What a deal you all get today! Not just ONE review, but FIVE reviews all rolled into one, for free. Best deal around, no doubt. We are going to be looking at books published by Gibbs Smith (www.gibbs-smith.com) in the Children’s Activity genre. Simply presented, interesting and valuable information comes in an easily packed soft cover book at a very reasonable price ($9.99 MSRP). I consider these books a great resource for beginners (kid or adult), scouting troops,and outdoor lovers.
So let’s take a look.
Starting off we have Cooking on a Stick by Linda White. She begins with fire safety and how to build a fire specifically for cooking (meaning while a fire can get going quickly, achieving a cooking fire takes about 30 minutes). I didn’t know there was a difference at a young age and while you can cook over a rip-roaring fire, you’ll mostly end up with charred food. Good for marshmallows, but not stew. Following these two items is a list of cooking equipment and a “how to” on making a coat hanger into a “cooking stick”. First aid is also covered which, is always a good idea.
The rest of the book is basically a cook book-or recipe book-which covers a myriad of items ranging from biscuit mix to pizza. A really nice variety and nothing too complicated to discourage those just starting out. Cooking with pouches, sticks, and grates are presented but I love that the author also included snacks and trail food (read-”no cooking necessary”). Because waiting 30 just to start cooking can make you hungry, so included are some trail-mix like recipes to keep that hunger at bay. They are also great on the trail or by the lake.
Similarly, we have Cooking in a Can– by Linda White. Leading off again with the basics of fire safety (which can’t be reiterated enough for kids and adults I think), Ms. White also recommends having an adult start fires. Good tip in my opinion. Also covered is the importance of a first aid kit and planning and packing appropriately.
Ms. White also offers a few “crafts” to the reader. One is a jeans apron and another is for a sweatshirt wood carrier. These are simple, but useful activities that can be done ahead of time or on the campsite (making the apron requires sewing, so if you plan this for the campsite, you’ll need a sewing kit).
Following this are the meat and potatoes (pardon the pun) of the different methods of outdoor cooking with recipes that sound fun and yummy. Each recipe gives the type of meal (main dish, side dish, snack, etc.), how it can be cooked (can, coals, solar cooker, etc) and how many it serves. The solar oven needs to be made ahead of time so it also counts, in my opinion, as a craft.
I think that the hot rock cooking (page 45) is really neat and no doubt the kids will get a kick out of it as well. Just make sure that if meat is being cooked, check to make sure it is completely cooked. Raw chicken is gross and can make you very sick. Pit cooked food is really easy (though time consuming) and it works great. Personally, I’ve cooked a ham (which took ALL DAY) and bread in this manner. As long as the food is completely covered in aluminum so dirt doesn’t get into your food, it’s like having an oven on site.
The recipes included are easy enough for the first-time camp chef and each recipe also suggests alternate methods for cooking. So if you don’t want to cook your camp meal in a can, it also recommends using a grill or stove.
Next, we look at Sleeping in a Sack by Linda White. This book covers most of the basics of camping without great amounts of detail and stresses the need for adult supervision. Topics covered include: choosing gear, planning your trip, setting up, packing and activities.
Making a camp clean up kit (page 17) is a great idea that combines clean up with a pre-camping project. Making a towel carrier for each campers bathing/grooming items is a fantastic idea. And? Mom and/or Dad won’t have to carry all the gear to and from the bath house. Believe me, after doing this for a few years, it gets tedious. I’m definitely doing this for this year’s outing! Also covered-the dreaded (by me) pit toilet. Good to know how to do, but I advise a campsite with a real facility. Running water is so nice; and I mean faucet and tap, not babbling brook.
The brown bag breakfast makes a repeat appearance in “Camp Chow” and a few others follow with funny names, but I’m not sure how many kids who will be willing to eat stew with rutabaga. But, like I always say; “Add what you like, leave out what you don’t.”
Camp skills covers basic knots, sharpening a pocket knife, staying found, first aid and other activities to keep you occupied; if you can stay awake past sundown from all that fresh air. The book finishes with a brief segment on “green camping”. Making sure you leave the camp in better condition than you found it and other earth-friendly ways to camp are mentioned.
This book contains plenty of information presented in a format simple enough for a new camper or someone teaching first time campers.
Moving on, Lawson Drinkard offers us, Fishing in a Brook, which covers where to fish (docks, surf, ponds, lakes), equipment, bait, and how to tie knots for hooks. Baiting the hook for different types of bait is a good idea so you don’t lose wind up just feeding the fish all day.
Casting styles are covered as is when and why to use them. “Lawn fishing” encourages practice (without a hook thank you) and can be turned into a game even non-fishers can enjoy. Where to find fish taught me why I was probably the most unsuccessful fisher as a youngster. I think I did everything wrong. Mr. Drinkard suggests that landing your hook in the sun isn’t going to gain much as the fish like shade better. One really neat tip offered is to wear polarized sun glasses to see the fish more easily underwater.
Finishing up is a small list of common fish that includes colorful pictures, where the fish usually can be found, what type of bait to use, and I supposemost importantly, what to do after catching a fish. Release, eat or photographing the fish are suggested.
I like that while the book does mention the “cleaning and scaling”, it directs the reader to get a helper who has done those tasks before. Good idea, since I still have a bit of trouble with the gutting part. Cooking the fish is mentioned, but not covered in detail. A few methods are offered though, if the reader wants to try his or her hand.
Finally, we come to Trekking on a Trail by Linda White. Even though most of you know I love to cook, I am going to go ahead and say this was my favorite book.
Packing for climate and location, staying found, and how to pack without weighing yourself (or your child) down are some of the topics covered in this easy to read, simply presented book. Starting out with this book as a reference guide could lead to a very pleasant first experience, which will hopefully lead to a lifetime love of hiking. Also included is the importance of stretching before hiking to lessen the chance for injury and sore muscles afterward.
First aid is also covered, as well as the necessity of being able to identify poisonous plants (ivy and sumac as well as ingestible poisons such as berries) so you can avoid them. Some common animals and the tracks they leave are included in a two page spread. I thought this was fascinating because it included a picture of the animal with the tracks pictured along side for identification. This can be a great way to introduce tracking safely. I know I’d be terrified to come across a bear when I thought I was tracking a fox.
This book is really quite full of useful information for just having over 63 pages. For someone just starting out, not just kids, this book is a great resource and I highly recommend it.
These five books are really a great resource and a good starting point for a novice to the outdoors. In addition to the colorful presentation, the subject matter is presented simply to educate without overloading the reader. Stressing the need for an adult helper is mentioned in every book and I believe that with the right supervision and these books, you can just about guarantee a good time.
As seen in the Woods Monkey Gear Review Column of Issue #15 of Self Reliance Illustrated!