Camp, whether it is sleep-away or day-camp, is a summer tradition for many kids. Organizations like the American Camp Association work to give disadvantaged children the opportunity to go to camp. Summer camp is thought to enhance imagination and creativity, increase independence, foster social skills, encourage children to be part of a community, and much more. Kids are also able to make lifelong memories and are given the chance to play in a different way than many are able to at home during the school year.

Being outside and exploring the outdoors is not restricted to kids at summer camp. Camping with family and friends is a special activity to do this summer. The National Park Service is an easy place to start searching for camping spots. Going on hikes, making s’mores by the campfire, and sleeping in a tent are just a few of the fun and unique camping pastimes.

I feel lucky that I was exposed to both camping and summer camp throughout my childhood. At the school I attended, starting in first grade, each class spent a few days at a 500 acre wildlife sanctuary in West Virginia. We would do this in the fall and the spring every year through eighth grade. We spent one night in screened-in cabins, girls in one, boys the other, but for one night we camped in tents at the top of a mountain that we would hike up together. This exposure to nature, at the very least, left us all more comfortable with the natural surroundings unlike our suburban and city homes.

Contributor: Emily Griffin


Bert and Ernie Go Camping
Ernie Kwiat

Four short stories about camping make up this Sesame Street themed book in Candlewick’s “Brand New Readers” series. Geared for ages four and up these short stories are appropriate for preK and kindergarteners who are learning to read. It also serves as an introduction to the format of chapter books, as it includes a table of contents, numbered pages, and each short story begins with a brief introduction that reiterates the story title and informs the young reader what they will be happening in the story. Camping includes “Ernie and the Tracks,” “Bert and Ernie Go Hiking,” “Bert and Ernie at the Pond,” and “Ernie and the Nighttime Noises.” The four stories are logical and illustrate cause-and-effect. What do Bert and Ernie do on their camping trip? They go on a hike and when it starts to rain they have a fun time sliding down the hill. They discover different animal tracks, test the buoyancy of objects in the pond, and hear sounds in their tent at night. A great book for beginning readers and campers! 2012, Candlewick Press, Ages 4 up, $14.99. Reviewer: Emily Griffin (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780763657505

Dear Dragon Goes Camping
Margaret Hillert
Illustrated by David Schimmell

A young boy takes his likeable, polka-dotted pet dragon camping in this delightful early reader. Packing proper camping equipment, finding the perfect camp spot in the forest, pitching tents, hiking, and discovering wildlife and nature are some of the activities the boy and his pet dragon carry out. In addition, they build a campfire, roast marshmallows and hotdogs, and check out the night sky. The use of the dragon’s breath to start the campfire adds to the tale’s humor. Simple, short sentences contain repetitive words and many one-syllable words. Only a few lines of text fill each page which keeps the story moving along at a reasonable pace. Bright illustrations closely match the text and add to the ease of an early reading experience. Useful educational prompts are included at the back of the book. They supply teachers and other adult helpers with specific information about phonemic awareness, phonics, concept words, fluency ideas, and comprehension questions. A word list of the 72 words used in the book is included at the back of the book. Use this book and others from the author to help children strengthen emerging reading skills as they follow a story with a beginning, middle, and ending and to have a successful experience. 2011, Norwood House Press, Ages 5 to 7, $19.93. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781599533452

I Want To Do It Myself!
Tony Ross

The lovable little princess returns in this story for children about independence and self-confidence. When little princess decides to go camping, she wants to do everything–from carrying her bags and setting up her tent to preparing her dinner–on her own. She finds that she is much more capable than the King and the Queen imagine as she sets out to prove that she can indeed do it herself, meanwhile getting some very behind-the-scenes help from her loyal subjects. The illustrations greatly enhance the story as children can compare the scenes to the words and make predictions about the success of the princess’ adventure and the reasons behind her triumph. 2011, Anderson Press USA, Ages 3 to 8, $16.95. Reviewer: Amber Benson (Kutztown University Book Review, Fall 2011).

ISBN: 9780761374121

Into the Outdoors
Susan Gal

A family’s camping trip is used to promote the concept of the preposition in word usage. From the time a young family drives “over the bridge” and “under the towering trees” to their hike among, along, around, between and over the various habitats to the top of the mountain, the preposition is featured in a naturalistic manner and is highlighted as well. The rather dark illustrations using charcoal and computer generated textures and colors give a feel of being deep in the woods. It’s a cheery tale of camping adventures while reinforcing the concept of prepositions in a whole language approach. So much more interesting than memorizing a list of prepositions. 2011, Random House, Ages 5 to 7, $16.99. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature)

