Review Detail

Kids Fiction 109
A cozy vicarious camping trip
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
A little girl, her father, and their dog are out in the woods, preparing to make a fire. They gather rocks and tinder, find some sticks, and get everything ready. A match sets things in motion, and they watch the fire, imagining seeing a phoenix and a fox in the flames. It is dark outside, and a little scary; even a stomach growling seems like it might be wolves or something scarier! Once the fire is going, the two work on cooking a stew, which they then share with others who happen across their path. A little boy and his mother arrive with a guitar in tow, and when another family arrive, they all toast marshmallows and have a sing along. It's a long but tiring evening, and the next morning, the fire is doused and everyone goes on their way.

Good Points
Covell's collage style illustrations have lots of good details, and it's an effective medium for showing rocks, sticks, and the clothing of the campers. The father is especially charming, and his plaid shirt, hat, and boots have a 1950s feel to them that somehow reminded me of some of Richard Scarry's bunnies! Because this is set at night, there are lots of deep purples, umbers, and charcoal grays, with the orange and yellow of the fire popping against those hues.

The story is told in a poetic way, but is not quite in verse. Some lines rhyme, some don't, so it might be good to practice reading this out loud a couple of times if you want to read to a group so that you can get the cadence just right.

The last page has good information about building a fire safely and gathering around it. I like the idea that "a campfire is a living thing" that can grow, but must be carefully watched. I don't think I've ever heard fire safety described in quite this way.

I didn't grow up with camp fires, but if you are a fan of enjoying the great outdoors with them, this is a great book for preparing children to "gather round" with you. For very young readers, Rose's Camping 1 2 3 is a great board book to introduce the topic, and there are lots of camping books with popular characters like Amelia Bedelia and P.J. Funnybunny. There aren't as many literary books on the topic; the closet would probably be and James' and Judges' S is for S'Mores: A Camping Alphabet or Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by George and Kiesler.
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