friends bonded by being different and thus the target of a school bully. Z lives in an imaginary world while Ellie, the only African American at her school, has a mottled commplexion and is known as "camo girl." When new student Baily James arrives at school, Ellie is no longer the only African American. She and Baily forge a friendship that Z is not at all comfortable with. While Ellie like having a new friend and being accepted at the cools kids table, she feels an obligat...more
B Claire
This is an excellent Middle School novel. Bullied in school, Ella and Z have had some tough issues and have only each other for friendship. Ella's dad died of cancer and Z's dad abandoned he and his mom. Ella's mom had to take a job where she is home only 3 days per week, so her grandma came to live with them and she gets along okay, but life is even harder for Z. When his dad left, he and his mom lost their home and now they secretly sleep inside the local 24-hour Walmart Store where is mom wor...more
Ms.  Garrett
Great, heartfelt read. Ella and Z have found common ground and friendship in the fact that they are both outsiders at school. They band together to cope with the bullying they face. When a new student, Bailey, shows up at school, befriending Ella, Z feels left out and runs away. Bailey and Ella set out to find him, discovering along the way the commonalities the three share.

The first thing I loved about this book is that it features a bi-racial protagonist, but there is so much more to love. The...more
BAYA Librarian
Bullying has become so routine to Ella Cartwright that she keeps not one, but two spare changes of clothes in her locker. Branded a freak and nicknamed “camo face” by her all-white classmates, dark-skinned Ella has found her place as a friend and quasi-caregiver to Z. Tiny, dorky and totally out of touch with reality, Z creates fantasy worlds and heroic characters for the two of them, sealing their bond while keeping the rest of the world at bay. That is, until Bailey moves to town. African Amer...more
Ella has recently started the 6th grade and everything has changed. Before Ella was best friends with Zachary and Millie. Now Millie has moved on, leaving Ella and Zachary to be the outcast. Both are teased for different reasons. Ella because she's the only Black girl in her class. The taunts are worse because Ella has white splotches on her face. Some of Ella's classmates call her camo face.

Zachary is picked on for always creating imaginary worlds. Sometimes Ella plays along. Zachary becomes Z...more
Natalie Cheetham
Ella and Z are both outsiders. Ella is the only black person in her class, and is picked on because she suffers from vitiligo. Z is ostracized because he lives in a fantasy world where he is a knight and Ella is a princess. There are times when Ella imagines life without the oddities of Z, but then she realizes she would be alone. But, when Bailey James, an African American child of the military moves to town, things begin changing...Ella begins to realize she might not be alone...and she might...more
Katrina Burchett
Z is different because he has a great imagination. Ella is different because she’s the only black student in the school. All they have is each other, the only two at a table in the cafeteria and no other kids to walk with after school. There used to be three of them, but, Millie, the girl they grew up with, went her own way after grade school and found a place among the popular crowd in middle school. Z doesn’t care about being popular, but Ella wouldn’t mind sitting with the popular kids at lun...more
I loved The Rock and the River last year, so I was very excited to pick up this novel. In some ways it's radically different from Magoon's previous novel, but in other ways it explores many of the same themes through a totally new lens.

Magoon is a little vague on some of the details here - we know Ella's skin tone is uneven for some reason, and her best (only) friend Z isn't really named Z or even Zachariah. Both kids, and new boy Bailey, are missing their fathers, but the reasons for the missin...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
As usual, the Newbery contenders are the books I wouldn't normally read but when I do, I'm always impressed. I love books that are able to truly understand the 5th and 6th grade years and all the ambiguity that goes with the desire to keep childhood friendships while gaining teenage ones, the first beginnings of navigating potential romance, and all the uncertainty of knowing where one fits in to a world that used to be so familiar.

Magoon shows a deep understanding of this age, as her heroine E...more
Julie Esanu
Have you ever felt that you are different from everyone else and that you don't fit in? Are you uncomfortable in your own skin? If so, then meet Ella and know that you are not alone. Ella's father died and her only friend is Z, who is very sensitive and different from the other kids at school. Ella and Zachary are old friends and have been through a lot together, and are considered to be the "weird kids" in school. Ella is teased by the other kids at her middle school who call her "camo girl" be...more
Sixth-grader Ella Cartwright only has one friend, Z. Z is an outcast, bullied every day for the weird way he talks and his poverty (he and his mother secretly live at the Wal-Mart where she works). Z doesn't know, or blocks out, that he is being bullied. Ella feels it is her duty to protect him, and to stay with Z, since she is an outcast too, ever since the school bully notices her "camo face"--some kind of skin discoloration that isn't described fully--and starts to mock her in school. In addi...more
Ella Cartwright’s best friend is Z or Zachariah and he needs protection. Z lives in a fantasy world that she helped him create where he is a brave knight and she is a fair lady because sometimes the real world is just so hard to deal with since his father abandoned him and his mom. Ella has her own problems too; the cool kids, mostly boys, tease her about her uneven complexion calling her Camo Face because someone thought it looked like desert camouflage; her father has died of cancer, her grand...more
Beginning 6th grade can be a nightmare for some kids. The nightmare is usually reserved for the unpopular, the awkward, the different. Ella and Z are the poster kids for the adolescent nightmare of middle school, unpopular, awkward and different. Ella is a narrator that many of us formerly "left out" kids can relate to. The hair that won't lay down right, the used to be best friends that are now the "popular kids" and the parents/grandparents that try to convince you of your greatness when every...more
This is a story about the ups and downs of friendship and family, but also about sadness and poverty and mental illness and death--no melodrama from Magoon, but plenty for teen readers to think about and relate to.

