My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure, written and illustrated by Claudia McGehee
published in 2015 by Little Bigfoot
In 1918, an American painter, Rockwell Kent, and his 9 year old son “Rocky” set off on an adventure –spending seven months in the wilderness of Fox Island, Alaska.
Please, can I do this?!
Seriously, if you have a wilderness-loving bone in your body, the account of their time there will tug on your heart maddeningly!
Using letters and journals kept by Rocky and his father, Claudia McGehee describes their life of near-solitude among mountains carpeted with evergreens, bald eagles riding thermals, a small herd of angora goats, and a set of blue fox tamed by the resident trapper, Mr. Olson.
With home set up in a tiny cedar-plank shed, there aren’t a whole lot of housekeeping duties. Instead the two fill their days with painting and sketching, hiking, beachcombing, storytelling, reading, and playing out of doors.
There are a number of startling moments as Rocky habituates to his forest home, and then one doozy of an ill-fated trip in the dory. So it isn’t unbroken tranquility!
Mostly, it’s the story of a magnificent step away — an opportunity to be inspired by and relish untrammeled wilderness — for a lucky boy and his dad.
The book is illustrated in McGehee’s stunning, handsome scratchboard images. So, so beautiful. You can read about her process in an interview here, if you’re interested. The roughly-textured prints, strong lines, boreal subjects, and subdued tints, all convey a sense of grandeur and rugged simplicity. Even the paper it’s printed on and end papers add to the lovely sensory experience.
Highly recommended for ages 5 and up. Perhaps it will pique your interest enough to pick up a copy of Rockwell Kent’s journal: Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska. It looks fascinating to me.