A sweet celebration of America's National Park Service

CHILDREN’S FICTION, AGES 4-8

Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager

Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers

Our Great Big Backyard

HarperCollins

Hardcover, 978-0-06-246835-2 (also available as an ebook), 40 pgs., $18.99

May 10, 2016

 

 

Jane and her friends have their electronic summer all planned out—movies, YouTube, and video games—until Jane’s parents ruin everything with their dorky Great American Road Trip. Disappointed, frustrated, Jane says goodbye to her friends on the last day of school. As the trip begins, Jane’s nose is in her iPad. She fails to appreciate the manatees at Everglades National Park and the Mark Twain lookalike riverboat captain on the Mississippi.

 

The next stop, however, is Big Bend National Park, where Jane is impressed by the Texas night sky. A “meteor shower lit up the sky like fireworks,” Jane says, “brighter than any screen I had ever seen.” Jane and her family go on to play astronauts in the desert, tightrope walkers at Grand Canyon National Park, and cowboys at Yosemite National Park, where El Capitan makes Jane feel “really small but really great, too, like I was part of something big.”

 

Our Great Big Backyard by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager is a sweet celebration of America’s National Park Service, which observes its centennial anniversary in August 2016. This book encourages a love for, and pride in, the nation’s most valuable assets, and inspires children to get out from behind their devices and explore the outdoors.

 

Jacqueline Rogers’s pen, ink, watercolor, gouache, and marker illustrations are a cute accompaniment to the simple text. She includes playful elements that adults will appreciate as well, such as the “43” stenciled on Dad’s golf bag. Especially heartwarming are Baxter the beagle, who appears in every illustration, and the stowaway chipmunk who hitches a ride in the family’s minivan. The front and back endpapers are a colorful map of the United States depicting the route of the family’s road trip and the locations of the national park sites they visited.

 

Our Great Big Backyard includes a helpful appendix with a comprehensive list of National Park Service sites in the United States, listed by state or territory, proving that there are, indeed, “cool places in your own backyard.” For more information and to plan your own Great American Road Trip, please visit www.findyourpark.com and www.everykidinapark.gov. Happy summer, y’all!

For decades, Laura Bush has championed key issues in the fields of education, health care, human rights, and the preservation of our nation’s heritage. A hiking and outdoors enthusiast, Mrs. Bush encourages Americans to spend time in and care for our national parks. The author of the bestselling memoir Spoken from the Heart, Mrs. Bush also founded both the Texas Book Festival and the National Book Festival in Washington, DC.  Mrs. Bush holds a degree in education and a master’s degree in library science. She taught in public schools in Dallas, Houston, and Austin and worked as a public school librarian.

 

Jenna Bush Hager is a contributing correspondent on NBC’s Today show and an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine. She is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope, which she wrote after traveling to Latin America in 2006 as an intern with UNICEF.

Hager holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin. She is also coauthor, with Laura Bush, of the children’s book Read All About It!

 

Jacqueline Rogers has been a professional children's book illustrator for more than twenty years and has worked on nearly one hundred children's books.

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