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Mini-Review: Anxiety + Irritability in The Not-So Great Outdoors

by Katie Engen, M. Ed.

This review is part of a series that examines different types of anxiety portrayed in nine picture books, offering readers an opportunity for social-emotional learning.

It helps to remember that anxiety can sometimes make kids (and grownups!) act cranky, irritable, angry, or even flat-out rude. The bad attitude is rooted in fear and stress.

In The Not-So Great Outdoors by Madeline Kloepper, a tween girl narrator is NOT interested in her family’s camping trip across the western US. She prefers city living. The campground has no electricity. The rocky waterfall has no sculptures or fountains. And catching a fish is not at all like catching a bus. But, over time, this narrator becomes less snippy -- she can’t help but notice the natural beauty her family keeps pointing out to her.


Young readers can look for matches/contrasts between city and campground living (e.g. waterfalls vs. fountains). Expand the list to include the readers’ own daily living experiences (e.g. waterfalls vs. fountains vs. community spray park or playing in the sprinkler). Preteens and up can use travel sites or maps and plan a trip. Brainstorm a coping skill for discomfort along the way (Summer heat = extra hydration/finding a hotel with AC; homesick = write postcards).


Katie O’Brien Engen, M.Ed, currently works in private practice to mentor students with executive functioning and language processing challenges. She also writes stories and cross-curricular lessons to engage young minds with big ideas, does writing work for hire, and reviews books for various kidlit outlets. Katie is fueled by faith and laughter, and rarely is she too busy for family, sports, or ice cream. She lives in Maryland where one of her favorite runs is the ~10 miles to the Washington Monument in D.C. Learn more about Katie here.


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