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!

Wordless Books

There aren’t enough words to describe these wonderful titles. Wordless books can be a huge asset for emerging readers and a great resource for parents and educators. Here are some we love:

Antonia: A Journey to a New Home
By Dipacho
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781662650451 | MineditionUS
Like so many people around the world facing difficult times, the little girl and her family in this eye-catching and emotionally satisfying picture book have had to leave their home. The girl has brought along her belongings and her friendly, curious dog, Antonia. While waiting for a boat to take them across a river, she plays with other children who’ve also brought pets – a duck and a bird. But on the other side of the river, Antonia goes missing in the brush. The girl is distraught, until a new friend releases his own pet bird from its cage in an extraordinary gesture of solidarity and freedom. With colorful, whimsical illustrations and an uplifting message of resilience, this US debut from a talented Colombian creator will leave readers with a full heart.

Dandelion’s Dream
By Yoko Tanaka
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536204537 | Candlewick
In a meadow filled with dandelion buds just about to flower, one dandelion blooms into a real lion. Roots and leaves unfurl into four tiny paws and a long tail with a fluffy yellow tuft. What a great, wide world there is to explore when you have paws instead of roots: there are fast trains to ride, regal ships to sail, and cities with lights as bright as Dandelion’s field in full bloom. But will a real lion ever be content to go back to being a rooted dandelion? Yoko Tanaka’s exquisite illustrations take us on an adventure where even the smallest seeds contain cosmic dreams.

Field Trip to the Ocean Deep
By John Hare
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446308 | Margaret Ferguson Books
Students dressed in deep sea helmets travel to the ocean deep in a yellow school-bus submarine. When they get there, they frolic with fish, chase luminescent squid, and discover an old shipwreck. But when it’s time to return to the submarine bus, one student lingers to take a photo of a treasure chest and falls into a deep ravine. Luckily, the child makes an unexpected friend – a maybe-not-so-extinct sea creature called a Pleiosaur – that’s happy to entertain the young explorer until the teacher returns.

Hike
By Pete Oswald
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201574 | Candlewick
In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive – and closer than ever – as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.

How to Talk Monster
By Lynn Plourde
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525515807 | Putnam BFYR
A Little Boy is just trying to go to sleep when a Little Monster creeps up to his window and . . . says goop-zee-googy! Or, peek-a-boo!, in case you don’t speak Monster. Hilarity ensues as the Little Monster tries to play with the Little Boy despite the language barrier. While at first scared, the Little Boy comes to Little Monster’s rescue when he gets hurt and the two new friends are able to play together all night long. Complete with a glossary translating the monster language used throughout, this classic nighttime adventure story will have little readers wishing for a Little Monster to knock on their window at night.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Picture Book Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
By Kerascoët
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524769550 | Schwartz & Wade
Inspired by real events, I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. By choosing only pictures to tell their story, the creators underscore the idea that someone can be an ally without having to say a word. With themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.

Journey
By Aaron Becker
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780763660536 | Candlewick
A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

La La La
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jaime Kim
72 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780763658335 | Candlewick
“La la la . . . la.” A little girl stands alone and sings, but hears no response. Gathering her courage and her curiosity, she skips farther out into the world, singing away to the trees and the pond and the reeds – but no song comes back to her. Day passes into night, and the girl dares to venture into the darkness toward the light of the moon, becoming more insistent in her singing, climbing as high as she can, but still there is silence in return. Dejected, she falls asleep on the ground, only to be awakened by an amazing sound. . . . She has been heard. At last. With the simplest of narratives and the near absence of words, Kate DiCamillo conveys a lonely child’s yearning for someone who understands. With a subtle palette and captivating expressiveness, Jaime Kim brings to life an endearing character and a transcendent landscape that invite readers along on an emotionally satisfying journey.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home
By Guojing
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524771768 | Schwartz & Wade
In this heartwarming, wordless picture book that’s perfect for dog lovers, a woman visits a park and discovers a pup hiding under a bench – scruffy, scared, and alone. With gentle coaxing, the woman tries to befriend the animal, but the dog is too scared to let her near. Day after day, the woman tries – and day after day, the dog runs away. With perseverance and patience – and help from an enticing tennis ball – a tentative friendship begins. But it’s not until a raging storm forces the two together that a joyous and satisfying friendship takes hold. Guojing poignantly explores how trust doesn’t always come easily, but how, over time, and with kindness and determination, forever love can grow.

The Midnight Fair
By Gideon Sterer
Illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536211153 | Candlewick
Far from the city, but not quite the countryside, lies a fairground. When night comes and the fair is empty, something unexpected happens. Wild animals emerge from the forest, a brave raccoon pulls a lever, and the roller coasters and rides explode back into bright, neon life. It’s time for the woodland creatures to head to the fair! In a gorgeous wordless picture book, author Gideon Sterer and illustrator Mariachiara Di Giorgio offer an exuberant take on what animals are up to when humans are asleep. Suffused with color and light, the panel illustrations celebrate the inherent humor and joy in deer flying by on chair-swings, a bear winning a stuffed bear, three weasels carrying a soft pretzel, and a badger driving a bumper car. With thrills both spectacular and subtle, Midnight Fair will have readers punching their tickets again and again to revel in this fantastic nocturnal world.

For ideas on how to use some of these titles, check out this activity kit.

Books Featuring Chickens

September is National Chicken Month – here are some egg-cellent books to celebrate!

