Here are three recent picture books linked by the theme of the great outdoors, starting with a welcome discovery: One Summer, Up North, by John Owens.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in Minnesota, is an area of over one million acres of forests, glacial lakes and streams, protected by statute. It is a popular destination for canoeing, hiking and fishing. First-time author, John Owens, is a freelance illustrator who teaches at the University of Minnesota. This beautiful book was inspired by his travels north to paddle, portage, camp, and stargaze in this awesome wilderness.
In his joyful wordless picture book, the scene is set and the story is told via evocative digitally-coloured pencil illustrations. Owens captures the huge scale of the forest, nature in its vastness and small delicacy, the changing weather conditions, the wonder of the night sky, and the warm enjoyment of a family enjoying their holiday, and each others’ company.
This warmly recommended book would be a good companion to Pete Oswald’s Hike, which was shortlisted for this year’s Kate Greenaway Award. Our brief review for Hike notes that is good to see non-white protagonists out of an urban setting. The mother in One Summer, Up North may well be BIPOC. Neither author/illustrator makes an issue or a stereotype of this incidental, and welcome, inclusivity. The books share an understated simplicity, with their focus firmly on freedom and fresh air. Deceptively understated simplicity also extends to the marvellous illustrations in both books, which reward revisiting and close attention.
For a perspective on camping that is closer to home, try Jennifer Mann’s new book, The Camping Trip. Aunt Jackie has invited Ernestine to go camping with her and cousin Samantha for the weekend. It’s Ernestine’s first camping trip, and she knows she’ll love it. She is superbly provisioned, but is she really prepared? A lovely story of small challenges and growing confidence, with comic-strip features and attractive illustrations.