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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Camp Tiger, written by Susan Choi and illustrated by John Rocco. G. P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"We take our stuff out of the
car and talk about all the things
we'll see. The eagle fishing for
its dinner in the pond. The
salamander with red spots on
its back. And the chipmunks
that come to steal food while
we sit by our campfire.

The air feels cool.
I find a red leaf on the ground."

It's hard to believe how quickly August has passed us by! We are two days away from the long weekend, and I wonder how many families are planning a final camping trip before packing up all their equipment until next year.

The family in this picture book debut by Susan Choi are doing just that. They are on their way to a isolated campsite at Mountain Pond where they plan to enjoy the final days of summer on this annual trip to a favored spot.

School starts as soon as they get back. The narrator lets readers know that he is not too excited about first grade. He would prefer what is familiar to him - kindergarten. He is keen to have this camping trip last beyond its planned time. The family loves this annual trip. He and his brother quickly find things to keep them busy as their parents set up camp.

A sudden movement in the woods has a tiger stepping quietly into their space. Surprisingly, that tiger talks! The boy is not afraid, and asks for a second tent for the cold feline. While they work, the tiger preens. Once clean, the tiger asks for help to get into the smaller tent. The boy goes in, too. The two settle in, comfortable with each other. Throughout the weekend, the tiger accompanies the family on every outing.

On the last night, the boy has some requests for final things he would like to do. Only the tiger hears. Off they go on a nighttime adventure, the boy proving he is capable and confident. Back at the campground, his parents tuck him into the family tent. In the morning, the tiger is gone.

Learning to navigate the unknown is just one step for children as they grow and change. This young boy is learning just how capable and independent he can be when given the opportunity.

John Rocco's illustrations are brilliant, bold, and dramatic. Realistic and fascinating, they are filled with quiet wonder, luminous light, and beautiful details.

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