Tundra Telegram: Books that are In Tents

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

Here in the Great White North of Canada (where the Tundra offices are located), this past weekend was the Victoria Day long weekend. It’s commonly referred to as the “May two-four weekend” and – for many – it marks the unofficial start of “cottage season,” in which folks rent cottages in the woods or go camping to experience the great outdoors (now that the winter is finally over).

So, this week we’re featuring some picture books, chapter books, middle-grade titles, and YA that feature camping and the great outdoors central to their plots. Break out the bug spray, slather on that sunscreen, and keep an eye out for ticks. Like James Corden and Emily Blunt, we’re going into the woods!

PICTURE BOOKS

Few picture books capture the Canadian cottage experience better than the Ezra Jack Keats winner Out into the Big Wide Lake by Paul Harbridge and Josée Bisaillon. A young girl with Down syndrome, Kate, gains confidence and independence through a visit to her grandparents in cottage country, by accompanying them on their boat deliveries of groceries around the lake. It’s a book so immersive, you’ll swear you hear the loons calling.

A trapline is quite different from a cottage (or even camping), but it’s certainly a way to appreciate the wilderness. And the Governor General’s Award-winning picture book On the Trapline by David. A. Robertson and Julie Flett celebrates fathers and grandfathers, and the times they spend together where people hunt and live off the land – in this case, the grandfather’s familial trapline up north.

A father and a son do a little bonding and scale some serious obstacles in Pete Oswald’s vibrantly vertical Hike. It’s a nearly wordless adventure about appreciating the wilderness and the spectacular view.

Young Ernestine has never been camping before, but she’s sure it must be fun. But in The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann, she realizes nobody warned her how hard it is to set up a tent, and sleep on it, or that swimming in a lake means that there will be fish (and all sorts of other things) in the water. Will Ernestine manage to have fun, nevertheless?

The Khazi family, new immigrants to America, are also embarking on their first camping trip in Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq and Stevie Lewis. Written by an outdoors activist and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, this book is a fun family romp, a love letter to the outdoors, and a reminder that public land belongs to all of us.

Ever take a camping trip with someone who is a very different traveler than you? You should be able to relate to Peanut and Moe in Gina Perry’s Now? Not Yet!. When Peanut wants to swim, Moe wants to hike. Can these two friends come together in time to save their camping trip?

Despite being fun, the outdoors are also full of dangers. And no one knows that better than Scaredy Squirrel who worries about the mosquitoes, skunks, or zippers he might encounter in Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping. However, circumstances force him to go into the woods – will his adventure end up as a spooky story told around the campfire?

The outdoors can be so unstructured and full of earth-tones, but if you like your nature with a little style, you’ll like Benjamin Flouw’s The Golden Glow. The stylish Fox heads out on quest to find a rare and mysterious plant, and observes wonderful flora and befriends numerous fauna on his hike in this charming book that celebrates the pleasures of experiencing nature.

But if the young people in your life don’t relish a little ramble in the woods, they may like The Not-So Great Outdoors by Madeline Kloepper. The grumpy city kid in this book reluctantly accompanies her family on a summer camping trip, pining for her screen and city sights. But once she starts to experience the forests, lakes, and mountains, and encounter bears, beavers, and caribou, she begins to realize the magic of Mother Nature.

And if there remains any doubt about the power of nature to inspire, The Secret Fawn by Kallie George and Elly MacKay will change that. The little girl in the story always misses out on the fun things her family gets to see and do, just because she is the youngest and smallest. But she realizes the benefits of being the smallest when she heads outside in search of deer and spots a fawn, beautiful, quiet and small . . . just like her.

MIDDLE GRADE

If there’s a topic, you know there’s a Magic Tree House book about it – and that’s certainly true for camping, too! Camp Time in California by Mary Pope Osborne and AG Ford follows siblings Jack and Annie as they go camping in California’s Yosemite National Park, where they must save . . . the wilderness. (That’s right: if Jack and Annie fail, all these other outdoorsy books will be pointless.)

Like a human Scaredy Squirrel, an incredibly anxious kid faces his outdoor fears in Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham. Alvin has a lot of concerns about camping, but luckily, he’s bringing along his night-vision goggles and water purifying tablets and super-duper heavy-duty flashlight . . . and his dad, too.

Red Fox Road by Frances Greenslade can’t be described as a fun camping trip, but there’s no doubt that protagonist Francie gets the full outdoors experience. While her family is on a spring road trip, she gets stranded alone in the middle of nowhere. With no GPS and no transportation, Francie’s story is the definition of “roughing it,” gathering dandelion leaves and fir needles for tea and starting fires from nothing.

