Author and family hiking expert, Jeff Alt, has created a book series that lets kids explore the history of national parks. Bubba Jones and his family have come to the Great Smoky Mountains to hike and camp. His younger sister, parents, aunt, uncle, cousin, and grandparents have all traveled to the mountains for a family vacation and for Papa Lewis to pass on a family legacy to his grandson. Bubba becomes the keeper of the family journal and the power to travel through time. Yes, you read that correctly, travel through time!
This special ability is passed to every other generation and is a carefully guarded secret. Using that power, Bubba and his family get to see incredible scenes from the park's past, and even times before the park was founded. Imagine if you could read an historical marker and decide to travel back and see the actual event. The Lewis family visits events like the dedication ceremony of the park and also goes back to see when elk and buffalo roamed the area. They also search for Papa Lewis's cousin Will. Papa hasn't seen him in 40 years, since the camping trip when his grandfather passed the journal and his time travel ability on to Papa Lewis.
Combining the present day adventures of hiking and camping with the historical trips gives the reader a wonderful introduction to the park. My students live within sight of the park, so many of the locations will be very familiar to them - names like Cades Cove, Sugarlands, Clingman's Dome, and Gatlinburg will conjure up personal memories of family trips to those spots. But the additional information about the Cherokee people, early settlers, and efforts to create the park will build on those experiences and generate a greater appreciation for our local heritage.
I would recommend this book to families planning a trip to the park, those who are interested in outdoor stories, or readers who enjoy family stories in general. It would also be easy to build a novel study around this book and combine it with research into the national parks or early American expansion across the Appalachians. The author suggests topics of study in the curriculum guide, as well as providing discussion questions and a bibliography. There is also the added benefit of the title being part of a series; if readers enjoy this book, they can reach for the next one and continue on with Bubba to the next park he explores.
I received a copy of the book from the author for review purposes.