Arithmechicks Take Away
By Ann Marie Stephens
Illustrated by Jia Liu
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781629798080 | Boyd Mills Press
The Arithmechicks have invited their new friend Mouse for a sleepover. When Mama says it’s time for bed, the clever chicks decide it’s time to prolong the fun instead! During the story, readers are invited to count and take away during everyone’s favorite game of hide-and-seek – and to find Mouse, who hides in a different place in each illustration – until all settle down for bed in the warm, cozy conclusion. The book is the perfect introduction to essential math for young children and their caregivers. It includes a helpful glossary that defines the eight arithmetic strategies the chicks use throughout the story.

Count Your Chickens
By Jo Ellen Bogart
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
24 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780735267138 | Tundra Books
Follow a family of chickens as they prepare for their big outing. You’ll see chickens wondering what to wear, baking pies, painting their toes and knitting socks. A stroll through town reveals that everyone else is excited for the festivities too. There are so many sights to see! Over there we see racers sprinting to the finish line. Over here, farmers showing off their best crops. Clowns, entertainers and musicians take the stage. And don’t forget the rides: the Ferris wheel, super slide and merry-go-round. Grab some cotton candy and popcorn, because this very silly book will entertain and challenge young readers with searching and counting elements.

Ergo
By Alexis Deacon
Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
40 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536217803 | Candlewick
Ergo wakes up and sets off to explore the world. The first things she discovers are her toes. Wiggle, wiggle. Then she finds her wings. Flap, flap. Then her beak. And her legs. She has discovered everything! I am the world and the world is me, she thinks. Until she considers the wall around her. Is that part of her, too? And is that noise from beyond the wall . . . something else? At once humorous and inspirational, this lighthearted foray by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz is for dreamers and philosophers, the foolish and the enlightened – a picture book experience told with simplicity and style.

Gladys the Magic Chicken
By Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Adam Rex
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593325605 | Putnam BFYR
Gladys the chicken must be magic. After all, for everyone who encounters her, a wish is granted. The Shepherd Boy wishes to be beautiful, the Brave Swordsman wishes to join the Royal Guard, the Purple Pooh-bah wishes for his only daughter to be happy, and the Learned Princess wishes to escape the palace. And one by one, each of these wishes comes true. But . . . is Gladys really magic? Or is everyone making their own fortune? Either way, it adds up to one heck of an adventure for a chicken named Gladys. Blending a classic storybook feel with a thoroughly modern sense of humor, this side-splitting read aloud is perfect for anyone who wishes to see magic in the world – even if they are only looking at a chicken.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast
By David Ezra Stein
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536207781 | Candlewick
It’s bright and early on a Saturday morning, and the little red chicken wants cookies for breakfast. What better way to persuade Papa than by jarring him awake and gleefully interjecting cookies – and herself! – into every nursery rhyme they read together? Though the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe heartily endorses the little red chicken’s plan, Papa has his own idea for a sweet breakfast for his determined daughter. Featuring the same riotous charm and bright, bold art as Interrupting Chicken and Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, David Ezra Stein’s third installment will have any fan with a sweet tooth and a love of meta rhyme clamoring to find out: will the early bird get the cookie?

More Than Fluff
By Madeline Valentine
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593179055 | Knopf BFYR
Daisy happens to be fluffy – she’s a young chick after all. Her friends can’t help but want to pet her, squeeze her, and tell her how cute she is. But Daisy doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed. She’s not just fluff; Daisy has substance! But how can she tell everyone to give her some space without hurting their feelings? A timely and funny book that encourages kids to establish and respect boundaries – perfect for reading aloud and shared story time!

On the Farm
By David Elliott
Illustrated by Holly Meade
34 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536218152 | Candlewick
From the bull to the barn cat to the wild bunny, the farmyard bustles with life. The rooster crows, the rams clash, the bees buzz, and over there in the garden, a snake – silent and alone – winds and watches. David Elliott’s graceful, simple verse and Holly Meade’s exquisite woodcut and watercolor illustrations capture a world that is at once timeless yet disappearing from view – the world of the family farm.

Poultrygeist
By Eric Geron
Illustrated by Pete Oswald
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536210507 | Candlewick
It’s punny. It’s spooky. It’s a meta picture book that puts a fresh spin on an old joke and elevates chicken comedy to ghastly new levels. A little spring chicken crosses the road but quickly gets flattened under a semitruck. The barnyard beasts who’ve gone before break the news: now that Chicken’s fried – dispatched to the Other Side – Chicken has a job, an unwanted job, as a noisy troublemaking ghost. This fowl may be weak in the beak, but Chicken knows that scaring people isn’t nice. There is such a thing as a friendly ghost, after all – isn’t there? Loaded with laughs and shivers, this Halloween-ready treat features ghoulishly funny art by the illustrator of the #1 New York Times best-selling Bad Seed series. Let the haunting begin! No chickens were harmed in the making of this book.

Sonya’s Chickens
By Phoebe Wahl
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Paperback
ISBN 9781770497900 | Tundra Books
Sonya raises her three chickens from the time they are tiny chicks. She feeds them, shelters them and loves them. Everywhere Sonya goes, her chicks are peeping at her heels. Under her care, the chicks grow into hens and even give Sonya a wonderful gift: an egg! One night, Sonya hears noises coming from the chicken coop and discovers that one of her hens has disappeared. Where did the hen go? What happened to her? When Sonya discovers the answers, she learns some important truths about the interconnectedness of nature and the true joys and sorrows of caring for another creature.

Where’s the Chick?
Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius
10 Pages | Ages 0-2 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536207514 | Nosy Crow
Five beautifully illustrated spreads show a series of baby animals hiding behind bright felt flaps. With a mirror on the final page, this is a perfect book to share with very little ones.