Ella's a sixth-grader who sees herself only as an ugly misfit, even around her two closest friends: Millie, who seems to have abandoned her for the popular crowd, and "Z," who has retreated into a strange fantasy world. The compassionate Ella is unsure where to draw the boundary of tak...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abby Johnson
Ella brushes her teeth with her eyes closed each morning so that she doesn't have to see her reflection in he mirror. She once had a very best friend, but now her only friend is Z, a boy whose weirdness makes him a social pariah like Ella. The bullies call her "Camo Face" because of her mottled skin. You'd think Ella would be used to it by now, but every time hurts like the first time.

But when Bailey James starts at her school, things begin to change. Bailey shows an interest in her... and yes,...more
This book starts off very slowly and I couldn't get into it. Towards the middle it starts to pick up more.

This was a book battle book that I had to read. I wouldn't recommend using it for a book report because there isn't enough character development.

It is a quick read once you finally get into the story. It just took me a couple of days to get to that point.
When I read this book, it gave me an ache in my heart. Not because I was reading about a great and terriable love, but because how much I could relate to it.
The bullying, the self-confidence, the race issue, trying to be popular, accepting you aren't pretty but maybe attractive to someone. This book, is so well-crafted. If only I had found this four years ago...
The minute I began reading Camo Girl I was instantly hooked. The story is brilliant and I really felt like I was next to “Z” and “Ellie-Nor” the whole time I was reading. It is unfortunate that kids treat other kids as outsiders; my heart went out to these two children because of the mistreatment they had to endure. One of the main reasons I picked this title to read is because the name sparked my curiosity. I was pleasantly surprised and glad I decided on this book.

Camo Girl describes the cond...more
Recommended for gr. 6-8. Older students could easily relate to it, but the characters are definitely middle school aged. This is an excellent story, told by Ella, a girl who is very self-conscious about her face. Her skin tone is very blotchy which leads one of the mean boys to call her Camo-Face. Her closest friend is Z, who lives in his own fantasy world. Her former best friend has deserted her for a popular group now that they are in middle school. A new boy, Bailey James, moves to town and E...more
Leigh Collazo
(more reviews at

Oh, I so loved this book! As cliched as the summary may sound, Camo Girl has nothing at all to do with popular cliques of mean girls or choosing your friend over popularity. Ella, Z, Millie, and Bailey are all believable characters facing realistic situations and plausibly resolving them as children of their age probably would. With regard to Z, Ella feels guilt, love, anger, and fiercely protective of Z, all at the same time. Ella knows what it i...more
Sixth grader Ella suffers some self-esteem issues to the vitiligo that causes light brown and dark brown coloring across her face. Because of this effect, some of her classmates call her "Camo Girl." Feeling shunned by others and mourning her father, Ella spends her free time with her friend Zachariah (Z) who has created a fantasy world which helps them cope with the painful reality in both of their worlds. When a new boy enters the class, he has more in common with the two than might appear on...more
Ella is the only African American student at her school, and she has a skin problem that leaves her with light patches on her face, earning her the nickname of Camo Girl. Her only friend is "Zachariah," a homeless boy who shields himself from the harsh reality of their lives by living in a fantasy world. Ella goes along with him until Bailey, a new kid in town, who is also African American, seems to want to strike up a friendship with her. Torn between the lure of Bailey and a chance at populari...more
I thought this was very strong: the author's exploration of bullying and loyalty was very thoughtful and layered. Ella's fleeting hope, and then despair felt very real, as her social standing showed signs of possible improvement, but then came crashing back down. Her wanting to fit in with her old friend Millie (and HER new friends), but not wanting to abandon Zachary, is a common situation, especially in middle school. Add a new, handsome classmate to the mix and it becomes really complicated....more
I really enjoyed this book. A book about friendship between 2 outcasts sticking up for each other, in the face of adolescent bullying (for lack of better verbiage right now). Ella/Eleanor is growing up in a town with a 99-100% Caucasian population (it appears), she is the only African American in the school until Bailey James arrives and befriends her. This cause turmoil in her relationship with Z, who sees Bailey as a threat to his relationship with Ella. Ella spends the story trying to keep fr...more
This was a very intense and often times sad book. It tells the story of two outsiders, who have no one but each other. Ella is the only African-American student in her school. She has a pigmentation disorder that causes her face to be splotches of different shades of brown. Z is the smallest kid in the 6th grade. He and his mom have been living at Walmart since they lost their house. Z lives in his own fantasy world, and has lost touch with reality. Everything changes when Bailey, a new, cool, p...more
This is a great friendship story. You'll love reading about Ella and Z's special bond and the tough questions Ella asks to answer when the new kid, Bailey James, shows up at school.
Grades 5-8
Since her father died, sixth grader Ella has grown used to being on the outside. She and her friend Z, whose father left when he was younger, are all the other needs. When new kid Bailey seeks her out, she feels a real bond with him. At the same time, this makes her feel disloyal to Z, knowing that she's his only friend at school. But Z is living more and more in a fantasy world, and Ella is in over her head when it comes to trying to help him with day-to-day survival. This is a wonder...more
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