Wednesday, April 15, 2020

This Land Is Our Land: The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barb Rosenstock

"Any Fool can destroy trees.

God has cared for these trees, but he cannot save them from fools. Only Uncle Same can do that." -- John Muir

John Muir was on a mission.

President Theodore Roosevelt needed a break.

The lean, bearded activist saw development destroying the native beauty of California, and on that other coast the rotund president was weary of politics.

Teddy Roosevelt had read Muir's book on the natural wonders of Yosemite and the Sequoia groves of coastal California, so when the dour and zealous Muir almost dared the President to rough it with him in the wilderness, Teddy was on it with his usual fervor. It's not easy for a president to escape from his retinue of advisers and guards, but the two-man camping trip set out at last to brave the wilderness on their own.

Teddy Roosevelt, the advocate of the "rugged life," was in his glory. "Teedie" and "Johnnie" rode along cascading streams and through hushed mountain evergreen forests, camped out beside geysers, viewed valleys carved by glaciers, even waking up in the high mountains, half-buried in a sudden snowstorm and tossing snowballs at each other like two schoolboys on holiday.

"Bully! What a glorious day!" cried T. R.

But the ebullient president was in his element and the devoted naturalist took the opportunity to press his message that these vast areas of America's natural landscape were at risk of being forever destroyed by the press of the nation's advance west.

But it was when the two camped out beneath towering groves of giant sequoias that the deal became a mission for Roosevelt, too.
"These trees grew when the Egyptians were building the pyramids! They never stop growing unless they are cut down.

How can I help?" asked Teddy Roosevelt.

"Keep the wild and protect it forever," answered Muir.

And the rest is history.

That epic camping trip that led President Roosevelt to push the legislation which established the National Park system of the United States is the subject of Barb Rosenstock's The Camping Trip that Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks (Dial Books). Author Rosenstock captures the enchantment of the natural scene and the boyish joy of the two powerful men on a trip that was both a playful expedition and a pilgrimage that changed the face of America.

The emotional impact of this account is equally heightened by the humorous portrayals of the odd-couple adventurers and the beautiful paintings and detailed pen-and-ink sketches of the natural world (including a vertical two-page, vertical illustration of a soaring sequoia) created by artist Mordecai Gerstein. Gerstein is also the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of another noted American event in his stunning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

Says Kirkus Reviews, "You can't ever quite take the boy out of the man, and Rosenstock's use of her subjects' childhood names evokes a sense of Neverland ebullience, even as the grownup men decided the fate of the wilderness. Wonderfully simple, sweet and engaging."

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