Los Angeles is saturated with sunshine something close to 300 days a year with an equally impressive number of hiking trails from Malibu Creek State Park to Burbank’s Wildwood Canyon. Hiking is an inexpensive way to soak up some family fun time, but for youngsters who need a little carrot dangled in front of them as they shuffle outside of their comfort zone, check out these inspiring picture books in which adventure meets the great outdoors! Kids who are already passionate collectors of dried leaves, sticks, seed pods, and feathers are bound to enjoy these books too.
If the concept of going for an extended walk for pleasure or exercise is new to the kids, Hiking Day‘s lead character and narrator can help you break down the basics. “Trails are like paths cut through the woods,” she explains, “We choose the red one—it’s my favorite color.” The importance of wearing sturdy sneakers and drinking plenty of water is also emphasized.
“I love to explore! It’s my favorite thing to do,” say both a boy and a bear cub as Explorers of the Wild begins. Each character wears an eager smile, grips a walking stick, and are confidently prepared as they embark on their respective outdoor adventures. Parallel thought bubbles show off their supply lists: a flashlight, camera, and notebook for the boy; fireflies, a vine, and stone tablets for the cub. They both plan on packing a variety of snacks. Before long, the two cross paths and soon decide that no exploration is too small to share with a friend.
A Walk in The Forest is sparse in words but rich in a sense of natural wonder. The book encourages kids to play in the forest (“the best playground ever”), to follow footprints, to find treasures, and to listen to the secrets birds share from tree branches. The author practically dares young readers to spend time in nature: “You might meet a fox. Just be patient.”
“What is wild?” asks Finding Wild as two pals venture into a lush green space near a city subway exit. The answers, as found in the pages that follow, suggest that nature can be experienced via all of our senses: “Wild is full of smells—fresh mint, an ancient cave…” It can be felt: “wild is forest-fire hot and icicle cold”; it can be sweet: “honey from bee and juice-bursting blackberries” and it makes noise: “storm-thunders and wind-whispers.” Are the kids hearing the call of the wild yet?
A more experienced young hiker might like Grand Canyon which follows a young girl and her father as they backpack through a breathtaking steep-sided canyon painted with ink and watercolor. The duo discovers fossils and observes layers of rock formation during their daylong trek, while readers learn about the combination of natural forces that formed the geologic landscape over millions of years. Illustrations along the wide page margins introduce local plants and animals such as the Banana Yucca, Desert Cottontail, Broom Snakeweed, and Peregrine Falcon.
Less realistic, but incredibly heartwarming is Camp Tiger, a story about the unusual experiences of a kindergarten graduate during his family’s annual summer camping trip to Mountain Pond. In the opening pages, the narrator nervously ponders the first grade and all of its relative responsibilities. His concern begins to subside, however, when a tiger emerges from the woods and asks if the family has a tent to spare. The tiger explains, “I have a cave, but I still feel cold,” and thus begins this kids’ adventures of a lifetime as he canoes, stargazes, and hikes of course, with his newfound friend.
If wild creature sightings or the possibility of finding friendship aren’t enough to inspire the little ones out the front door, tell them that November 17 is National Take a Hike Day. It really is! Rally the family, pack your favorite trail mix and head out to the footpath nearest you. In Southern California, it’s hardly ever a bad time to get outside.