About the Holiday
Early summer is the perfect time to plan a camping trip. There are so many beautiful out-of-the-way places to explore from a camper or a tent. Spending quality time with friends or family on a hike or around a campfire can be surprising, low-tech fun that can challenge and exhilarate.
Rhoda’s Rock Hunt
Written by Molly Beth Griffin | Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Rhoda goes camping with her Auntie June and Uncle Jonah. On a days-long hike, her shower was a “bucket of cold lake water, dinner was salami and cheese, and her bed was a skinny little pad and ratty sleeping bag.” But Rhoda puts up with it all because along the way she finds rocks—and Rhoda loves rocks.
Auntie June doesn’t mind Rhoda’s collecting rocks—as long as she carries them in her own pack. Rhoda agrees. One day while hiking through a birch forest Rhoda spies “jagged rocks and bumpy rocks and one with tiny sparkly bits that glinted in the dappled sunlight. Ooo!” Rhoda puts them all in her pack and trudges on, sweating a bit with the effort.
The next day while crossing a stream, Rhoda reaches into the cool, flowing water and comes up with a bunch of smooth stones. One has “a curve that fit into her palm just right. Ooo! Into the pack they all went—Yarg!” Rhoda is beginning to slump under the weight of her pack, but she continues on. After a sleepless night, Rhoda is tired, hungry, dirty, and a little bit crabby—until she sees the lake. “Waves crashed on the shore, and gulls called overhead. The water stretched out to the horizon, and the beach was covered with millions and billions of rocks!”
Rhoda lies on the “sun-warmed treasures,” studying the beauty of each stone. She finds red ones, blue ones, and stripy ones. “Then she discovered tiny banded ones that glowed the color of sunsets. Ooo!” She pours them all into her pack. When Auntie June and Uncle Jonah tell her it’s time to go, Rhoda grabs her pack, but it stays put. She pushes, pulls, and tugs, but the bag doesn’t budge. With no one to help carry her pack or any of the rocks, Rhoda has a hard decision to make. She doesn’t want to give up any of her stones, but she knows she must.
Then she has an idea. Carefully working “with the weight of each rock, with the curves and bumps and bulges of each rock,” she stacks them on a flat slab of stone near the water’s edge until they all “balanced in perfect towers.” Well, almost all. Into her pockets “went the one glinting forest rock, and the one palm-snuggling river rock, and a small handful of tiny glowing agates from the Big Lake.”
As she heads on her way she looks back at her rock cairns—her gift to others passing by—and continues on with Auntie June and Uncle Jonah to the cabin. There, on her windowsill, she builds her own cairns from her beloved treasures.
Collectors everywhere will relate to Rhoda and her enthusiastic gathering of treasures beyond price. Each one is unique and almost calls out to be taken along life’s road. As Rhoda discovers, however, the physical items can begin to weigh you down, impeding progress. Molly Beth Griffin, in her distinctive and quietly powerful book, remind readers that freedom and happiness come from sharing your talents and treasures—and yourself—with others. With evocative description of a camping trip (and well-placed expressions of “Ooo!”), Griffin captures with honesty, grace, and humor the vexations and thrills of childhood.
Jennifer A. Bell gorgeously depicts the forest with its birch stands, rushing streams, vast lake, and variety of stones in soft greens, reds, purples, and blues that blend to reflect the depth and beauty of nature. Adorable Rhoda expresses the range of emotions—from excitement in finding her beloved rocks to annoyance at the travails of camping—that readers will recognize and respond to. Detailed illustrations of the rocks Rhoda finds reveal their attraction to the young collector, and the final spread of the cairns Rhoda builds will have kids wanting to build their own.
A wonderful accompaniment to a hike or camping trip and a quietly inspirational read, Rhoda’s Rock Hunt would make a welcome addition to children’s bookshelves.
Ages 3 – 8
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0873519502
To see more books by Molly Beth Griffin for children and young adults, visit her website!
View Jennifer A. Bell’s illustration work for picture books, chapter books, and more on her website!
National Camping Month Activity
Rock This Craft!
Around a campsite or on a hike you can find smooth stones that would give talented artists like yourself a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!
- Smooth stones in various sizes
- Paint or markers
- Small magnets, available at craft stores
- Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
- Paint brush
- Strong glue
To make magnets
- Design and paint an image on the stone
- Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
- Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board
To make jewelry
- Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
- Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
- Wear your pin proudly
To make a paper weight
- Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
- Let dry
- Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place
Picture Book Review