TOASTING MARSHMALLOWS: Camping Poems the Classroom
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by Kristine O'Connell George
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    ISBN 0-15-202-501-4
Ages 6 to 10

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Learn more about the illustrator, Kate Kiesler.



Everything that happens when you go camping can be an adventure, from getting dressed inside your sleeping bag on a chilly morning, to meeting a moose to sharing secrets in a tent at night. Kristine O’Connell George turns the memorable moments of a family outing into spirited, evocative verse, and Kate Kiesler’s vivid paintings provide a cast of characters and the perfect setting. The captivating poems and pictures in Toasting Marshmallows will leave readers with wonderful memories of a camping trip—even if they’ve never been on one!

Toasting Marshmallows—and campfires—in the Classroom

  Teacher's Guide: Writer's notebooks, cinquains, and flashlight poems
   S'Mores:  Resources for camping units

   After previewing numerous 'virtual campfires' for classroom and library campouts, the winner is:

Natures Fireplace - Campfire Ambience
Terry Smyth



ABOUT WRITING Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems


Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems. Copyright 2001 Kate KieslerCamping.  What is it about camping?  You get dirty, sleep on the ground, and are often either too cold or too hot.  Not to mention mysterious night noises and menacing mosquitoes.   

Yet, what I remember about camping is the magic.  The way the sun shines through a tent in the morning.  Squirrels, chipmunks, moose, and deer - soft green moss under a tree.  The quiet moments where I slow down, breathe deeply, and reconnect with the earth. I feel very "small" when I'm camping - an insignificant part of an enormous universe. This feeling of smallness helps me focus and see what is important.  And what isn't. 

When I first saw Kate Kiesler's art for Toasting Marshmallows, I got a lump in my throat.  Kate lived just a "stone's throw" away from the reservoir in Colorado where my grandparents took us fishing every summer and many of the places she painted in this book hold special memories for me. 

It's poignant and startling to see special places through an artist's eyes. The color and light Kate captured in "Storm" and "River Messages" remind me of those dramatic Rocky Mountain afternoon thunderstorms I love so much.  She was also able to reference two of my favorite vacation photographs: an abandoned cabin near Ashcroft, Colorado, and a '54 GMC flatbed outside of Kings' Canyon. (I wonder if the owner of that "Old Truck" will discover the poem and recognize it.)

Kate and I hope Toasting Marshmallows rekindles your own outdoor adventure memories and inspires you to pack up your tent and head for the hills.

Happy camping!


School Library Journal Best Book
NCTE Notable Book
Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award
Book Links:  A Lasting Connection
Children's Literature Choice
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy
Nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Master List, 
Kentucky Blue Grass award, Indiana's Young Hoosier's award.
3 Starred Reviews!


"A young girl savors the sights, sounds, and smells of a family outing. Whether playful or profound, the exquisitely crafted poems reverberate with eloquent yet effortless language, while the radiant acrylic artwork hints at the awe-inspiring mysteries of nature." School Library Journal Best Books 2001

Starred review, School Library Journal
"...a child-focused sense of wonder...the poems are varied and inventive, replete with marvelous images and universal truths...A terrific idyll for summertime sharing, even for confirmed couch potatoes. 

Starred review, Booklist 
Infused with the wonder and thrill of living outdoors, these are direct, satisfying poems that will engage kids at school, across the curriculum, or at home."

Starred review, Publisher's Weekly  "...This volume by George and Kiesler is as delicious as a roasted marshmallow treat. George's poems shine, the images clear and startling. A "panther cloud crosses the sky"; after a storm, a "confetti of birds" another rain shower." A concrete poem in the shape of a waning moon is exquisite: "Tipping/ a slender/ silver ear,/ Moon tries/ to pretend/ she isn't listening/ to our/ secrets." Readers will definitely want S-mores." 

"One can almost see the starlit night, taste the marshmallows, and hear the buzzing insects as words and illustrations combine in this unique collaboration." Christopher Moning, Children's Literature
"Poems convey a wonderful sense of place as a family enjoys the vastness and immediacy of nature while camping." Stephanie Loer, Boston Globe

"Altogether, an engaging trip." Kirkus



"A Doe"



"Sleeping Bag"


"The Best Paths"

"Abandoned Cabin"

"By Myself"



"Rain Dance"

"Mosquito Song"

"Toasting Marshmallows"

"Two Voices in a Tent at Night"


"Max's Bait Shop"

"Gone Fishing"
"Rowing to the Island"


"Wild Mustard"

"Forest Walk"
"Old Truck"

"Moose Brunch"

"River Messages"

"Flashlight" (four haiku)


"Sleeping Outside"


"Pulling Up Stakes"



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