As I sat down to write my first “quarantine” blog post, I happened to glance back at my most recent blog post prior to this one – all about the climbing goals I had for this year, 2020. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So much for that. Anyway, I haven’t written anything up until now because, to be honest, I just couldn’t summon the motivation to. But over the past few weeks, I’ve stumbled upon a couple of good books for climbing families that I think are worth sharing sooner rather than later.
The first book I’d like to share is a great choice for families that are curious about climbing, as well as families who are already familiar with the sport and ready to get their kids involved. Created by veteran climber Olivier Roberge as a way to share the psych with his kiddos, “Tom and Katie’s Climbing Adventures” introduces the basics of several climbing disciplines (gym, sport, bouldering, trad) in an interesting narrative with fun, comic-style graphics.
My first impression was that not only was there a LOT of great logistical information packed into the 75 pages of this book, but that Roberge presented the info in a very kid-friendly, easy to understand way. The illustrations are very well thought out, and the added visual really helped demonstrate the various concepts being discussed (ie, lead climbing, multi-pitch, etc.) Both my 10yo and 6yo have enjoyed it immensely, and we’ve read it together countless times over this quarantine time! I’d say kids as young as 3 or 4 could enjoy it as a readaloud. As far as independent reading goes, I’d say maybe 3rd grade and up? It’s the perfect book for a long car ride to the crag, as the graphic novel style picture/text combo lends itself really well to flipping through over and over again, for both older kids as well as non-reader aged kids.
Full disclosure, there was one little thing that came up in our family’s discussion that wasn’t really a big deal, but seems worth mentioning. There was a situation in the story where one character, Tom, didn’t want to rope up in the gym because he was afraid of heights. The other character, Katie, ended up “tricking him” onto the wall by pretending that her knot had come undone mid-way up the wall, knowing that Tom would put his fear aside and come to her rescue. This in turn, made him realize that he actually had nothing to fear the entire time. (All while the belaying parents winked at each other, apparently being “in” on this plan.) The chapter closes with Katie basically feeling slightly guilty for tricking her friend, but with an “end justifies to means” sort of attitude overall, since Tom was able to overcome his fear.
While fear is a common emotion in both beginner and veteran climbers, I personally feel like this scenario could have been dealt with in a much better way. My family loves to joke around just as much as any, however we don’t play around when it comes to safety checks. A misunderstood joke about knots/belaying/etc could easily lead to someone getting seriously injured or worse. The good news is that this led to a really good family discussion about the story, as well as some brainstorming about better ways Katie could have encouraged her friend to get out of his comfort zone. In fact, I’m almost glad it’s in there because I think it’s actually reinforced our family’s understanding on an issue that wouldn’t normally come up in conversation a lot, as my 6yo now wants to discuss the inappropriateness of safety jokes EVERY. SINGLE. TIME we read it lol!
Bottom line, “Tom and Katie’s Climbing Adventures” is a great resource to add to your family’s adventure story collection. And guess what – I’ve got a great deal to offer you! Author Olivier Roberge has been kind enough to offer free shipping for all Cragmama readers! You can use the above link and enter promo code CRAGMAMA when prompted, or simply go here where the discount should already be applied for you.
Additionally, Ashima Shiraishi, one of our family’s favorite young climbing phenom’s, has also written a book! It’s called “How to Solve a Problem”, and while it’s definitely far less technical and meaty than Tom and Katie’s Climbing Adventures, it’s also worth adding to your library, especially for those with younger readers. The writing is very descriptive, the illustrations are engaging, and it’s great to see a picture book that features climbing!
And adults, I haven’t forgotten about you! Kris Hampton of the Power Climbing Company has also just released a book – “The Hard Truth – Simple Ways to Become a Better Climber.” Right now it’s available for pre-orders via his website, and it will be widely available online on 5/14. (I wonder if that date was intentional 😉 ). More full disclosure, I’m still waiting to receive my copy, so I can’t promise it’s not junk. But as someone who has listened to Kris’s podcast for years as well as actually paid him money for customized training sessions in the past, I can ALMOST guarantee it will be a winner!
So with that said, go use some of your stimulus check to support some climbers’ non-climbing endeavors! And please let me know if you have any other suggestion for a quaran-reading list. Until then, stay safe and I’ll see you all post lockdown!