i love camp by todd parr

My kids love Todd Parr. He's the author-illustrator of some of our family favorites--The Peace Book, The Mommy Book, and The Daddy Book.

And Todd Parr loves camp. Or so he tells us in his new book, I Love Camp. It's part of a collection of camp-themed books distributed this month by The PJ Library to celebrate Jewish sleepover camp. As in Todd Parr's other well known and beloved books, there's not exactly a story line. Instead, each page simply names and illustrates one camp activity--canoeing, taking nature walks, etc. And, because this book was written about Jewish camp, it includes gathering for Shabbat and singing Hebrew songs around the campfire.

campfire illustrationI too love camp, especially Jewish sleepover camp. It's where I discovered that being Jewish was joyful, exciting, and even slightly counter-cultural. It's a gift I can't wait to give to my daughters. But at 6 and 7, they haven't spent more than a night away from my husband and me. Right now, the prospect of a week or more away from home sounds downright terrifying. How can I start getting them excited for this magical summer experience? Could a picture book possibly help?

Certainly, the text alone of I Love Camp probably wouldn't have done much to ignite my girls' enthusiasm. But the pictures? That's another story. The pictures danced off the page and leaped right into my daughters' imaginations. The girls snatched the book from my hands and immediately began to bring the story of camp to life. They pretended they were sitting around a campfire, and imagined what songs the children were singing. They examined every detail on the Shabbat dinner table, and determined what they would choose to eat. They pretended to be up on the stage during the "spectacular talent show." 

familiy camp

My daughter at family camp.

Yes, the book got them excited for camp. Or at least for pretend camp, where the campers have purple faces and lime green hair and big toothless grins. It also got me excited for camp. Suddenly, even three or four years seemed way too long to wait to introduce them to real-life sleepover camp. But how? We can, of course, go canoeing and gather for Shabbat dinner, and engage in lots of other camp activities at home, but when we do them they are just that--activities. Not Camp.

Solution? Family Camp! A few weeks ago, we packed up the car and headed off to Eden Village Camp, where I hope my daughters will eventually be campers. Without leaving their parents behind (well, not too far behind), my girls got to experience canoeing, taking natures walks, gathering for Shabbat, and singing Hebrew songs around the campfire.

More importantly, they got a taste of something that a book can't convey. The community of individuals that make up any camp. They met and played with the directors, the madrichim (counselors), and other future campers. They saw friendly faces that may not be as brightly colored as those in Parr's book, but have equally huge smiles. Familiar faces that will make camp feel like home, whenever my girls' inaugural summer happens to be. 

pj library logoThis piece is part of our monthly series with The PJ Library. The PJ Library program sends Jewish-content books and music on a monthly basis to families with children through age eight. Created by The Harold Grinspoon Foundation in partnership with local Jewish organizations and philanthropists, The PJ Library is available in more than 130 communities across North America.

Amy Meltzer

Amy Meltzer is an educator, author and mother of two. She blogs at Homeshuling, where she writes about raising Jewish children while spending very little time in synagogue.