Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Fun "outdoor" stories to encourage activity in the fresh air and build confidence and strong bodies [Review & Giveaway]

Get Outdoors!

Spring is here! Now is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it be bike riding or star gazing, these books will inspire young readers to go out and find adventure!

Joy Ride by Sherri Duskey Rinker | Ages 4-8

My thoughts: 
This is a story of a delightful girl, full of energy and creativity, who is bored during summer break and of her interaction with her grandfather. It is a beautiful generational story of care and respect. I absolutely love how this "tinkering" grandfather helps his granddaughter take a beat up old bike and transform it into a one-of-a-kind object of pleasure and fun. 

The story takes on a darker side as she encounters peers who look down on her re-done bicycle and poke fun at it. This brings out the darker side of Joy as well and she becomes angry and tosses her bike down a hill. The bike her grandfather so lovingly had worked with her to rebuild.

The story ends on a brighter note, though, as Joy learns to ride through these dark moments and take joy in her relationship with her grandfather.

About the book: When a girl and her grandfather put their hearts into sprucing up an old bike by hand, neighborhood kids are less than kind in this tender story about bullying, peer pressure, and feeling the freedom to express yourself.

Needing something to fill up her summer days, Joy seeks out her granddad, who also likes to tinker, for something to do. Together they find the perfect project: sprucing up an old bike for Joy. From hardware stores to garage sales, the two find everything they need to transform this bike, little by little, into something that’s truly one of a kind. Ornamented with sparkles, a basket, and a brand-new bell, the bike is finally ready for Joy to ride it all over the neighborhood, filling the air with her own kind of music that exudes JOY.

But when a few kids take notice of Joy’s bike, and not in a good way, Joy makes an impulsive decision that ruins the dazzling bike she and Granddad worked so hard on. Joy realizes quickly, however, that trying to fit in can be boring, and it doesn’t make her feel JOY. Just maybe, with a heartfelt apology and Granddad’s help, she can get back on track to being true to herself. This touching story, told by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Ana Ramírez González, addresses the moments of uncertainty when trying to fit in with the crowd, and exclaims the joyful exuberance of self-expression.

The Fastest Tortoise in Town by Howard Calvert | Ages 3-7

My thoughts: 
This is basically a story about a tortoise learning how to race. Different from the age old fable of the tortoise and the hare, this time the tortoise learns ahead of time how to put one foot in front of the other and to keep doing it until the end. 

A story of learning what one must do in order to successfully accomplish a task and of preparedness. 

About the book: The fable of the tortoise and the hare receives a charming new spin in this wonderfully illustrated, cheering tale about a lovable and relatable trouper.

Barbara Hendricks, a tortoise, has entered a road race, but what was she thinking? With only a week to go before the big day, she worries that she doesn’t stand a chance against the other animals competing. Barbara’s friend and owner, Lorraine, inspires her to train a little bit more each day and coaxes her out of her shell when the race day arrives. How intimidating to line up next to the slow loris, the snail, the sloth, and the walrus! But Barbara realizes that if she just tries her best, she’s already won. Adorably illustrated in rich color and detail and told with splashes of dry humor, this touching story of perseverance celebrates all that can be accomplished with a little preparation and a lot of self-love.

Elena Rides by Juana Medina | Ages 3-7

My thoughts:
Similar to an early reader book in that the vocabulary is limited and there is a lot of repetition. The basic story of getting on and falling off of the bike during the process of learning to ride is simply told.

Essentially, this is a happy book about a happy elephant learning to ride her bike.

About the book: 
Beginning readers—and beginning riders—will be drawn to this bright, buoyant story of a determined elephant and her loyal sidekick, from the award-winning creator of Juana & Lucas.

Elena wants to ride her bike. She steadies, she readies. She wobbles, she bobbles . . . KA-BANG! Learning to ride a bike is hard. But Elena can do it. She just has to try, try again. With this reassuring story of childlike persistence, Juana Medina, creator of the acclaimed Juana & Lucas series, introduces Elena, a plucky elephant, and the little red bird who is Elena’s faithful cheerleader. Simple, energetic text and bold, brilliant artwork convey a relatable tale of the ups and downs of learning something new (not without protest or tears) and the final thrill of mastery that will have children rooting for Elena and ready for her next adventure.

And because Father's Day is around the corner… 

A Bed of Stars by Jessica Love | Ages 6-9

My thoughts: 
The story is told in a very down-to-earth manner using conversation as the mode of telling. I absolutely love the relationship between the boy and his father. Their easy, natural, relaxed togetherness is what all father-son relationships should aim for.

I like that in this story the boy embraces the concept of the vast universe he sees in the heavens and that he is a part of that universe.

I recommend this book.

About the book: A tender new story from the award-winning creator of Julián Is a Mermaid celebrates first-time camping, father-child bonding, and feeling at one with the universe.

“We’re going camping, you and me.”
“Where?” I ask.
“The desert,” says Dad . . . “To shake hands with the universe.”

Going to bed each night can be dark and scary. The night sky stretches out endlessly, making one sensitive child feel small in comparison. So Dad comes up with a plan: a night of camping out in the desert. Together, the two load up Darlin’, the old pickup truck, and drive over the mountain with the radio on, stopping to shoot the breeze at a junkyard before setting up camp, jumping in sand dunes, and lying back to name all the birds they can see. After sunset, when the young thinker feels tiny against the vast sky, Dad knows just what to ask—and just what to say—to soothe away fears. Maybe this night spent under the stars (and a surprise from Mom and the baby later) are just what is needed to show that the universe is a friendly place. From acclaimed author-illustrator Jessica Love comes a story of small moments between father and child that affirms the comfort of finding one’s place in the world.
Begins May 17
Ends June 15 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
No P.O. Boxes
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies of these books to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided by Candlewick Press publishing or publicist and is mailed or shipped directly to the winner.  Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.


  1. We plan on staying cool by visiting the splash pad.

  2. Relaxing and having fun.


    1) What summer activities have you planned for your child or children this year? -- great niece graduates to first grade next year. They are going to the beach the first of june for a week. Then she has several camps that she is going to. And don't know what else she will be doing.
    2) What does your child or children enjoy most about summer?

    If you have no children at home, share what you did when your children were at homme.-- none

    If you have had no children of your own, share something about summer from your own childhood. - When is 8 or so a swimming pool was built just 2 blocks from our house. And we all spend a lot of time there in the summer. And as we got older and moved and made new friends we would go out early in the morning and come home when moms yelled at the door LUNCH. Then out we would go till moms yelled dinner

  4. When my children were young, we went to a lot of parks or music concerts. We enjoyed visiting relatives and swimming in their pools also. twinkle at optonline dot net

  5. We tour the playgrounds. Find different ones in different towns to go & have a good time on.

  6. When the children were young, we would plan lots of activities for summer. We would always participate in the library summer reading program.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  7. I would like to win this for my grandson. We would like to take him to the zoo and aquarium this year.

  8. My niece loves getting wet outside! It’s fun!


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