Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Written & Illustrated by: Jennifer Thermes

For ages: 5-7 years 

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Trailblazers, Environment, 

Summary: Emma lived and worked on a farm.  She had 11 children, and lots of work to do.  Sometimes though, she got a chance to sneak away for a break.  After her children were all grown up, she set out to hike the Appalachian trail in the spring of 1955.  Emma had read about the AT in a magazine, and that no woman had ever hiked the entire trail. Stretching all the way from Georgia to Maine, Emma set out to make history.  She camped along the trail, and even chased away a bear by yelling at it!  Along the trail, she met many kind people and earned the nickname Grandma.  She walked and walked, and enjoyed the views the entire time!  Emma’s shoes fell apart once, but she didn’t like wearing clunky mens hiking boots so she taped up her canvas sneakers and kept walking.  Reporters began waiting for her at each rest stop, fascinated why an older woman would want to hike the entire AT.  Emma didn’t realize a hurricane was going to occur, and she was deep in the woods when the bad weather began.  She fell and twisted her knee, but was able to find shelter with a bunch of teenage boys and they helped her cross the stream the next morning.  Lots of people offered to help her, but she was glad to be alone again with just the stars for company.  As she reached the end, winter was coming.  Struggling, and with a sprained ankle, Emma climbed the last mountain!  She did it!

There are more in-depth notes about the AT and Grandma Gatewood in the back of the book, and maps sprinkled throughout the story as well.  An inspiring tale about a little-known figure defeating a monumental task!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of the AT?
  • What do you like to do when you’re outside?
  • Have you ever got on a hike before?
  • What do you think Grandma Gatewood felt like when she was finally done hiking the AT?
  • What is something you’ve done before that made you feel proud to have completed?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about the getting-ready process to leave and hike the AT.  What do hikers have to do to prepare, and what are the different routes they can take?  How long does it normally take?  Learn about the youngest thru-hiker, Ellie, and her parents!  They can be found online, she’s known as the Dirtbag Baby 🙂
  • Go on a nature walk at a place near you.  What are some things you bring with you for a short time, and what would you need to bring with you for a longer journey?
  • See if there are any videos about the AT, or an online chronicle of the long hike.  Reach out to finishers of the AT and ask some questions about their experiences!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Headshot_Dec.2016Jennifer Thermes is a children’s book author, illustrator, and map illustrator.
She graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in Communication Design. Her books have received a Kirkus starred review, been included in several Bank Street College lists, and been recognized in 3×3 Magazine’s Children’s Illustration Annual.

A Horn Book Magazine review described Jennifer’s black & white art as “warm pencil drawings reminiscent of Lois Lenski.” She has created maps for books including Thornghost, The Emperor’s Ostrich, and The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

School Library Journal had this to say about her most recent book, GRANDMA
GATEWOOD HIKES THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL: “Beautiful illustrations and an emphasis on the value of nature, determination, and grit make this a great nonfiction selection.” CHARLES DARWIN’S AROUND-THE-WORLD ADVENTURE was a 2017 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 and a Notable Social Studies Book for Young People.

Up next are illustrations for middle grade novel FREYA & ZOOSE (Crown, January ’19); and MANHATTAN: MAPPING THE STORY OF AN ISLAND (Abrams, Fall ’19).

Jennifer lives with her family and an assortment of cats, dogs, and uninvited mice in an 18th century farmhouse in Connecticut.

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