Thursday, August 29, 2013

Environmental Book Club

The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Mordicai Gerstein is a neat little addition to our environmental book club because it's based on an event that actually happened. President Theodore Roosevelt's camping trip with naturalist John Muir is legendary in environmental circles. According to Rosenstock's Author's Note, after he got back to Washington, Rossevelt managed to declare areas such as the Grand Canyon and Devils Tower national monuments and while he was president the number of National Parks doubled and the first bird sanctuaries and game preserves were founded.

Rosenstock also says in her note that little is known about what happened during the Roosevelt/Muir camping trip. Thus she has created dialogue between the two men inspired by letters they sent to one another, newspaper accounts, and reports from others who accompanied them.

Does this mean that The Camping Trip That Changed America historical fiction? I can totally embrace that idea. Or is it another one of those nonfiction books that clearly includes fictional material? I never know what to make of those. I read a copy of Camping Trip from a library that had shelved it as nonfiction. The author has a very impressive Lesson Plans for the Home and Classroom for this book (scroll down to the book's title). In the Art of Writing section, Camping Trip is referred to as a story and theme is discussed. These terms don't necessarily refer only to fiction, but they do leave the door open as to what this book is.

Putting that issue aside, this is a lovely book dealing with a true event that has impacted how we think of wilderness and nature. Whatever went on between Muir and Roosevelt is believed to have led the president to push for environmental policies that we still live with today. Child readers live with them today. With this book, we have an excellent example of how the past is connected to the present.

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