YOUNG ADULT

Along the lines of Red Fox Road, the girls in Jo Treggiari’s The Grey Sisters aren’t necessarily having a good time in the great outdoors. Because when friends D and Spider head back to the mountains with their friend Min to uncover the truth about siblings they lost in a tragic air disaster, they encounter an isolated, survivalist community that may or may not be a cult – not the way most people want to spend a long weekend!

And if you like extreme survival, you’ll also want to read Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman. People always say to pursue your dreams, but at what cost? Ingrid strikes an arrangement with her mother: if she survives an extreme wilderness experience over the summer, she can have her chance to pursue life as a performer. (You can see why we didn’t include it on Mother’s Day recommendations.)

A summer camp rom-com? That sounds a little less harrowing! In The Matchbreaker Summer by Annie Rains, Paisley and Hayden have nothing in common, save Camp Starling. But when they reluctantly join forces to break up Paisley’s camp-manager mom and her new boyfriend, will they start a romance of their own?

But if you prefer your great outdoors with a little horror, you’ll love the taste of Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly DeVos. Weight-loss camp Camp Featherlite is overrun with zombies (!), so it’s up to unwilling camper Vivian to lead her fellow campers to survival in this campy (get it?) mix of horror and humor and bloody body positivity.

And the camp horror continues in Jessica Goodman’s The Counselors, set at a summer camp for the teen children of the elite, where three best friends find a dead teen in the lake late one night, and begin to uncover more and more dark secrets.

Getting back to cottages, there’s horror at the lake house in Kara Thomas’s That Weekend. When three best friends plan a prom weekend outdoor getaway, things go bad quickly. Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. And her best friends Kat and Jesse? Well . . . they’ve gone missing.

And in Carrie Mac’s dangerous romance Wildfire, two best friends (who are maybe slowly becoming something more?) embark on a ten-day backpacking trip through the mountains of Washington State to Fire Camp, where they’ll learn to fight the area’s growing wildfire problem. But (spoiler alert!) the wildfires might become a problem before they ever get there!

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on Mental Health & Wellness

YourMorning_January20
Our Marketing & Publicity Associate Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning today to talk about kids’ books dealing with mental health and wellness. Check out our titles from her recommended list below and don’t forget to watch her segment!

PICTURE BOOKS

What’s Up, Maloo?
By Genevieve Godbout
ISBN 9780735266643 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Tundra Books
No other kangeroo can hop like Maloo! But one day Maloo’s friends find him stepping instead of hopping. What’s wrong, Maloo? His pals look for ways to help Maloo regain the spring in his step. With patience, support and a little “hop” from his friends, Maloo gets his bounce back.

Grumpy Monkey Party Time!
By Suzanne Lang
Illustrated by Max Lang
ISBN 9780593118627 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Random House Books for Young Readers
Have you ever been a little anxious about going to a party? Jim Panzee feels that. Porcupine is having a big party, and according to Jim’s best friend Norman, there will be–gulp–dancing. Jim can DEFINITELY not dance. When he tells his friends, they all try to teach him cool moves–surely that’s the only reason Jim isn’t excited about this party!

Big Boys Cry
By Jonty Howley
ISBN 9781524773205 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Random House Books for Young Readers
It’s Levi’s first day at a new school, and he’s scared. His father tries to comfort Levi by telling him “Big boys don’t cry.” Though the father immediately understands his misstep, he can’t find the words to comfort his son, and Levi leaves for school, still in need of reassurance.

CHAPTER BOOKS/MIDDLE GRADE

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things
By Lenore Look
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
ISBN 9780375849305 | Paperback
Ages 6-9 | Yearling
Alvin, an Asian American second grader, is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’ s there, he never, ever, says a word. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
By Susin Nielsen
ISBN 9781770496545 | Paperback
Ages 10+ | Tundra Books
Thirteen-year-old Henry’s happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father’s hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry’s family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city, where no one knows their past. When Henry’s therapist suggests he keeps a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night.

YOUNG ADULT

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe
By Heather Smith
ISBN 9780143198673 | Paperback
Ages 12+ | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O’Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun’s mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
By Teresa Toten
ISBN 9780385678346 | Paperback
Ages 12+ | Doubleday Canada
When Adam meets Robyn at a support group for kids coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder, he is drawn to her almost before he can take a breath. But when you’re fourteen and the everyday problems of dealing with divorced parents and step-siblings are supplemented by the challenges of OCD, it’s hard to imagine yourself falling in love. How can you have a “normal” relationship when your life is so fraught with problems?