ISBN: 9780375869587

Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom
Rachel Vail
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Summer vacation has just begun, and Justin Case has Nothing to Worry About. He is tired of being a worried kid and he’s ready to return to Camp Golden Brook. What could be more fun than a summer at camp? Soon Justin starts to hate summer camp because it goes by too quickly. Camp Golden Brook is not like real life; campers are required to jump into a cold pool first thing in the morning. While the camp’s website portrays happy children in attendance, summer camp isn’t always fun. Justin wishes he could take a day off from swimming. He’s tired of diving into cold water, getting dressed in front of other people, and spending the entire day wet. He also misses science camp, where he could be studying zoology. As the days pass, Justin regrets playing Knuckles; it’s painful when kids smack your knuckles with a deck of cards. Halfway through the summer, Justin’s parents give him the option of leaving Camp Golden Brook. But he decides to return to camp and conquers his fears in the meantime. By the end of the summer, Justin decides to invent a health food that tastes just like gummy worms. He wins second place in the backstroke and makes lifelong friends at camp. The “Justin Case” series is a fun adventure for young readers, who will fall in love with the antics and voice of a young boy. 2012, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 7 to 9, $16.99. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781250000811

Martha Camps Out
Karen Barss
Based on a TV series teleplay written by Melissa Stephenson and Raye Lankford

Did your big brother or older sister play tricks on you? In this early reader, Alice’s brother Ronald hears that she is going camping to earn a merit badge. He tells her that she better watch out for Big Minnie on Flea Island. Martha is a bit worried and she assures Alice that she will go along to help protect her. All goes well as the girls, their troop leader and Martha and Skits set up the campsite and cook hotdogs for dinner. When it gets dark, they all hear the strange howling and Alice and Helen deduce that it is not a real monster but her brother Ronald trying to scare them. It does not work and the tables are turned. The story has yet another twist that young readers will find amusing. The back inside cover has a simple exercise asking readers to identify the items that would be helpful during a camping trip. A Level 2 book in the “Green Light Readers” series. Also designated as Guided Reading Level “K,” this transitional reader offers simple dialogue, picture and content clues and contains a note to parents and teachers on the opening page. This particular title is taken from the TV series and is based on the original works of Susan Meddaugh. 2011, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 5 to 7, $3.99. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547556192

Nerd Camp
Elissa Brent Weissman

Ten-year-old Gabe dreams of having a sibling, so he is thrilled when his dad marries a woman with a son the same age. He imagines them getting along and being interested in the same things. However, Gabe finds out that he and Zack are nothing alike. Gabe is one of the smartest kids in his school and just got accepted into a summer camp for the gifted and talented. Zack likes texting, skateboarding, and playing the guitar, and thinks Gabe’s activities are about as uncool as it can get. While at camp, Gabe decides to write a logic proof to determine whether he is only a nerd who does nerdy things or not, which Weissman uses as a way to thread together the narrative. She does a good job of portraying the nervousness that adolescents can feel in social situations, and Gabe’s desire for Zack to see him as cool will resonate with readers. Nerd Camp offers kids a humorous story that will help them understand that it is okay to be who you really are, even if that means being different. Recommended. 2011, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Ages 10 to 14, $15.99. Reviewer: Jianna Taylor (Library Media Connection, August/September 2011).

ISBN: 9781442417038

Sami’s Sleepaway Summer
Jenny Meyerhoff

Nine-year old Sami is not a sleep-away camp kind of kid. She likes quiet activities like making up songs. She is also a picky eater, terribly afraid of heights, and is certain that sleep-away camp will be a disaster. Nothing could possibly make four days at Camp Cedar Lake fun, not the fact that her older sister, Maya, will be there to greet her, and certainly not the fact that her same-age cousin, Daniel, is also going. After a long, embarrassing bus ride, Sami arrives at camp to find that her sister is not there as promised. As the days pass, however, Sami begins to enjoy her cabin mates, particularly Gabby. The meals are not nearly as bad as she expected and the activities are actually fun, especially swimming. She does not even mind that her cousin is at the camp, especially when he lets go of his crazy goal for the summer. The spunky main character and strong voice make this a fast-paced and fun chapter book. Young readers will certainly relate to Sami’s fears and anxieties, and they will enjoy the camp surprises right along with her. 2011, Scholastic, Ages 7 to 10, $5.99. Reviewer: Jody J. Little (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780545362672

Zach & Zoe and the River Rescue
Kristin Butcher

Zach is awakened by his twin sister Zoe crowing like a rooster. It is six o’clock in the morning and Zoe does not want to waste a minute of the family’s camping trip. After Dad tells them about fossils, Zach and Zoe set out to find some, and Zoe discovers a fern fossil. Upon returning, they are told that a little girl has gone missing in the huge British Columbian forest. Dad volunteers to help the rangers search for the girl, which means that the twins must wait to go fishing. Instead, they organize their tackle boxes, put them with snacks into their backpacks, and lug them to the washroom to fill their water bottles. While trying to name trees that lie across the river, Zack sees what must be the little girl wandering alone on the other side. Behind her is a big, black bear. Between the twins and the lost little girl is a rushing river. Zach and Zoe must find a way to save her. This book is part of the “Streetlights” series. While providing an exciting rescue story, the book teaches children basic survival skills in the wild. The language and situations are age appropriate. 2011, James Lorimer & Company Ltd, Ages 8 to 12, $8.95. Reviewer: Greta Holt (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781552777077

Updated 6/1/12

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