Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: Camping for Kids

Camping for Kids  Today's kid-lit review is non-fiction.  Camping for Kids, by Melanie A. Howard, part of the "Into the Great Outdoors" series from Edge Books.  30 pages, early to middle grades (?).

I stumbled on this book while sorting books at the library, and thought I should take a look, as we have been taking our kids camping, hiking, and backpacking since they were babies.  I should note, however, that this is not a how-to for parents, but more of an introduction to concepts for the kids in five brief chapters. 

The first chapter, "Out in the Wild," offers a brief summary of why people camp and the history of camping for pleasure in the U.S. (interestingly, some people were camping for fun while others were still walking behind their wagons and camping because that was the only way to get from Point A to Point B).  A final paragraph mentions various approaches to camping: bike camping, RVs, boating or hiking.  My only real problem with this chapter is that the lovely opening picture spread shows a tent on a sort of sandspit sticking out into a lake--definitely NOT an acceptable campsite (which should always be at least 100 feet from water, preferably 200 feet).

Chapter Two, "Packed up and Ready to Go," talks a little about essentials, tents, sleeping bags and backpacks.  It discusses water treatments, and finishes with car and RV camping extras.  My reaction to this was that it couldn't make up it's mind if it was for kids or parents.  As a general rule, it is not the children who are making decisions about things like water treatment, type of sleeping bag, or tent purchases, though it helps if the kids understand why they have or do certain things.

Chapter Three, "From Bear Bags to Bandages," covers exactly that, plus fire safety.  Again, I think the focus is off.  For children, it is less important to know that they should hang the food 100 yards from camp than to know that they should NEVER keep food in the tent.  The discussion of fire safety is more on target, as kids are the ones most likely to be paying attention to the fire.  I think it might not hurt to mention that care should be taken when "tending" the fire, based on the things my boys have thought of to do with fires over the years.  On first aid--advising children to "take a first-aid class before your trip" seems completely off, since few such courses would even accept children young enough to be reading this book.

Chapter Four is "We're Here.  Now What?"  This chapter offers a few nice suggestions about what you might do in and around camp, helpful for those who've never been outdoors enough to figure it out for themselves.

The final chapter, "Leave No Trace,"  outlines a few basic Leave No Trace (LNT) principles, like leaving no trash, camping on durable surfaces, and not taking anything from the wilderness.

My take on the book is that it can't make up it's mind what it's doing.  The writing is very simplistic, as for kids in about grade 3-5.  But the content deals at least half the time with matters that such children would not be managing.  Perhaps it's meant to give kids the info they need to get their parents to learn enough to take them camping?  If I were to write the book, I have to say that my focus would be more on showing kids why they want to go, and how to be safe and happy, using the gear their parents provide--tips like "bring a small favorite stuffy" will probably do more to help a child have a good sleep in the backcountry than a learned debate on the merits of down vs. synthetic sleeping bags.

2.5 stars

 Here's the other result of my reaction to this book.  Many years ago I put together a little picture book and shared it with my friends.  I called it A is for Alpine, An Alphabet Book for Little Hikers.  After reading this "kids' camping guide," I have decided to dust off the alphabet, upload to Smashwords, and offer the book for 99 cents to anyone who wishes to have something to share with small children who may be camping for backpacking for the first time.  It doesn't do the same thing as Camping for Kids, exactly, and while maybe it's not brilliant,  I think it will help little ones and their parents get excited about getting outdoors.  Plus: pretty pictures, all from real packtrips we've taken with our real kids.  Who really don't care what their sleeping bags are made of as long as they are warm, and get candy.

I'll even put up the paperback on Amazon, though I sadly have to charge more for that, due to printing costs for color pages.

So watch this space for more information about A is for Alpine, and happy hiking!

I've put it up--still fussing with some issues, but it's on Smashwords now, for 99 cents, and will soon be available as a paperback at Amazon for $6.99!


  1. What a great idea! Your book sounds wonderful. I agree with you that not many kids care much about what their sleeping bags are made of. Oh, and we always had jelly beans when we went camping :)

    1. M&MS for us! Hmm. . . I thought I had one more day! I'll get that book up this week, though!

  2. I love the concept of your book. Being a mountain mama and having raised my kids in the mountains, I would have loved it.

    That first book does sound mixed-- either a "how-to" to parents or a fun book of camping geared towards kids. This sounds like it was trying to do both.

    1. I found two more books on camping in our library collection, and will take a look to see if I can commend either of them in the more how-to genre. My book is more inspirational than practical :)

  3. Thanks. I'd forgotten this was the impetus for actually publishing "A is for Alpine." The price of the paperback has recently gone up to $7.99, which is still cheap for a picture book :)

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