Up North at the Cabin
Up north at the cabin,
I am a great gray dolphin.
The lake is my ocean…
Up north at the cabin,
I am a fearless voyageur,
guiding our canoe through the wilderness…
Up north at the cabin
I am always brave—
even in the dark woods,
when blood thumps through my head
like old Ojibway drums.
The magic of summer, the call of the north woods, and the exuberance of childhood imagination combine here to create a book that will be treasured long after the last autumn leaf has fallen.
- Use a map to identify lakes that the students have been to. (Ask parents to help with names and locations.)
- Collect pictures of trips to the lake and make a bulletin board.
- Write down memories of visits to the lake.
- Compare and contrast the book Letter to the Lake by Marie Swanson.
- Write or tell “fish stories.”
Thanks to Kathy Johnson, media specialist in Alexandria, Minnesota, for these suggestions.
With evocative prose, Chall conjures up in her debut book the magic of idyllic childhood summers. Her creative use of language brings to life local flora and fauna as viewed through the eyes of a sensitive, enthusiastic girl—a moose stands “like a house on stilts,” cabins are built with logs like “shiny pretzels.” In unaffected vignettes (the book has no real story line) the young vacationer baits her fishing hook with peanut butter sandwiches, canoes “through the wilderness” and embraces the thrill of water skiing. Johnson’s (The Frog Prince, Continued; The Salamander Room) textured oil paintings produce a breadth of vision that evokes universal experience. The artwork’s smudged effect suggests the haziness of memory in conjunction with sun-dappled days and atmospherically conveys family quiet time mysteries deep within cool woods and the invigoration of outdoor sports. This great warm-weather book will surely be savored again when “frosted windows cloud the sun.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
Chall offers readers a trip to the north woods through her carefully chosen words and Johnson’s lush paintings. A young girl anticipates her arrival at the beloved cabin, experiences nature’s wonders while there, and returns home with her fond memories until the next summer. Each segment of the child’s narrative prose poem is accompanied by wonderful, evocative, full-page oil paintings of the family enjoying the lake and the surrounding wood. Up North at the Cabin is to Minnesota what McCloskey’s Time of Wonder (Viking, 1957) is to Maine. To read it is to feel the summer breezes—whatever your location, whatever the time of year. (School Library Journal)
Marsha Wilson Chall spent her childhood summers at a cabin on a lake in Minnesota … [This book] is an ode to that, to the untainted tranquility of distant and rugged places where the water is cold and clear, where fish still swim, where moose wander in pine woods and where the cabin is so secluded that you bring in food for the week or the month because ‘town’ is distant, and not just in miles … Ms. Chall has written a first book that tugs at memory and childhood without being overly sentimental. Her text has a pleasant read-aloud rhythm and imagery that will tickle children. (New York Times Book Review)
As the young narrator describes her days in this best beloved of all vacation spots, the reader senses that it has given her childhood’s ultimate freedom. Johnson’s paintings provide stunning impressions of landscape and extend the text to its full potential. (The Horn Book)
illustrator, Steve Johnson
Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1992
ages 4 and up