Book Review: In the Woods by Elizabeth Spurr Illustrated by Manelle Oliphant

Living in the western United States means that when the first signs of spring start to show up (The coating of snow on the mountain tops recedes or disappears altogether, as though someone were casually stealing the white mink stole of those old grey monoliths.) begin to think about putting up the snowboard up for the year in exchange for a tent and fishing pole.

Camping with family is a regional tradition, and in ma

ny families, a sort of rite of passage. (To clarify, no, an RV parked at a golf course does not count as roughing it.)

With a son of my own, I have had opportunities to bring him along on those family outings, and it’s been an experience…usually one that ended with an exhausted but filthy kid, with scraped knees, fingers still sticky from a night of gorging on roasted marshmallows, dozing on my shoulder as I drove the crooked, dirt mountain road toward home, his hair smelli

ng of camp fire smoke and maple.

For one, I certainly appreciate my parent’s patience in taking us kids on so many camping trips, since kids are rarely cognizant enough appreciate the dedicated effort in

volved. I’m not just referring to the preparation, planning, packing, cooking, cleaning, etc., but also the effort to  the work involved in keeping the child alive and intact until the end of said camping outing. City kids don’t seem to naturally associate things like snakes, rivers and campfires with pain or danger until that fear is instilled in them. Properly.

Because we’re fond of camping, we’re also fond of stories to tell around the camp fire, or stories to read by firelight. Gary Paulsen’s award winning book, “Hatchet” is a classic adventure/survival  read for older kids, as is Jack London’s “White Fang.

Tween girls will like “The Urban Girl’s Guide to Camping” and grade school age kids will get a kick out of “Mission: Explore Camping“.  For the littlest of children, “In the Woods” by Elixabeth Spurr, and illustrated by Manelle Oliphant, makes for a charming introduction to themes of family, fishing and camp fires.

Spurr and Oliphant have done little kids a service with the lively wording and illustrations of a boy and his dad sharing a camping trip. Their adventures are a great way to share some of the joys of camping with the babies and toddlers in your life.

Spurr, who also penned “At The Beach” and “In the Garden”, has injected this book with all the little discoveries–bees, fish, and a pale silver moon–that kids encounter in the woods. It’s all in baby board book format, a simplistic genre where we don’t often find clever little rhymes. If you’re looking for a board book for your would-be little campers, you can’t go wrong with “In the Woods”.

Oh, and don’t forget your mosquito repellent.