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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Picture Books We Love

Sleep Under the Stars: 9 Books about Camping

My family went camping a lot when I was growing up. Each summer road trips to national parks like the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park were punctuated nightly with wooded campgrounds, lakes, and meals around a campfire. I have to hand it to my parents. Camping with three kids up into their tweens and teens must have been no easy task. Squished together in the family van, we were all hot, sunburned, bug-bitten and extremely moody. I must have been the most vocal in my complaints, because they even bought me a t-shirt at some roadside tourist shop that said “I am not a happy camper.” They thought it was hilarious. But now that I am older, I can actually look back at those summers fondly and appreciate not only the camping skills my parents passed on to me but the memories of spending days in the wilderness with my family.

Whether you’re planning a camping trip of your own this summer, attending overnight summer camp or may just pitching a tent in the backyard, here are some great reads to get you in the camping spirit.

  1. Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick Press, 2004)

For the youngest readers, Maisy is a bright, colorful look at the first experience of camping from the challenges of pitching a tent, to the fun around the campfire and sleeping under the stars. It’s a perfect, non-scary introduction to camping for toddlers.


  1. Postcards from Camp by Simms Taback (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2011)

This clever book is told entirely in brightly illustrated letters and postcards sent between a boy away at summer camp and his father at home. What begins as “take me home” pleas and dad’s funny but reassuring replies, gradually becomes entertaining stories of fun days at camp and new friends. A sweet story about the bond between father and son, as well as a great way to introduce going away to summer camp. Bonus: The original illustrations on currently on exhibit here at The Carle in Simms Taback: Art by Design, open until October 26, 2014.


  1. Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press, 2013)

Sometimes camping can seem scary with the bugs, the wild animals, and the dark woods at night. Scaredy Squirrel comes up with an elaborate plan to avoid the wilderness and try to experience camping in the comfort of his own home – on TV! But when his plan backfires and he has to confront one of his biggest fears, Scaredy realizes “the wilderness isn’t meant to be seen from afar, it’s meant to be enjoyed up close!”


  1. The Lost Lake by Allen Say (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1989)

“We’re off to the lost lake, my lad.”

“How can you lose a lake?”

“No one’s found it, that’s how.”

A father and son go off on a camping trip to a remote lake, but when they get there, they find that the isolated lake the father remembers from his childhood is now a crowded vacation destination. The pair sets off again in search of real, untouched wilderness in a quietly beautiful bonding adventure between father and son.


  1. Dawn by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974)

This beautiful, quiet book begins with sparse words and small, dim vignette-like illustrations. Slowly, as if the reader is waking up and dawn approahces, the illustrations get bigger, the text gets longer and the colors more vibrant. Shulevitz truly captures the beauty of waking up on a camping trip in the quiet wilderness, as the animals and world wakes up around you and creates a special moment between grandson and grandfather.


  1. Camp Rex by Molly Idle (Viking, 2014)

The Caldecott Honoree who brought us Flora and the Flamingo, now brings us a sequel to the adorable Tea Rex. The text cautiously reads as an instruction manual for camping, while the humorous illustrations show how things can sometimes go hilariously wrong. “If the opportunity presents itself, there’s nothing more refreshing than a dip in a mountain lake or a bit of canoeing” actually refers to an illustration of the whole crew diving into the lake to escape from angry bees. Rowdy dinosaurs and a little brother may make your plans go awry, but good friends can always make the best out of a situation.


  1. Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite by Diane deGroat (HarperCollins, 2002)

Local author Diane deGroat tackles the fears that often accompany camping in another sweet story about Gilbert and his friends. This time Gilbert is off on an overnight camping trip with his day camp and is a bit nervous. To make things worse, they tell ghost stories around the campfire before bed. Sleeping away from home is never easy, but Gilbert find that facing his fears and finding a little comfort can make all the difference.


  1. Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe by Vera B. Williams (Greenwillow Books, 1981)

This story of a three-day canoe and camping trip is told by the narrator as if you’re looking at a scrapbook of the trip, complete with drawings in the margins, map-like illustrations, rope knot tying how-to’s, campfire recipes and tent-pitching instructions. I especially like that unlike many other camping and boating picture books, that this is not a manly father and son bonding book, but instead a trip led by two women with their kids. Mom and Aunt Rosie are experienced at camping and canoeing and always keep the family upbeat during their adventures, despite rain, wind and other setbacks – including once tipping over!


  1. Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf, 2010)

This fast-paced installment of the superhero, superspy lunch lady graphic novel series brings excitement and mystery away from school and to the summer camp setting. Lunch Lady, Betty and the kids are back to take on the creepy swamp monster who has been plaguing summer camp. Funny and action-packed, this is a great one to pack for a summer trip or bring along to overnight camp and will be sure to get passed on from kid to kid along the way!

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