‘Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars’: Steven Rinella’s First Children’s Book Is a Treasure for the Ages

Within moments of unpacking the family’s copy of Catch a Crayfish, Count the Stars, “MeatEater” host Steven Rinella’s first children’s book, my granddaughter Nora was pages deep in deciding which outdoor projects she wanted to do first.

Filled with illustrations, stories that appeal to young adventurous minds, and answers to their curiosities, by bedtime, “Catch a Crayfish” was tucked under her arms as she drifted off to sleep. By breakfast the next morning, Nora had already gone around her family home looking for a magnet, a bottle cork, a plastic cup, and a bowl to make the homemade compass in the first chapter of the book.

Rinella’s Catch a Crayfish is a big hit with children and their parents, if my family is any judge. It is filled with chapters on adventures both will love, no matter if their home is in the city, suburbia, or the country. You want to learn how to build a fishing rod out of a sturdy stick? It’s got that. Want to sit under the sky at night and understand the constellations? It’s in there. Want to go on an adventure and find antlers? He’s all over that. And that Y-shaped stick you were always told finds water? Find out if witching is fact or fiction.

Shannon Venditti

Rinella, a native Michigander, runs his multiplatform MeatEater empire from Montana. It is a modern-day multiplatform general store filled with a variety of choices for those who hunt and those who just love adventure. The empire offers choices that include his “MeatEater” Netflix reality show, podcasts with multiple hosts, several bestselling cookbooks, and wilderness skills-themed books, all interwoven with the kind of story-spinning and telling that American lore has been built on for centuries.

His collection of campfire stories (MeatEaters Campfire Stories) on audiobooks is my favorite. There are times the stories are so captivating and real that you feel as though you are there, which is somewhat unnerving if you are listening while driving alone in the Rockies and Badlands and you have a vivid imagination.

Rinella told me he was heavily influenced in writing the book by how he was brought up, much of it spent outdoors, experiences that shaped his life, his parenting, and his livelihood. 

“The outdoors was such a part of my life that I can’t remember that moment when I started hiking or hunting or fishing because it was something I always did,” he said.

Rinella said he started thinking about doing Catch a Crayfish about the same time he was doing his other parents-themed book, Outdoor Kids In An Inside World. “Because Outdoor Kids In An Inside World is written for parents like me or caregivers,” he said, adding, “I simultaneously started thinking, well, when I finish this, I’m going to do what I would regard as a companion book of real-world activities that we can do with kids that will help accomplish the same goals that we set off for parents in Outdoor Kids In An Inside World.”

Rinella said the goal of Catch A Crayfish is simple: “How do you have activities for kids that will foster that feeling connected to nature, foster the ability to do risk assessment and physical tasks and become greater self-sufficiency, greater sort of nature dexterity.”

“And, ultimately, also how to be safer outdoors by learning how to deal with risk in a controlled circumstance and get educated about the things around you,” Rinella added.

For his family, days filled with screens aren’t happening. Days filled with what is in Catch a Crayfish are. They get options, he said, but none of them includes screens.

“As much as I can do things where I make lifelong partners and outdoor adventures with my kids and train them up and show them how to do it, then I get to do more of what I love, too,” Rinella said.

“That might seem weirdly selfish, but look at it from another angle. I want my kids to see, to be surrounded by adults and surrounded by people who influence them, who live a life of passion and dedication to something,” he said of the ultimate human need: a purposeful life.

Spending time reading Catch a Crayfish is not that different than spending a day with Rinella. The passion, love, and respect for nature, creativity, and purpose come through in every chapter, project, and idea he throws at the children—no different than what he throws out in real life.

How he teaches children to forage morels takes me back to when I would do that with my grandmother, who would tell endless stories during our adventure from “the old country” as we rummaged through the woods, looking for the delicious mushrooms behind her home in Pittsburgh.

It is at that moment you really appreciate what Rinella has done. Passing the guiding hands of the past through nature and yourself to the future of your family legacy: It’s a beautiful thing.


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