Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Chapter books to take on a camping trip

I know, right now, camping is probably the furthest thing from your minds, but why not? My older boys loved “camping out” in our living room, spreading comforters on the floor for cushioning, and staying up all night giggling and falling asleep while talking into the wee hours of the morning. My eldest “camps” in his little brother’s room in the dog days of summer, when Gabe’s air conditioner is a lot cooler than Will’s. And Gabe and his buddies have had sleepovers where they camp out, sleeping bags all over the living room, and stuffed animals, action figures, and assorted iPads strewn about. So why not consider a camping trip for your kiddos now? Hike on over to a room that can fit you all, and settle in with some snacks, some games, and some good books.

McTavish Goes Wild, by Meg Rosoff/Illustrated by Grace Easton, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $21.99, ISBN: 9781536203318

Ages 7-10

Originally published in the UK, this is the second book in the McTavish Stories series, starring a rescued dog and his adopted family – although, as McTavish would tell you, he’s the one who rescued them. The Peachey family is a little quirky, as most families are; in this second installment, the family frets over where to go on vacation. Young Betty Peachey wants to go camping, but Pa Peachey is convinced that nature is far too dangerous to be out and about in. Teenage brother Ollie just wants to be somewhere where there are dance clubs where he can find a girlfriend, and big sister Ava wants to stay home and read German philosophy. Thank goodness for Ma Peachey, who sides with Betty. Once out in nature, McTavish sees that it’s up to him to get this family acclimated to the Great Outdoors, in sweet and fun fashion. The story is gentle, moves at a leisurely pace with humor throughout. Black and white drawings give life to the text. Intermediate readers will get a kick out of this quirky family and their canine companion, who seems to be two steps ahead of the game. You won’t need to have read the first book, Good Dog McTavish, to jump right into this series, but animal fiction fans will want to – make sure you have both on the shelf.

The Infamous Ratsos Camp Out, by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Matt Myers, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536200065

Ages 6-10

The fifth book in the Infamous Ratsos series Ralphie and Louie Ratso going on a camping trip with the Big City Scouts, with Grandpa Ratso as their guide. Even with Grandpa’s guidance and experience as a Scoutmaster, the Scouts learn that camping isn’t as easy as they think it is: pitching a tent, making a fire, and finding their way through the woods is hard! They have to learn to work together, and they have to learn that asking for help is the most important skill a Scout – or anyone – can have. With fun scout-meets-urban living references to badges like City Smarts and Cleanup, and scouting levels like Streets and Avenues instead of Cub and Weeblo, this is a cute addition to the series. Black and white cartoony illustrations of the Ratsos throughout the book really engage the reader. Enjoy a chapter sample from Candlewick’s page and consider adding this series to your intermediate collection if you haven’t yet.

Make some merit badges – all you need is paper, scissors, and imagination! Come up with fun merit badge ideas: ate a vegetable, read for 30 minutes, Kitchen Science, Minecrafter. The possibilities are endless, and we’re not going anywhere, anytime soon. Make it fun.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Patience is hard: Now? Not yet!

Now? Not Yet!, by Gina Perry, (June 2019, Tundra), $17.99, ISBN: 9781101919521

Ages 3-6

Peanut and Moe, the two monster friends from Too Much! Not Enough! are back in another story of negotiation. The two buddies are on a camping trip, and Peanut wants to go swimming. Moe has other plans, though; thus begins the back and forth of “Now?” and “Not yet”. Peanut is dying to get in the water, but Moe is methodical: Moe wants to hike; snack; set up camp, all while Peanut bounces up and down, asking the same question, until finally, in a burst of frustration, yells, “NOW! NOW! NOW!” Moe, just as frustrated, yells back, “NOT YET!” The two friends take a break from one another, during which Peanut gets camp set up, and Moe dashes by, ready for a swim. The two finish their day by a campfire, happily enjoying one another’s company over s’mores.

Now? Not Yet! beautifully captures toddler and preschooler (okay, and many, many adults) behavior. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with my kids, having this same scenario play out. Every parent and caregiver will see themselves and their little ones in this story, and every kid will empathize with Peanut’s desire to do what he wants, only to be made to wait. Frustration? Kids and adults feel it, so the meltdown spread will resonate with your storytime group for sure. I’ve asked the kids in my storytime how many times they’ve felt like Peanut, and gotten loads of hollers and stomps; when I’ve asked parents if they have ever felt like Moe, I’ve gotten knowing nods and smiles. The moral of the story? Patience and compromise pay off.

Gina Perry’s books are popular with my storytime crowd: Small is still in high demand, and Now? Not Yet! really got through to kids and caregivers alike. The artwork is adorable, bright, and cherry. Peanut is small, peanut-shaped, and has floppy ears; Moe is big, blue, kind of boxy, with a long pink nose. They both have big, expressive eyes. The endpapers look like layouts of the camping excursion, each laid out by one of the duo: the front papers is more orderly, with defined art and a dotted line path to show the duo’s trip; the back papers are a hand-drawn memory of the day, with dotted lines, circling birds, campfires, s’mores, and a big lake with flippers, a beach ball, and a life preserver.

I love Now? Not Yet!, and will be putting this into regular storytime rotation. If you have toddlers and preschoolers are regular storytimes, consider adding this one. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit that includes a fun nature scavenger hunt, coloring sheets, and fun instructions to make your own indoor camping site, which I need to do with my kiddo, stat. Gina Perry’s author page has more free printables, including instructions on how to draw both Moe and Peanut.

Want more Peanut & Moe? Of course you do. Check out this adorable trailer!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A grand expedition awaits in your backyard

The Grand Expedition, by Emma Adbåge/Illustrated by Anne Prime, (Apr. 2018, Enchanted Lion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781592702459

Recommended for readers 3-7

Two siblings head to their backyard for an adventure! They take the time to prepare food (coffee and pickles) and provisions (blankets, tent, jump rope). They head out, set up camp, and… eat all the pickles. And sit. And then the mosquitoes come out. And then one sibling has to poop, which seals the deal: they’re heading back inside. They end the evening cozy, with their dad, indoors.

This is the stuff of childhood. Originally published in Sweden, this is the kind of story that appeals to kids of all kinds: the campout. I grew up in an apartment, and my kids spent their early years in one, so living room campouts were the answer (who doesn’t love a sturdy blanket and pillow fort?) The kids pack like kids – minus the snacks, because they’ve only got pickles, but you get the point – and head out to an adventure that is greater in the imagination than in actuality. Once they get out there, there’s not a whole lot to do, and the lack of indoor plumbing is a dilemma. The adventure continues into the home, where the boys end the evening still on an adventure, this time, in the comfort of home. This is a fun story for a pajama readaloud – can you build blanket forts in your library, classroom, or living room? Bring the stuffed animals, sit in your PJs, and enjoy a comfy campout. The illustrations lend to the imaginary feel, with muted watercolor and line drawings giving a hazy, dreamlike feel to the story.