Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Packing up the tent?

Summer Reading No. 2

Camping Trip that Changed America Many of you are mak­ing plans to get out of Dodge when your kids are out of school for the sum­mer.

I imag­ine thou­sands of peo­ple mak­ing a list: tent, sleep­ing bags, mini-grill, rain pon­chos, clothes­line (from our camp­ing expe­ri­ence, some­place to hang things up to dry is essen­tial), cool­er, GPS, and back­up maps. I par­tic­u­lar­ly hope you’re remem­ber­ing the maps–on paper–in case the GPS sends you to the mid­dle of a corn­field instead of your expect­ed des­ti­na­tion.

Have you decid­ed where you’re head­ing? Many of our favorite places are nation­al parks, nation­al mon­u­ments, wilder­ness areas. I imag­ine they hold fas­ci­na­tion for you, too.

Then do I have a book for you!

The Camp­ing Trip That Changed Amer­i­ca: Theodore Roo­sevelt, John Muir, and Our Nation­al Parks, writ­ten by Bar­bara Rosen­stock, illus­trat­ed by Mordi­cai Ger­stein, pub­lished by Dial Books for Young Read­ers in 2012, is a must-read for any­one head­ing to a nation­al park or going on a camp­ing trip. Why?

This is the sto­ry of two men, each leg­ends, who gave Amer­i­ca a gift that keeps on giv­ing. John Muir was a nat­u­ral­ist who lived near the Yosemite wilder­ness. It was his par­tic­u­lar pas­sion that it not be destroyed or turned into a tourist attrac­tion with gift shops, din­ers, and hotels that block out the view. Mordi­cai Ger­stein does a won­der­ful job on one two-page spread of show­ing us how a wilder­ness can be used up for prof­it, nev­er to be avail­able again to any­one for any­thing. Theodore Roo­sevelt was a pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States who came from a world of priv­i­lege and pol­i­tics but had a rare per­cep­tion of the future. He could see all too well but John Muir was pre­dict­ing.

Muir describing the wilderness. Mordicai Gerstein.

John Muir was an essay­ist as well. He wrote con­vinc­ing­ly about his pas­sion for pre­serv­ing the beau­ti­ful, aes­thet­ic, inspi­ra­tional places with­in the USA. Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt read those essays and it made him think exact­ly what Muir intend­ed to con­vey: some­thing had to be done to make sure that peo­ple 100 years lat­er would see the same places in the same way. Reluc­tant­ly, Muir agreed to go on a camp­ing trip with the Pres­i­dent in the Yosemite wilder­ness. The two men shared their ideas. The trip ignit­ed a fire of moti­va­tion in Roo­sevelt, who went back to the nation’s cap­i­tal and per­sist­ed until a recal­ci­trant Con­gress final­ly pre­served “nation­al forests, wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies, and nation­al forests.”

For every­one in the Unit­ed States, this is a book that chron­i­cles a game-chang­ing set of events. Bar­bara Rosen­stock writes in a clear, under­stand­able way while cre­at­ing a high­ly read­able sto­ry. Togeth­er with Gerstein’s frankly breath­tak­ing water­col­ors of the wilder­ness and his “You Are There” por­traits of the two men explor­ing, rev­el­ing in the glo­ry of their sur­round­ings, and engag­ing in late-night, fire­side chats, this is a book that every fam­i­ly will enjoy read­ing at any time, but read­ing it on your trav­els to your next nation­al park will make it a more mem­o­rable trip.

For teach­ers: There are many tie-ins here for the CCSS, but pay spe­cial atten­tion to the Author’s Note in which Ms. Rosen­stock details which parts of the book are strict­ly factual–and what her sources were–as well as how she “imag­ined” some of the dia­logue in the book, while believ­ing “it is in keep­ing with ideas from the let­ters of Muir and Roo­sevelt, Muir’s The Eight Wild­ner­ess Dis­cov­ery Books, as well as Char­lie Leidig’s first per­son account of the trip and Cal­i­for­nia news­pa­pers of the time.” There are sev­er­al pho­tographs online of Roo­sevelt and Muir’s camp­ing trip to sup­ple­ment your les­son. This book will be an excel­lent com­po­nent of your class­room dis­cus­sions about fic­tion and non­fic­tion.

More about John Muir on PBS

Three-minute video on John Muir from Ken Burns’ The Nation­al Parks: America’s Best Idea

More about Theodore Roo­sevelt on PBS

Two-minute video of Theodore Roo­sevelt speak­ing at the Yel­low­stone Arch

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