Friday, May 31, 2019
The NOT-SO Great Outdoors, written and illustrated by Madeline Kloepper. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 5 and up
"I have no idea why we have to ‘venture into the great outdoors’ this summer … It’s not like there’s anything out here. There’s no electricity. There are no fountains or sculptures. There aren’t even any playgrounds! I can't look out my window at the city lights. And where does anything live? It's not like there are any buildings."
Families will soon begin talking about summer vacation plans. After all, June starts tomorrow. Whether it's a Disney vacation, a trip to visit family, the summer at the lake, or a camping trip, there is always great excitement as plans are made. That is not so in this book for a young girl with very strong feelings about the non-joy of a family camping trip.
She is quite contrary about it all. It is difficult for her to fathom leaving the hustle and bustle of her home town. Her friends are out visiting, a hot dog cart and ice cream truck offer welcome treats, a young busker provides music, and others are buying what they need and visiting with their friends. Her family? Packed up and ready to leave it all behind them; what is a girl to do?
As they travel toward their campsite, she complains about seeing nothing of interest to her - no electricity, no artwork, nowhere to play, no city lights. She has a litany of concerns. Her first person narrative makes this the perfect book for a dramatic read aloud,. Observant listeners will be following the many wonderful discoveries the family is making, as they contradict every small beef she has with the trip. Luckily, they are unconcerned with her cantankerous attitude; they revel in every new sight and sound.
There comes a turning point:
" ... bears?
Well, I guess I could get by with songbirds
instead of street performers.
And I suppose catching a bus doesn't
exactly compare to catching a fish."
The mixed media artwork is gorgeous, showing colorful landscapes on double-page spreads filled with life and promise. It does take some time for her, but the wonder of the natural world is just too enticing. This family camping trip offers untold enjoyment - blazing fires, toasting marshmallows, brilliant starry nights, streams, family fishing, long walks, and bike rides. The many fine details included in the illustrations require careful observation and are sure to encourage conversation.
If you have a camping trip in mind, you would do well to read this fine book before embarking.