With the National Park Service being in the news lately for finding a way to tweet around President Trump’s recent gag order, and with Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) House Bill 621 (H.R.621), the recently introduced bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal lands, it was hard for me not to review the book: The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein.
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Aimed for 1st-3rd graders, this book tells the story of what, in 1903, inspired Theodore Roosevelt to protect America’s wilderness. The narrative starts off with Roosevelt in his favorite chair enjoying a book about adventures in the California mountains by naturalist John Muir. Roosevelt is surprised, at the end of the book, when Muir makes a plea to the government to help save wilderness.
Roosevelt is not only surprised, but also puzzled by this plea. So he pens a letter to Muir and asks to join him on a camping trip in Yosemite.
On the camping trip, the men enjoy the majesty and freedom of the outdoors. Muir tells Roosevelt tales of his adventures. Muir also relays the ecological history of the U.S., starting with the seas that covered the soil, through volcanos and glaciers, to the natural environment that gives us the diversity of wildlife we have today (or back in 1903).
Roosevelt sleeps the first night on “forty thick wool blankets” and Muir sleeps on a bed of twigs. By the end of the camping trip, Roosevelt also sleeps on a bed of twigs. Both men wake up exhilarated one morning after being blanketed by a spring snow storm. “Bully!” Roosevelt says to this.
Unfortunately, as Muir explains, industry is coming to take over the land in the name of profit, leaving little left for future citizens and natural inhabitants of the U.S. to enjoy. Roosevelt will not have this and enacts legislation that protects these lands forever.
This book is a great way to introduce young children to an issue of significance today. It’s a personal story of two men enjoying the great outdoors, reveling in its beauty and its importance, and doing their best to protect it from this:
Have you and your family visited any National Parks lately?
What do you think of the bill to sell off federal lands?
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