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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Early/Young Readers, Picture Books, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Star of the North nominee, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

RHODA’S ROCK HUNT by Molly Beth Griffin Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell…2016-17 Star of the North nominee

rhoda's rock huntRhoda’s Rock Hunt was a delightful surprise for me!  Rhoda’s experiences–both her fascination with rocks and her delight in finding them–mirror my own experience as a child on vacation during summers in northern Minnesota.  I wish Rhoda’s Rock Hunt had been around eight years ago when my daughter was constantly adding to the LOADS of rocks in her bedroom while I tried to convince her to store her precious collection OUTSIDE the house.

The colors throughout the book–greens, blues, browns and a russet red with brown/black outlines are absolutely perfect for northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  I was transported to those northern woods as Rhoda hiked with her aunt and uncle:

One day, they hiked through a beautiful birch forest with rustling leaves and birds overhead.

Rhoda found lots of smooth, round rocks in that stream and one with a curve that fit into her palm just right! Ooo!

Rhoda’s excitement in each special rock she finds is the genuine joy of anyone discovering beauty and fascination.  As Rhoda continues to collect rocks on their hike her bag–which she is required to carry herself–is getting heavier and heavier:

So she was tired and dirty and hungry on the last day of their trip, and crabby, too–until they arrived at Big Lake.

She found red ones and blue ones and stripy ones, and then she looked harder, and found tiny banded ones that glowed the color of sunsets.  Ooo!

I love the responsibility of carrying her own pack–even when it’s heavy.  I think this is the element that sets Rhoda’s Rock Hunt apart from a simpler story about the beauty of rocks and rock-collecting.  The task of teaching children that we must sometimes make difficult choices is vital and is best accomplished by giving them opportunities to do so in small ways first.  Rhoda’s pack becomes too heavy for her to carry and the rule is that she MUST carry her own pack:

She loved her rocks–all her beautiful ROCKS–but she couldn’t keep them all.  She had to let some go.

She decides to use most of her rocks to build “perfect towers” (rock cairns) by the shore of the lake, while keeping just a few that seem the most special or unique to her.  Letting go of things we love and to which we have attached meaning is always hard.  Rhoda’s Rock Hunt does a brilliant job of modeling a possible way to navigate that situation in a very tangible way for young children as well as provide a story with which most kids can identify, or which can inspire them to look at rocks (and other parts of nature) in a new and curious way.

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