Ernestine is invited to join her Aunt Jackie and her cousin Samantha on a camping trip. She tells us, “I’ve never been camping before, but I know I will love it.” She then shows readers everything she is packing for her trip.
The girls have fun in the car on the way from the city to Cedar Tree Campground, but are excited to get to their destination:
“Finally, we’re here! It’s so quiet. And big. It smells like trees, and fire, and dirt.”
Ernestine discovers camping isn’t just non-stop fun however – as she had imagined – but involves a lot of work. They have to set up the tents and all their gear, and she gets some surprises for which she wasn’t prepared, like swimming with actual fish in the water! Hiking is harder than she thought too, but there are lots of rewards along the way.
At night, they make s’mores (recipe included) and read by flashlight before going to sleep. . . . or trying to go to sleep. Ernestine is hot, then cold, then scared, and misses her dad.
Aunt Jackie shows the girls the stars and they even see a shooting star and make a wish. Finally, Ernestine is ready to sleep.
The next day, Ernestine has overcome the newness and fear, and enjoys everything, even the hard work of packing up the car. She can’t wait to come back the next year!
When she gets back home, she and dad hug, and she says, “I think Dad missed me.” “Dad,” she asked him, “have you ever tried s’mores?”
In the back matter we learn that the author/illustrator spends a week each summer camping with her family and their friends. Much of what they do in real life is echoed by all that Ernestine and Samantha experience in the story.
The earth-tone dominant illustrations, which combine simple pencil line drawings with digital collage and painting, are adorable. Their simplicity, along with speech bubbles, are reminiscent of a comic book or graphic novel style, perfect for young readers. I especially loved how Mann depicted the process of traveling, and I always appreciate when an illustrator can accurately depict emotions, even when using so few lines.
Evaluation: In addition to being a good story full of humor and gentle ribbing, this book offers plenty of useful information about camping and hiking.
Published by Candlewick Press, 2020