If you’ve ever tried to convince your kids to go on a nice, long hike, you’ve probably learned that it can take some coaxing. We pack special treats that they can only eat after they’ve covered some mileage, and promise them a root beer party when they’re finished. Another incentive to get young hikers on the trail is inspiration, which kids will find in these six splendid stories about hiking.
Take A Hike Teddy Roosevelt, by Frank Murphy and Richard Walz
Part of the reason why we have so many wonderful wild places to hike in America is thanks to our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. This illustrated biography for early readers in grades 1-3 introduces the charismatic Teddy, who was born in polluted New York City with asthma. His parents started bringing him to the country to exercise, and he never stopped hiking after that. As a boy, Teddy was so attuned to nature that he took notes on what he saw outside and collected specimens, calling his room the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.” In college, he kept a giant turtle as a pet. He finally cured his asthma through two years of living in the West. He became governor of New York, and then the President, when he visited the Grand Canyon for the first time. He signed laws designating 18 national monuments, 5 national parks, 150 national forests, and 51 bird sanctuaries. So whenever you go hiking in a pristine wilderness, there’s a good chance Teddy Roosevelt kept it that way for you.
The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks, by Barb Rosenstock and Mordecai Gerstein
This book, with illustrations depicting Teddy Roosevelt with round glasses and a big grin, astride a horse, the way Americans remember him best, zeroes in on one particular wild adventure that influenced Roosevelt’s policy making. Naturalist John Muir wanted protection for the majestic Yosemite wilderness, and he wrote a book about its impending destruction that Roosevelt read. In 1903, Roosevelt planned a trip to the Western states. He met up with John Muir, did his best to ditch all his handlers, and went on a long hike and camping trip with him. Stunned by the beauty of the sequoias and El Capitan, Roosevelt returned to D.C. and advocated for Yosemite to become a protected national park. Also, for presidential trivia fans, Rosenstock points out that his family always called him Teedie. It was journalists that dubbed him Teddy.
When Grandma Gatewood Took A Hike, by Michelle Houts and Erica Magnus
So we’ve got our protected wilderness now, but the only people who can enjoy it are strong, young adults, right? Wrong! This book tells the remarkable true story of Emma Gatewood, a sixty-seven-year-old grandmother who became the first woman to solo hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail in 1955. She didn’t succeed the first time she tried it, beset by biting flies and broken glasses. Did she quit? No, she went home, rested up and tried it again the next season.
Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?, by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, Mike Gordon & Carl Gordon
Maybe feisty grandmothers can go for a hike, but surely not princess-y little girls, right? Wrong! In this sweet rhyming book, a little girl who considers herself a princess asks her mother if princesses can wear hiking boots, climb trees, or ride tricycles. Of course they can, her mother reassures her.
Sheep Take A Hike, by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple
When Nancy Shaw’s familiar sheep go hiking with the appropriate gear—rucksacks, walking sticks, and a compass, they seem like hiking pros. But soon enough they lose the trail and none of them can agree on which direction to head in. Luckily, they have inadvertently marked the trail back home with bits of their wool that has clung to branches along the way.
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, by D. B. Johnson
This book stars a couple of bears, but it was inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. As the book opens, Henry and his friend decide to go to Fitchburg, 25 miles away, “to see the country.” Henry decides to walk. “It’s the fastest way to travel,” he declares. His friend decides to work to save up the money for train fare. While Henry gathers wildflowers, climbs trees, and paddles a raft, his friend pulls weeds, paints fences, and cleans a chicken house before boarding a train. They arrive at Fitchburg at about the same time, but it’s clear Henry thinks he’s figured out the best approach to life.
What books would you recommend to motivate young hikers?