Many of our readers are on Summer vacation right now, and we here at Bookscoops think that A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee is the perfect book to inspire you to enjoy one of summer’s many adventures- camping! Okay, so we sympathize with those of you who may not completely enjoy this form of vacationing, but it is one of America’s favorite past times, as it is the primary way our great nation was populated- you know those pioneers, who decided to walk all day and camp every night all summer long, until they found a new home to put down their roots? Just be glad that’s not the kind of camping we do today.
Holly: We found this adorable book a few years ago at our local school book fair. The illustrations just sucked us in. Especially since Mr. Magee is the spitting image of my father-in-law, who just so happens to have done a lot of camping in his days.
Cari: The illustrations are very detailed, I really like them.
Holly: There is actually another book starring Mr. Magee called Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee. It looks just as fun and full of magnificent gouache (sounds like squash) illustrations.
Cari: As I read this book I kept thinking that this is a style of art I wouldn’t mind in my own home.
Holly: You want your walls to be illustrated? That might be fun to feel like you were living in a book. . .
Cari: Yes, I would love for my walls to be illustrated! I actually looked on Chris Van Dusen’s website and he has prints for sale. It’s really great children’s art and I think it would be fun to have in a family room or in my dream home with a fabulous library.
Holly: Hmmm . . . or, if you can’t afford the actual prints, maybe you could buy an extra copy of the book to frame your favorite scenes. Am I going to get in trouble for this suggestion? I know people like big, beautiful art on their walls, but sometimes a big frame with a fun mat and a couple of coordinating scenes, is actually more attainable than an expensive print. I think that art in children’s literature is vastly underappreciated as well as underused. How often do you go to the library and see wonderful artwork framed on the walls in the children’s section of the library? You are lucky to have a mural, but for the most part, no art. I think we should start a movement to change this.
Cari: That is an interesting idea.
Holly: Yes, for many years illustrating children’s books has been overlooked as a quality art form. I think the emphasis has been on the author and the illustrator hasoften been an afterthought.
Cari: Don’t forget that there is the Caldecott award.
Holly: Yes, but that is for art in literature circles. I’m talking about art in art circles. I think illustrators deserve more credit- it takes a lot of hard work and talent to bring to life a picture book.
Cari: I think you’re right. I’ll have to give it some more thought. This art is very different from Mo Willems which is very minimalist in its nature. Van Dusen actually chooses to work in gouache so that he can be very detailed in his work. But, back to the story, are you and your family big campers?
Holly: We are not, but I am sure my husband would like us to become big campers. We occasionally go camping, and actually the first family reunion of my husband’s family (just think of me as Mr Magee’s new daughter-in-law) we ever had was a huge camping trip to the Redwoods of California. We had a lot of fun.
Cari: I first thought that this was an old book- you know the old library binding style threw me off and then with the camper actually looking like it came from the 50s, not to mention Mr. Magee and his converse shoes. . .
Holly: That’s what I like about it, because it seemed like it’s set in a simpler happy-go-lucky time.
Cari: I also like the rhyming in it. It introduces new vocabulary like ‘brook’ and trailer ‘hitch’- a great way to teach kids the definitions of words. To write a whole book in rhyme is a lot of work. It reminded me of Doctor Seuss. Except that people might really consider putting Van Dusen’s illustrations on the wall. I probably wouldn’t with Dr. Seuss.
Holly: Yes, I remember when we reviewed Hiccupotomas and talked to Aaron Zenz- the rhyming text seems to be very difficult to pull off successfully. I really enjoyed the fun rhythm in this book. It almost seems like a talented song writer could put it to lyrics and we could all sing the story around a camp fire.
Cari: It’s a good lesson in why you don’t leave out food for bears. We have had family members encounter bears while camping and the root of it is food that is not properly stored. Bear encounters have been increasing, but I do like how the bear in the book rescues them because he thinks their hitch is a marshmallow.
Holly: Although that’s what got them into trouble in the first place- who would have thought that a nearsighted bear with a penchant for marshmallows could cause such trouble?
Cari: Yes. Reading it aloud is so much fun.
Holly: This book has a dream like quality and those of our readers who actually don’t like camping will be inwardly pleased at the conclusion of the book.
And now for our Trip Down Memory Lane:
As the oldest two in a family of nine children, we have many experiences camping. One summer we actually drove in a big 12 seater Red Ford Club Wagon through as many states as feasible, stopping at KOA camp grounds each night on our way to a family reunion in Missouri. KOA, for those of you who may not know is an international group of full-service campgrounds and an affordable way to vacation. Our first stop was in Wyoming, where our tent was blown over in the middle of the night by a really bad windstorm sweeping across the plains. Legend has it that it was actually a twister that went unreported.
The worst part of our trip was that we camped in Missouri when it looked like a thunder storm was coming. Our tent was an old fashioned canvas monster, and we only had a tarp big enough to cover one side. Our Dad, anticipating the direction of the rain, covered the most important side and we all went to sleep. Unfortunately, the storm circled around and poured on us from the other direction and we woke up to six inches of water in our tent. Our parents were on an air mattress and remained relatively dry along with the baby in the play pen. One brother slept through the whole thing in his wet sleeping bag. But, the rest of us were soaked from head to toe and decided to sleep in the van.
We spent most of the next day drying our sleeping bags out in the camp laundry facilities. All of us kids were thrilled that the KOA supervisor provided us with complimentary donuts in the morning (kids can be so easy to please). But from then on, if there was a cloud in the sky, we skipped the KOA and went straight for the Motel 6 where we jumped all over the beds and fought over the cable television instead of experiencing the great outdoors.
Top 10 Lessons we Learned Camping from Idaho to Missouri:
10. Have everyone sleep on air mattresses not just mom & dad. So if it does flood, everybody has a raft!
9. Check to make sure your tarp covers your tent BEFORE leaving on a camping trip.
8. You can not bring enough mosquite repellent for the mosquitos in Missouri.
7. Rain storms in the mid-west are NOT like rain storms in Western Idaho.
6. 50 States license bingo will only entertain your kids for so long. Bribing your children to be quiet by offering to pay them a penny per windmill they see might empty you of gas money, but at least they will be quiet for a while.
5. Hotels are never TOO expensive when faced with a ‘tornado’.
4. Sleeping bags work surprisingly well as sponges.
3. Warn your kids about the dangers of Lyme disease from ticks and then shout hysterically every time you see a bug.
2. Never let your kids have a water drinking contest en route to your camping destination or you may never get there.
1. Don’t send the 10 year old to get milk at the KOA grocery, because he will come back with goat’s milk.
What are your favorite camping stories or books about camping?