Hike by Pete Oswald. Candlewick, 9781536201574, 2020
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5+
What did you like about the book? This beautiful picture book that celebrates hiking and dads was so compelling that I didn’t initially recall that it was wordless! Only after “reading” the whole thing through a second time did I notice the absence of text. It’s before dawn when Dad enters the sleeping child’s room, meticulously decorated with posters and decorations celebrating the outdoors and with all the clothing and gear laid out for the day’s adventure. They climb into a rugged SUV and head up into the mountains for a day of hiking, birdwatching and climbing. Finally, they plant a small seedling and return to their cozy home.
I loved everything about this book. The digital artwork alternates between small vignettes that celebrate gorp, Dad’s reassuring hug and the kid falling asleep on the way home with huge sweeping panoramas that celebrate the beauty of nature. There’s a great overhead shot that shows the child and dad making their way along a forest trail and a sweeping summit view that features the pair with their arms around each other’s shoulders as bald eagles soar overhead. I also appreciated that it seemed to be about a single dad and that the child was not identifiably male or female. Both characters appear as people of color, which definitely fills an empty niche. We all need to see more positive depictions of all kinds of people enjoying parks, hiking and birdwatching…
I have really loved many of Pete Oswald’s books (including The Bad Seed and The Good Egg) but in this book, he really stretches his artistic chops. The delicacy of the trail map endpapers, the soft, woodsy color palette, and the pacing of the storytelling through pictures all add up to an exceptional picture book.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? I would definitely recommend this book to anyone heading out on a camping trip. So many small details would be rich prompts for discussion about what the trip will be like and what you’ll have to bring. It also beautifully captures the father’s love for the child, so anyone looking for books celebrating that special relationship will love it. Some of the vignettes are small, so it might not work well for a large group read aloud. But because it’s wordless, it would be a good fit for speech therapists or counselors trying to get children to “tell the story” of the pictures.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes! Or on top of your “look at” pile!
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: June 6, 2020