The creator of Nate's Treasure again tells a deceptively simple tale: two brothers and their father go on an overnight camping expedition. They don't stray far: ``Just out back at the edge of the pines. Just out of sight from the house.'' But what they experience is nature--and human nature--at its grandest. After helping to build a fire and listening to Dad play songs on the harmonica, Nate and Matt marvel at the night sky, studded with stars shining ``like forever fireflies.'' When only Nate spies a shooting star, he knows that ``it was just for him.'' Finally, Spohn shows father and sons snuggled together in their sleeping bags--a warm and affecting closing image. With its tightly woven text and shadow-filled pictures composed of tiny dots, this is a thoughtful, tranquil work, ideal for bedtime reading. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-- A gentle story of a father taking his two sons camping, ``Not far away . . . Just out of sight from the house.'' Nate and Matt help their father pack up the food, sleeping bags, and other provisions, and then take a short hike to a small clearing ``at the edge of the pines.'' They build a fire, tell ghost stories, and watch the night sky. Although Matt thinks the owl's call is scary, nothing can shake the sense of tranquility here; no annoying insects or noisy RVs invade the landscape. The illustrations are as simple as the text--evocative, peaceful, and harmonious. This story, imbued with the warm glow of a camp fire, features an interracial family (Dad is blond, the kids are black), a nicely nurturing father, and a fine appreciation of nature. Although adults may find the story a bit too idyllic, children will nevertheless enjoy this pleasantly appealing introduction to sleeping under the stars. --Cyrisse Jaffee, Newton Public Schools, MA
Spohn takes the very sensory experience of camping and does such a fine job of translating it into words that the magic of the experience remains intact. Nate, Matt, and Dad are not going far on their camping trip, just out back, in an open field, near the pines. Still, there will be sleeping bags and trail mix, and they will feel as if they are alone in the wilderness. In simple yet evocative language, Spohn describes building a fire, telling ghost stories, and playing music around the campfire. As night falls, the stars glow brightly, and Dad points out the constellations. Matt reaches out to touch Ursa Major, the Great Bear, and he very nearly does. Nate see a shooting star, but before he can call out to the others, it vanishes without a trace, and he smiles, "knowing it was just for him." Finally, it's time to settle down in their sleeping bags near the fire, "while the whole starry night looked on." Spohn's pointillistic art is effective and works especially well in the night scenes, where it serves as background for glowing stars.