In Baker’s debut picture book, an imaginative boy has trouble fitting in until he meets an open-minded group of new friends.
Five boys spend their time hanging out at Pine Camp, where they build a fort out of “sticks, stones and wind chimes.” They reach the spot by bike and scooter, and once there, they like to spend time reading, snacking, and sharing ideas. One of the boys keeps his treasure buried in a box, which includes pine cones, weeds, and his stuffed lion toy. At a park near the camp, another young boy is playing—but he’s dressed as a lion and can’t seem to get the other kids in the park to play with him. Discouraged by the trouble he has making friends, he runs into the camp, where the boy who buried the treasure eventually finds him. He’s hiding behind a rock, afraid to be turned away from playmates once again. Though there are few words in the story, Baker makes them count, as she does in the boys’ encounter: “The boy with the lion toy stood eye to eye with the boy in the lion suit”—a powerful moment in which the two boys decide what to make of each other. The episode teaches young readers an important lesson: be open and understanding to each other so that, here, the five friends can become six. For readers just starting out, Baker helpfully repeats words (“lion suit,” “Pine Camp,” etc.) throughout the story. Meanwhile, the gorgeously rendered illustrations feature bright colors and small details, such as the lion-suited boy drawing a lion in the dirt. The illustrations also include more details than the text offers, including a map with “Queenie’s Grave,” which may provide more adventurous imagination fodder for readers captivated by the charming world of Pine Camp.
A sweet tale of boyhood friendship that will help young readers learn about making friends and being open to new people.