The Camping Trip that Changed America
Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. (Dial 978-0-8037-3710-5)
Gr 1-4
Theodore Roosevelt (Teedie) and John Muir (Johnnie) both held important positions–Roosevelt was the youngest President of the United States, and Muir was a world-famous naturalist. In 1903, Roosevelt read of Muir’s Sierra Mountainadventures and heard his plea for the government to save the mountain forests. Muir’s response resulted in a meeting between Teedie and Johnnie, an adventure of only four days that traversed the wonders of the Yosemite Valley and established an understanding and respect between the two. Based on an actual event in which Roosevelt “dropped politics” and persuaded a reluctant Muir to camp with him, the book presents a fictionalized account of the shared experiences of these two strong-willed personalities that resulted in the addition of 18 national monuments and double the number of national parks. Gerstein’s richly colored paint and detailed pen drawings heighten readers’ vision of an expanded horizon on the full spreads. Turn the book lengthwise to accommodate the sequoia giants’ full height, and back again as tiny vignettes fill the night sky in tales above lingering campfire shadows. Impressions of the wilderness emphasize the grand impact of the event, detailed by an author’s note (bibliography and references to the Yosemite Research Library, John Muir National Site, and University of the Pacific Library are included). In interpreting and recording both personal relationships and the historical impact of the meeting, this offering makes a little-known bit of history accessible for younger readers, and encourages further research.
Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

“What if everyone owned the wilderness?” In The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks, Barb Rosenstock tells the story of two visionaries and their one encounter camping in the Yosemite wilderness in 1903. By the end of the trip, Roosevelt had been persuaded to create “national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and national forests.” Mordicai Gerstein brings his usual verve to the expedition. This is a compelling account and a fine example of an effective government responding to a vital need in a timely manner. (6–10 years) --The Horn Book

(reviewed by Kirkus on December 1, 2011)
Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 trip to the western parks included a backcountry camping trip—complete with snowstorm—with John Muir in the Yosemite Wilderness and informed the president’s subsequent advocacy for national parks and monuments.

In a boyish three-day adventure, Teedie (Roosevelt) and Johnnie (Muir) dodge, if temporarily, the confines of more formal surroundings to experience firsthand the glories of the mountains and ancient forests. (You can't ever quite take the boy out of the man, and Rosenstock's use of her subjects’ childhood names evokes a sense of Neverland ebullience, even as the grownup men decided the fate of the wilderness.) The narrative is intimate and yet conveys the importance of the encounter both as a magnificent getaway for the lively president and a chance for the brilliant environmentalist to tell the trees’ side of the story. Gerstein’s depiction of the exuberant president riding off with Muir is enchantingly comical and liberating. A lovely two-page spread turns the opening to a long vertical to show the two men in the Mariposa Grove, relatively small even on horseback, surrounded by the hush and grandeur of the giant sequoias, while in another double-page scene, after a photo of the two at Glacier Point, Muir lies on his back at the edge of the canyon, demonstrating to an attentive Roosevelt how the glacier carved the deep valley below. An author’s note explains that the dialogue is imagined and reconstructed from Muir’s writing as well as from other accounts of the meeting.

Wonderfully simple, sweet and engaging. (author’s note, source notes) (Picture book. 7-10)


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