Book Review: Babes in the Woods

People read all sorts of things in their desperate rush to learn how to be a parent in those few months before they introduce a new person into the world. Sleeping, eating, breastfeeding and crying are all popular topics. I get quite excited about books in the ‘travel and adventure with kids’ genre, and this book, carrying the subtitle ‘Hiking, Camping and Boating with Babies and Young Children,’ seemed to have pretty good reviews so I went and bought it.

This is one of those strange books that I’m glad I read, but didn’t actually find very helpful. The author’s stated intention with this book was to “not only inspire families to adventure with their young children but also to educate them so they have a safe and meaningful experience.” In retrospect I think she achieved the first side of this, but came up short on the latter.

Born out of the wilderness of Alaska, this book is unashamedly American. The author seems to have forgotten that there is a whole world that doesn’t use the imperial system. Normally this is a fairly trivial matter, except that this book leans heavily on providing advice  on things like recommended fluid consumption, travel distances and camping recipes, information that was lost on me because America hasn’t got up with the play with the metric system. Somehow this book made me feel excluded and rejected, and I was even a bit offended (in a bemused sort of way) at her assertion that: “UVB rays…are strongest in the summer months when the earth is closest to the sun.” Maybe I’m just a geek, but this wanton northern hemispherism really got me riled up.

The other downfall of this book is that I feel that the author has tried to cover too much, and hence hasn’t covered enough of anything. The needs of children in the wilderness change a lot as they progress from infants through to pre-schoolers, and this book has tried to include not just camping with these age brackets, but hiking, boating and this thing called ‘base-camping’. She has even included a section on camping with children with special needs, a worthy subject to be sure, but probably deserves a book of its own.  I guess this means it is a good book to provide an overview of things to think about, but also meant it couldn’t delve any deeper than information that is fairly intuitive if you’ve done a bit of camping before.

I’ve been a bit harsh toward this book, but in reality it did inspire me, and I’m pleased I read it. It is encouraging to read the stories of families who haven’t let young children be an excuse not to explore and discover this world we live in. The value of this book was more in inspiring me of what is possible to do with kids, rather than in equipping me to actually do it.

3 Thoughts.

  1. “UVB rays…are strongest in the summer months when the earth is closest to the sun”

    Not only northern hemispherist, but also incorrect. The earth is actually closest to the sun during the southern summer (January).

  2. Thanks Sam, yeah I did pick up on that and found it pretty funny (probably didn’t explain it well enough in the article though). Her understanding that the seasons are affected by the distance to the sun is actually quite sad, especially from someone who has written about exploring and discovering the outdoors.

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