The Camping Trip

h1 June 23rd, 2020 by jules

An early study of Ernestine and her father
(Click to enlarge)


Ernestine has been invited to go camping at Cedar Tree Campground with her Aunt Jackie and her cousin Samantha. She’s excited, though a bit worried her father might miss her too much. It’s her first camping trip. What can she do when she wakes in the middle of the night, scared and ready to go back home?

This is the newest picture book from Jennifer K. Mann, The Camping Trip (Candlewick, April 2020), and it’s another satisfying, well-executed tale from her about children’s everyday anxieties and how they overcome them. Bonus: This one has s’mores!

This is a longer picture book — it clocks in at 56 pages. And with the action on many pages divided into panels and the dialogue in speech balloons, at times it has a comics feel about it. It’s a remarkably child-friendly story about a child’s first adventure in the great outdoors and the thrill of it all — the story is told from Ernestine’s point of view — but Mann also touches on the vulnerabilities of that, such as the hesitancy the girl feels in being away from her father.

Mann fills the book with the tangible and sensory details of the girl’s experience. We see her pack and see each and every thing she decides to take with her (the endpapers also include tiny images of her camping supplies); we see how the girls pass the time on the way to the campground (including a game of cat’s cradle, as well as some simple staring-out-the-window); we see what Ernestine eats (she’s not too thrilled about tofu hot dogs), what she needs for her hike (bandages and her favorite plush toy, Foxy), and what they experience while they’re out there (banana slugs!). My favorite moment of the detailed and lovely sensory imagery is when they first arrive, and Ernestine thinks: “It’s so quiet. And big. It smells like trees, and fire, and dirt.” (This spread is pictured below.)

When, on the first night, Ernestine can’t sleep and wants to call her father (there’s no reception for Aunt Jackie’s cell phone), her aunt has a wise solution, which I won’t spoil for you. After that, Ernestine is able to sleep and gently settle into her camping experience. When she makes it home, we read an understated “I think my Dad missed me.” Here, he gives her the tenderest and tightest of hugs, his eyes closed as he leans down to embrace her.

And as Dr. Michelle H. Martin noted in her starred Horn Book review of the book (one of several for this book), it’s a “rare and welcome depiction of an African American family enjoying nature.” (If you missed her 2019 piece on the portrayal of “minoritized children having immersive experiences outdoors in children’s picture books,” you can read it here.)

Below are some preliminary images from Jennifer, as well as a couple of final spreads from the book. (Be sure to enlarge them and look closely at the textured details in the collaged artwork.)


An early sketch of the night-time spread
(Click to enlarge)


An early sketch of the can’t-sleep moment
(Click to enlarge)


Forest study
(Click to enlarge)


A final lay-out from the book
(Click to enlarge)


A final spread from the book:
“Finally, we’re here! It’s so quiet. And big. It smells like trees, and fire, and dirt.”

(Click to enlarge)


A final spread from the book:
“There are a lot more hills here than on my way to school. …”

(Click to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


* * * * * * *

THE CAMPING TRIP. Copyright © 2020 by Jennifer K. Mann. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.