Growing Reader

Let’s Go Camping: 7 Picture Books to Spark Outdoor Adventures

by Sharon Holbrook

Photo credit: Erik Isakson/ Getty Images

Ah, summer nights! Fireflies, flashlights, s’mores, and tents; it’s camping season, and your kids want to be a part of it. With these books about camping in the great outdoors, prepare for or relive your own trip, or just live vicariously from your air-conditioned living room.

  • Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe

    by Vera B. Williams

    “I was the one who first noticed the red canoe for sale in a yard on the way home from school. My mom and my aunt Rosie and my cousin Sam and I put our money together and bought it.” And so begins a camping adventure with two tough, capable moms at the helm, and two kids who are clearly all in, dollars and all. Their contagious enthusiasm and appealing illustrations carry the reader through canoe portages, torrential downpours, and even a kid overboard. The book is seamlessly sprinkled with how-to info, like campfire recipes, knot tying, and safety reminders. These fun and fearless folks are the ones I want to take me camping.

  • A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee

    by Chris Van Dusen

    An absolute romp! Bright, playful illustrations and clever rhymes tell the tale of the unfortunate Mr. Magee and his dog Dee, who have a run-in with leftover marshmallows, a nearsighted bear, and a rushing river. Just as much fun for parents to read as it is for kids to hear.

  • Bailey Goes Camping

    by Kevin Henkes

    Poor Bailey — the big kids have gone camping with the Bunny Scouts, and Bailey has to stay behind. This book, with its cuddly stuffed bunny family, is perfect for the preschooler who’s sad about missing out on hot dogs, tents, ghost stories, and roasted marshmallows. Be prepared after reading this one, parents, to step up and recreate the camping fun at home like Bailey’s parents!

  • Stella and Roy Go Camping

    by Ashley Wolff

    If you like Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe, pick up this one too. Once again, mom is leading the camping trip. (I’m beginning to feel a bit better about being “The Mom” on Cub Scout camping trips.) Roy desperately wants to find a bear and older sister Stella, using her animal tracking book, keeps telling him he’s found anything but a bear. That is, until he does. The book includes realistic images of camping, and a section at the back teaching young readers how to identify animal tracks.

  • Camping

    by Nancy Hundal, illustrated by Brian Deines

    There’s a peaceful melancholy running through this book; it was money troubles that brought this reluctant family camping in the first place, and the young narrator had wanted to go to Disneyland. But the children are quietly uncomplaining and the sensory experience of camping wins them over. Read this one aloud by flashlight in the tent, and the gentle rhythm of its poetic text (and nature’s soundtrack) will lull the children to sleep.

  • S Is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet

    by Helen Foster James, illustrated by Lita Judge

    Don’t be fooled. While alphabet books are nearly exclusively geared towards the toddler and preschool set, this is a meaty nonfiction text better suited to the elementary school kid. Sure, each page has a large illustration and a pithy sentence about a letter, but each also features a sidebar packed with facts about gear, the history of camping, various U.S. parks, plants and animals, the night sky, and so much more. The camping and fact junkie will have met her match in S Is for S’mores.

  • Angelina and Henry

    by Katharine Holabird, illustrated by Helen Craig

    These appealing little mice are back, and this time Uncle Louie is taking them camping. As always, Craig’s illustrations are detailed and delightful, but the book’s charm is also in the childlike characters: they get hot and tired and complaining when hiking, they’re fixated on the coming of the campfire (the main event of camping, as any kid knows), and they get distracted from their firewood-gathering chore. The mice find themselves lost in the evening woods where Big Cat is rumored to wander, but Angelina’s usual bravery and spunk carry the day and the little mice get safely back to camp — and, of course, to their long-awaited campfire.