Because I have ADD, I like to do an occasional book review to go along with all the hiking, backpacking, canoeing, camping, history, and national park write ups (along with other assorted nonsense) that I do for this esteemed website. Today’s book is Christine Miller’s Josephine’s Wilderness Adventure: A Trip to Shenandoah National Park, which came out last month. I’m not particularly good at writing reviews, so in case it wasn’t clear in the review below – I really enjoyed this book!
Josephine’s Wilderness Adventure: A Trip to Shenandoah National Park by Christine Miller
Triple Peaks Press Publishing – 2022
Josephine’s Wilderness Adventure is a story about a young girl named Josephine (who everyone calls Jo), a 9 year old Philly girl who spends as much time as she can sitting high in an old tree, enjoying a little patch of nature in a big city. It’s 1968, and her family is getting ready to take their annual road trip with her dad, mom, and four sisters. Dad is a history teacher, and they’d drive their pop up camper around learning about historic spots. Dad works a second job to pay for this trip (overnight shift as security at the docks), but money is extra tight this year, so they need to pick a spot where they can stay in one spot and enjoy mostly free activities. The choice? Shenandoah National Park. Jo couldn’t be more excited to get out to explore nature!
The rest of the book follows Jo on her visit learns about nature, meets real park rangers, and has a series of adventures!
This is a chapter book written for the 3rd to 6th Grade crowd. With the strong, heroic female character, this book is particularly great for girls, but my 3rd and 5th Grade boys very much enjoyed it as our bedtime story over the course of a week (and now are pushing to go back to Shenandoah National Park… a bonus!).
Review from my child:
“It’s good!” ~ Tree Rider, Grade 3 (we need to work on our book reviews a bit).
A Talk with the Author:
First time author Christine Miller was kind enough to sit down with me (and my five kids, who made themselves part of our talk) to talk about her book and also about her own cross country adventures. Chris is a recently retired Physical Education teacher who grew up camping, sleeping in the woods for the first time at just 11 months old. As an adult, Chris and her then husband continued that tradition, taking their three children on road trips across the country to a variety of places. She’s camped in everything from a tent to a 40 foot long motor home. A few years back, she began a journey that’s resulted in her living full time in a 19 foot long camper van, adventuring around the country.
We’ve know each other for many years, going back to when she was one of my teachers when I was in school. Later, her boys were in the Scout troop that I’m an adult leader in. Seven years ago, she served as an adult on the worst backpacking trip I’ve ever been on where I really suspect the Appalachian Trail was trying to do us in (I think we were both relieved to discover during the interview that it’s still the worst stretch of backpacking either of has done!). But it didn’t succeed, so we were able to sit down a few years later and talk about her book!
So why write a book?
“I had a story for years in my head that I wanted to share,” Chris shared. A few years back, there was an author day visit at her school, which inspired her that she could write a book as well. She began to work on it slowly. At first, she wanted to write a picture book, but over time, she realized she was actually creating a chapter book
“When I retired, I was able to really pull it together… I filled it in with the thoughts in my head that I thought would inspire kids to explore nature, appreciate nature, and get outside.”
Chris chose Shenandoah because it is her favorite national park, which is saying something because she’s been to a lot of them! She loves Shenandoah because she remembers going there with her family as a child.
“I remember such a special time there with family in the woods and wilderness. The ranger talks, learning about the animals and plants, it just made an impact on me.” This love of the park shines through in her first book, as the hero Josephine clearly loves her time spent in the park with her family.
“Every time I take that drive down the Skyline Drive, it feels like I’m going home.”
The idea of home is more flexible for Christine these days. Several years ago, she began to downsize her living area with the goal of saving up and “going tiny” with a tiny house. She kept running into problem after problem – no place close to work, struggles with the fact that it wouldn’t have a permanent, legal address. “It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole,” she shared.
It was one of her children who finally helped her work out what wasn’t working by asking, “Mom, why would you get something that’s stationary? You like to go. Like, get a van?”
It all clicked. Within a matter of months, she had sold her car, sold her trailer at a campground, gotten rotten rid of most of her stuff, and bought a van. She spent months moving stuff from her apartment into the van, camping on the weekends, figuring out exactly what she needed. By the time she retired later that year, she was all ready to live full time on wheels.
And that’s where she’s been the last three years, traveling through the country in her van. She’s visited a remarkable 40 states in that three year stretch, exploring national parks and visiting wilderness areas and visiting her three children (and now one grandchild!) who are spread out across America.
Thank you to Christine for stopping by visit us, we’re looking forward to her future adventures!
Where to buy it:
Christine will be at Inkwood Books on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 11:30 AM to 2 PM if you’d like to meet her and buy a copy of the book! You can order copies at your local bookstore (I bought our copy at Inkwood) or can get it at the usual online book retailers.