Holidays and Camping In Art And Picturebooks

Scholars who study holidays and tourism classify holidays into five broad types. Which type(s) do you prefer? And how are holidays commonly depicted across children’s literature?

As usual, I’ve noticed that picture book reality is a couple of generations behind modern childhood reality, and for good reason. Holidays are the perfect opportunity for freedom, and when the author can more legitimately get parental care out of the way.

Paradise

Paradise holidays feature beaches with fancy hotels and resorts with all the advantages of home plus massages, spa treatments, waiters bringing you cocktails and so on. For Australians, the paradise playground is Bali, and certain Pacific Islands.

These industrial attempts at paradise must strike a careful balance, since no one wants to go somewhere that feels industrial, even if the luxuries themselves require precisely that.

The children’s book version of the holiday in paradise is the carnivalesque story, in which hierarchy is upturned and the child does exactly what they want… before returning safely to their everyday life.

Until recently, children don’t experience a paradise holiday, though many Australian parents are now happy to take their young children on luxury cruises and so on, for a taste of paradise. I’m yet to see that trend echoed in children’s literature, in which case children’s holidays take place in a larger arena with more freedom from supervision and organised activities.

The Eagle's Nest Hotel New Yorker Cover 1935 by William Steig (1907-2003)
The Eagle’s Nest Hotel New Yorker Cover 1935 by William Steig (1907-2003)

For children, the paradise holiday is often a trip to the seaside. There won’t be waiters bringing coocktails, or people selling massages, but the seaside is a nice blend of ‘paradise’ plus ‘wilderness’. The seaside arena hits that sweetspot, and the seasides that appear in children’s picture books are never very industrialised. You won’t find massive apartment towers casting shadows across these beaches. They will either be quite deserted or comfortably populated, with plenty of room for everyone.

Common Objects At The Seaside by Arthur Rackham
Common Objects At The Seaside by Arthur Rackham

The Wild

Camp-Fire Girls In The Forest, 1918
Camp-Fire Girls In The Forest, 1918

Children’s book authors and illustrators love the wild, and the fun of a camping expedition in the wilderness. In stories as in real life, the wilderness holiday is considered a survival test, and a way of inducing manliness or independence.

family-minus-tent

The camping holiday can be utopian, comedic, adventurous or horrific. The camping holiday is a widely utilised plot across children’s literature.

THE PSEUDO-WILD OF CHILDREN’S STORIES

Backyard Campers, Amos Sewell (1901-1983) 1953
Backyard Campers, Amos Sewell (1901-1983) 1953
Amos Sewell YMCA kayaks
Amos Sewell YMCA kayaks
Five Go Off In A Caravan begins on a hot sunny day when the children see a circus go by. This gives George an idea for a camping holiday. The others are excited about this and Julian asks his mother to hire a caravan. After a few days they leave for Merran Lake where they befriend Nobby, a boy who works for a circus.

The Ruin

If your holiday involves trips around ancient sites and castles, the pyramids and Jerusalem, this type of holiday is known as ‘ruin-centred’. People who visit such places often have a keen interest in history. Though I think just as many are crossing off sites on their bucket list.

1950s U.S. Canadian Border at Waterton Glacier National Park by Ben Kimberly Prins
1950s U.S. Canadian Border at Waterton Glacier National Park by Ben Kimberly Prins
By Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994)--The Vacationers f. The Saturday Evening Post, Aug 25, 1951
By Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994)–The Vacationers f. The Saturday Evening Post, Aug 25, 1951

The Living Culture

If you want to experience another culture as authentically as possible, you’re after a holiday in a ‘living culture’.

People who seek these kinds of holidays can be contemptuous of the holidays makers who go for a paradise experience, traveling halfway around the world to sit in a luxury hotel that may as well exist in their own backyard.

Living culture holidays can genuinely expand the mind. Sex tourism is included in the category of ‘living culture holiday’.

William Strang Bank Holiday 1912
Bank Holiday 1912 William Strang 1859-1921

The Playground

The Disneyland trip is your classic playground holiday, but a holiday can be ‘themed’ outside the confines of an actual theme park. Many holiday packages offer a themed holiday which spans a broad geographical arena, but the tourist is made to feel each of these disparate places are part and parcel of the same sort of thing: The Irish experience, the Japanese experience, the African experience.

The playground holiday is a simulation of reality.

GETTING THERE

The trip to the holiday is often fraught with tension, in children’s stories as in real life. In Western picture books, in which the reader moves through a book from left to right, the characters will be facing right.

Les Minets en vacances, de Marie de Grandmaison, illustrés par Jean Matet, 1920
Les Minets en vacances, de Marie de Grandmaison, illustrés par Jean Matet, 1920
Stephen Gammell – The Relatives Came, written by Cynthia Rylant
M. Sasek – This is Rome
Roger Duvoisin – The Happy Lion’s Vacation, written by Louise Fatio

Though the view from behind the car is also pretty common.

FURTHER READING

The Five Types of Summer Vacation from JStor Daily

Header illustration: Rudy Wendelin (1910-2000) Smokey Bear

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