MMGM Book Review: Just Keep Walking

Participating in the Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays blog hop  hosted by Greg Pattrige of Always in the Middle, with loads of reviews of Middle Grade fiction (books for roughly ages 8-12).


Title: Just Keep Walking

Author: Erin Soderberg Downing

Publication info: Scholastic Press, 2024. 242 pages.

Publisher's Blurb:
Two years after her parents’ surprising and painful split, twelve-year-old Jo and her mom find themselves on the 100-mile hike on the Superior Hiking Trail along Lake Superior’s north shore –a journey that Jo had always looked forward to hiking with her dad. It’s not a situation that either of them ever predicted they’d find themselves in, yet here they are in the wilderness with their entire lives stuffed into a pair of thirty-pound packs.

Along the trail, they’ll suffer through endless aches and pains, scorching heat, and crippling self-doubt. They’ll encounter bears, moose, and other wildlife and meet and collect an assortment of unlikely friends. Day after day, Jo will battle the incessant thoughts that come in and out of her head. But as one obstacle after the next continue to test her strength and ultimate survival, Jo will have to confront her greatest fears head on and learn how to be alone.

What begins as a journey to prove to her father that she and her mom can make it on their own turns into a quest to rediscover their strength, build resilience, and prove that they can survive—both for themselves and for each other.

My Review:
I added this book to my TBR when I saw it in a previous MMGM post. It was a no-brainer for me, as I'm an avid backpacker and don't see much fiction (for kids or adults) about doing such hikes. I crossed my fingers that it would be realistic and neither romanticize nor catastrophize the idea of a long(ish) backpacking trip.

To my relief and delight, I think the author nailed it. Reading her note at the end of the book helped make it clear how she managed that, as she pretty much did what the characters in the novel did--hit the trail as a mom with a 7th-grader and far too little experience to know what they were doing. Their struggles are spot on, and the way Jo settles into life on the trail also felt right. That her mother didn't do as well--that happens.

Of course, the real story is what goes on in Jo's head, and between Jo and her mother, over the course of the hike. That, too, is well done, but I love that it's happening through and because of the hiking. Because one thing I know is that walking, and especially walking day after day for hours (i.e., backpacking), is about the best way there is to get one's head straight.

My Recommendation:
This is a good read, suitable for kids from 8 up. It might even be a good thing to read with your kids if you want to introduce them to backpacking. Certainly there's enough there to head off unrealistic expectations, and likewise enough positivity to not discourage them.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Just Keep Walking out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


In this context I can hardly be blamed for tossing out a note about my own book for backpacking parents and their little ones, using photos my husband and I took while backpacking with our kids a decade or two back. I wrote A Is For Alpine originally just for my own friends, but later decided to publish it. If your family are hikers, you may enjoy it!

A is for Alpine: An Alphabet Book for Little Hikers 

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©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2024
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  1. I'm glad this book got backpacking right. I'm intrigued because I live in Michigan so the setting sounds really interesting. Thanks for featuring it this week.

    1. I enjoyed it, though it didn't exactly make me move the Superior trail up on my list of desired routes. Of course, I'm a desert-and-alpine girl at heart.

  2. This sounds like a book that is well written and will appeal to lots of kids and perhaps adults too. Kudos to you on your book also!


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