Author Bill Kennedy makes a plea for the environment as a precious resource as he encourages readers to start our children and grandchildren early in developing a love for nature. His account of a canoe journey with his five-year-old daughter, Suzanne, to Algonquin State Park near Toronto in the 1970s, is crammed with details that make the natural world vivid to the reader.
Kennedy skillfully blends wisdom from naturalists, some local history, much good advice about wilderness trips, and a narrative account of his own adventure as he advocates the benefits of introducing children to the natural world. Kennedy is honest in saying he might not again take young child with epilepsy alone on a camping trip: what if something had happened? That was the 1970s; this is now—and fortunately nothing did go wrong. However, he also conveys the benefits any child can experience on such a trip, such as learning independence, and gaining self confidence. On this trip, Suzanne overcomes her fear of putting her face in the water and thus can learn to swim.
Other strengths include Kennedy’s skillful weaving of quotes from naturalists and thinkers, along with advice on canoe tripping based on his half century of experience. The book has a narrative arc, and high points building suspense are the recurrent appearances of a hungry and enterprising black bear, aggressively seeking campsite treats. At times, however, Kennedy offers too much information (such as the list of first aid supplies on page 54), slowing down his story, though arguably those looking for a blow-by-blow account might welcome the additional info.
The park becomes a backdrop to Kennedy’s plea that we introduce children to nature in order to make sure we have a natural world in the future. The beauty he describes contrasts with the devastation—which he likens to a city flattened by bombing—when the lands, once unprotected, were ruthlessly felled for timber. Kennedy doesn’t gloss over the pain and difficulty of camping out, such as swarms of mosquitoes, prowling bears, heavy backpacks, and hard portages carrying a canoe. Nevertheless, the book makes a canoe and camping adventure in Alquonin Park a surprisingly compelling idea, even for the non-enthusiast.
Bill Kennedy’s sincere voice comes through, as he successfully links exposing children early to nature with the fate of the planet, and holds the reader’s interest with his detailed account of a camping adventure.
~Diane Reynolds for IndieReader