Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Happens at the Campground...

...becomes rich story material for Maine author Tamra Wight's Cooper and Packrat series. 

Today marks the release of Mystery of the Bear Cub, Book 4 in the series.

The ecological mystery-adventure series, published by Islandport Press and illustrated by Carl DiRocco, features Cooper Wilder and his family who own Wilder Family Campground. In each book, Cooper's campground responsibilities or his love for exploration and geocaching lead him to a moral conflict wrapped up in a mystery to be solved. In Mystery at Pine Lake (Book 1), the friends are on a mission to identify the person responsible for harming the loons' nest on the lake. Cooper and his friends find evidence of poaching in Mystery of the Eagle's Nest (Book 2). Mystery of the Missing Fox (Book 3) has the growing group--alert to trapping--coming to the rescue of the stolen fox kit.

In writing the Cooper and Packrat series, Tamra draws on the experiences of her family-owned campground, Poland Spring Campground. Her own wonders and curiosities about the wildlife in her backyard and the campers who visit the campground provide her with plenty of realistic inspiration to write her fictional stories.

Life at the Wilder Family Campground becomes a real mess in Book 4 when the town makes a shift towards recycling more waste at Cooper's recommendation. Cooper's inspired and eco-friendly idea comes with unanticipated challenges for the campground and other small businesses in the area. Before long, someone is dumping trash illegally in the area around the campground and trouble arises with foraging bears. Cooper's sense of responsibility to solve this problem kicks into high-gear, and he and his friends resolve to make things right: for the town, for the campground, and for the bears.

For my readers and me, "Wilder Family Campground" is a particularly familiar setting. Last year, when our summer program featured academic programming to support the part of the curriculum about state history, we read Mystery of the Eagle's Nest. In a truly special and unique arrangement, Tamra hosted our group for an author visit at Poland Spring Campground down the road (literally) from where we read and grow and learn every day. Tamra took time away from writing and serving campers to treat our readers to a tour of the campground, and in an instant, the Cooper and Packrat books came to life. We hiked the trails of the campground, looked out at the campground's own eagle's nest (and strained to try to see evidence of eaglets), and heard Tamra present about writing, wildlife photography, and the research involved in writing the series. The students settled in for lunch in the fire ring and a read aloud with the author herself. The experience of stepping inside the setting of a series the students love is one they still talk about and has made them eager to continue reading.
There is a spot in our classroom library ready and waiting for my copy of Mystery of the Bear Cub, but I know it will likely be empty a while longer because my readers will be anxious to get their hands on this next adventure. And with big ideas and tough questions for them to grapple with alongside Cooper and Packrat, I'm anxious for them to read on, too.

I'm anxious for you to meet Cooper and Packrat and read Mystery of the Bear Cub, also, so I'm giving away a signed copy of one of Tamra Wight's Cooper and Packrat books. To win, comment on this post and include the title of the book you would most like to have and an email/Twitter handle where I can contact you. I will randomly select a winner the day before Tamra's book launch event on October 18 and will have your book signed to whomever you choose. Happy Reading!


  1. What a fantastic opportunity for you and your students, Melissa! Yay, Tamra!

  2. What an exciting giveaway! We love the Cooper and Packrat series- I own the first 3! I feel like the characters are very relatable. Reading these books has made me explore my role of "teacher as writer".

  3. a.kirby@msad17.org or @allysonlkirby

    I would love to begin collecting this series for my classroom library with "Mysteries at Pine Lake." My student's love these books!