What do you do with an energetic, ambitious 5-year-old who never seems to tire and loves the outdoors? If you’re Patricia Ellis Herr, you climb mountains with her. Lots of them.
And then you write a book about it.
“Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure” is a tale of a home-schooling mother who decides the great outdoors can be a powerful teacher. An avid hiker herself, she begins taking her 5-year-old along with her and discovers her child has hiking skills and ambitions far beyond the average kindergartener. They begin a quest to summit all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000+ ft. peaks, in the heat of summer and in winter’s bitter chill. Along the way, Herr teaches her daughter “that small doesn’t necessarily mean weak; that girls can be strong; and that big, bold things are possible.”
I enjoyed the tales of adventure, but especially relished the honest, heart-to-heart conversations Herr and her daughter had about women’s rights, about parenting, about respect for nature and for other people.
My only hangup about the book was exactly that, my own hangup. We parents can be some judgmental folks, and that includes judging ourselves. Herr’s adventures are so big and so epic that it was hard for me not to feel like an underachiever in comparison. Herr makes a point of saying that she doesn’t judge the parenting decisions of those of us who don’t home school, who have jobs other than just “Mom” or “Dad,” or don’t spend every weekend in the mountains with their kids. She doesn’t suggest we follow in her footsteps. But I still found myself occasionally chafed by how much she out-mothers most of us.
Still, despite my hangups, I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it if you’re looking for a light, quick-moving summer read.