After Inheriting legendary time travel skills from their Papa Lewis, Tommy “Bubba Jones,” and his sister Jenny “Hug-a-Bug,” embark on a Shenandoah National Park adventure to solve a family mystery.
One of my favorite things about working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service was spending time at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, WV. Although I was living in Austin, Texas by then, the training facility was just over a four hour drive to a city where I spent half of my childhood in SE Ohio. When you work with the Department of Interior as an administrator, you find yourself surrounded by people who call animals ‘critters’, love nature and the outdoors, and go above and beyond to protect it. I was honored to be in courses where I met National Park Service (NPS) employees and when you are out and about around Washington D.C., you can’t help but notice just how many places and things are run by NPS. I believe growing up in a rural area in Appalachia had something to do with my love of nature, but Interior did a wonderful job on training their employees about the importance of nature, even to their financial employees like me. During a particular two week leadership training session in Shepherstown, I made sure that my husband came for the last half of my visit. I had spent so much time there and when I came back to Austin I couldn’t just tell him about the beauty of the area, I wanted to share it with him. That week we went to Gettysburg, we spent the weekend in D.C., and we walked around the grounds at NCTC to soak it all in – and I remember it as a wonderful high point in my continued federal service.
When you grow up in Appalachia, you don’t always feel like you are in a place that is special. There is a ‘hillbilly’ notion of the people who live there and the rural area can feel a bit backward if you are used to living in a large urban area. I grew up in a village until the age of 9 that had no shopping centers, no fast food, and had only a one-screen opera house where you could usually catch a latest released movie months after the fact. We lived on the top of a (small-ish) mountain and the last time I drove through the area, I actually got car sick from the curves in the winding roads. The area is filled with poverty, but it is rich in beautiful land. My parents weren’t afraid to let us explore on our own, and my older brother and I were always off on an adventure. When I was in my last year at college in Athens County, Ohio, I knew I was going to move away from the area. It was a bit of a relief since I knew I had to go in order to work for the federal government in a field that was not supported in the area. However, there was also a huge sense of sadness that I would never be able to feel as free as I did when I was surrounded by wildlife. To this day, I still dream about living in a little cottage in the forest and maybe, just maybe, that will happen after Bob and I retire. I love to tell my kids stories about growing up in Appalachia and that includes the Appalachian Trail, so when I recently heard about the Bubba Jones books, I didn’t want to start them in chronological order, I first wanted to read about Bubba’s adventure through Shenandoah National Park along the Appalachian Trail. This year also happens to be the 100th year anniversary of the NPS (August 25, 1916), so it’s really quite a special series to begin!
Shenandoah National Park is in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the north central area of the state of Virginia. Shenandoah was authorized in 1926 to become a National Park and was fully established on December 26, 1935. In the second Bubba Jones book, he and his family (including younger sis, happily nicknamed ‘Hug-A-Bug’) strap on their hiking gear once again to explore the area’s geological events. The book is an interesting combination of history, science, geography, mystery, and time-travel! Brooke and I have never read anything like it! The family follows clues, decipher codes, and come in contact with now-extinct animals, endangered species, and even the area’s first inhabitants. As you read (which I read aloud to Brooke over the course of a week), you get a feeling you have no idea what will happen next and as much as I know about the Shenandoah National Park, I felt like I was learning lots of new things.
After reading Bubba Jones I could tell it was written for families by an author who had a deep appreciation for nature and history. You read about how the mountains were shaped, how dinosaurs used to roam the land, and learn about U.S. Presidents who were fond of the area, like Thomas Jefferson and Herbert Hoover. There are so many things to discover and the fun codes you decipher and the time-travel aspect gives the book a mysterious twist and sometimes a very sci-fi feel so that kids who may not be so interested in reading about National Parks would read this book with a very open mind and be surprised they learned a lot of facts along the way. You feel inspired to explore the Talus mountain slopes or learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps. I did a lot of extra side talking if Brooke was interested and found myself discussing things like FDR’s policies and the Byrd family history. It was fun to expect the unexpected and the book doesn’t feel forced in the history of the area and is more like an adventure book that just happens to be about our own National Parks. This is my kind of book and I was happy to enjoy it with my daughter, Brooke. We are ready to start on our next Bubba Jones book and highly anticipate the upcoming releases in 2017 (Acadia National Park) and 2018 (Grand Canyon National park)! Happy Anniversary, NPS!
- Shenandoah is one of the nation’s most popular National Parks with over 850 miles of trails, including over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
- Skyline Drive traverses the entire length of the park for over 100 miles.
- Shenandoah is just 75 miles from Washington D.C.
- 2016 is the National Parks 100 year centennial celebration.
About the Author: Jeff Alt’s adventures have been featured on ESPN, Hallmark Channel, in the AP, and more. Alt is a celebrated author and a talented speaker. He is the author of Four Boots One Journey, Get Your Kids Hiking, and A Walk for Sunshine. A Walk for Sunshine, won the Gold in the 2009 Book of the Year awards sponsored by Fore Word Reviews, it took first place winner in the 2009 National Best Books Awards Sponsored by USA Book News, and won a Bronze in the 2010 Living Now Book Awards sponsored by Jenkins Group. Get Your Kids Hiking won the Bronze in both the 2014 Living Now Book Awards, and the 2013 IndieFab Award in Family and Relationships. Alt is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). He has walked the Appalachian Trail, the John Muir Trail with his wife, and he carried his 21-month old daughter across a path of Ireland.
About the Illustrator: Hannah Tuohy is a children’s book illustrator based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She attended Oklahoma State University and graduated with a BFA in graphic design, emphasizing illustration. Since graduating, Hannah has illustrated over a dozen children’s books including No Sand in the House, Wondering and The Oyster’s Secret. She is also a member of SCBWI. When she isn’t busy working on commissions, Hannah spends her time filling up her sketchbook and brainstorming new story ideas with her husband, Justin. The Adventures of Bubba Jones is the first chapter book series Hannah has illustrated
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