The Best Worst Camp Out Ever by Joe Cepeda

When I was a kid, I too loved the romance of camping outdoors. Once I actually encountered the realities of it tho, I realized that God invented air-conditioning for a reason. Indoor plumbing? A gift to be cherished. King-sized mattresses? Something to be savored and enjoyed.

Ofc, I wasn’t going to discourage my own kids when they expressed an interest in camping out in the backyard of their grandma’s beach house. I even helped set up their sleeping arrangements after my co-parent put up a tent for them. Even so, I admit to feeling a little swell of justification when they all abandoned the tent at different points in the night to come and sleep indoors where it’s comfortable.

This is all to say that while I’m definitely not the target audience for a book about camping, I was all in on what turned out to be a lesson in resilience that just happens to use the great outdoors as its framework. As with my usual experience with camping, the best laid plans rarely go the way we want them to. The important thing is how we roll with the punches and choose to move forward and adapt, with a positive, almost Zen attitude about accepting what we can’t change and figuring out how to make our own experiences better within that framework.

I promise that Joe Cepeda’s book is a lot less wordy and thinky than my own opinions here, as he details a kid’s camping trip with his dad. Dad is, perhaps, an over-preparer, as he packs up the car for a weekend of outdoorsy fun. Things go pretty well, till they discover that the beautiful campsite they chose to stay in has already filled up. Everything threatens to go pretty rapidly downhill from there, but Dad isn’t upset by any change of plans. In fact, he has a ton of backups prepared just in case, as what threatens to be the worst camp out ever turns into one of the best experiences of their lives.

I was truly impressed by this display of mental resilience, as Dad took all the snags in stride and still made sure that his kid had a good time. The example he set was magnificent, and the constant diversions from their plans meant that the duo got to encounter some truly magical experiences that they likely wouldn’t have if everything had gone to plan. It’s a wonderful lesson in flexibility and not forcing issues that can’t, or shouldn’t, be forced.

I do, unfortunately, know too many parents who get stuck in having perfect “moments” instead of enjoying the company of their kids. Joe Cepeda clearly isn’t one of these as he writes and illustrates a brilliant, accessible lesson for kids and parents on how to make the best of unexpected situations. Tbc, this isn’t a book of toxic positivity either. When kid and dad encounter a bear, for example, they wisely take another route instead of trying to engage with the creature. But they’re also not so dead set on getting past the bear that they forget the point of the trip: to enjoy each other’s company in the great outdoors.

As an old, it’s weird for me to consider such a beautiful, glossy, hardback production a comic, tho I must grudgingly admit that the interiors definitely fit the description. And I’m pro-anything that gets kids to read, so call it a picture book or comic book if you want, as long as you’re getting more quality books like these into kids’ hands. The illustrations, btw, are phenomenal, and it’s so nice to see a Latine family centered in such a commonplace way. Highly recommended.

The Best Worst Camp Out Ever by Joe Cepeda was published April 30 2024 by Holiday House and is available from all good booksellers, including

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