We read books about dentists before we went to the dentist the first time, books about having a baby sister before our little one was born, and books about going into kindergarten before the big day. So it was only natural to get out stories out about long road trips! Here’s our first article in the series “Road Trips with Kids,” with some great books to read about car travel before your big trip.
Picture Books (age 4+)
Duck Duck Moose by Dave Horowitz. This short, simple story tells how Duck, Duck, and Moose road trip to Florida from the Great North Woods for the winter. Great for the little ones!
Road Trip by Roger Eschbacher. Humorously chronicling a 2 day, cross-country driving trip to Grandma’s house, this story is told by rhyming poems. Every aspect of a family trip is mentioned: games like I-Spy and license plate BINGO, urgent bathroom breaks, restless siblings, and cheesy tourist traps. If you ever took a road trip as a kid, this book will be a nostalgic reminder of car rides before iPads and DSs.
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Car Trip by Stan and Jan Berenstain. “Oh no, not a car trip! Not a long, boring car trip!” the cubs first complain. But like all of the Berenstain stories, the learn their lesson by the end, after visiting many beautiful sights in Bear Country: “I was just thinking how this trip is a lot different from what I expected.” They remembered “the big sky, the great falls, the mighty mountains, the little graveyard at Beadle Creek, and the heroes of Bear Country’s history in the side of a mountain.”
La Rue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation by Mark Teague. La Rue, the smart, postcard-writing dog is traveling across the country by car with some of his not-so-favorite cats. The kids enjoy the colorful illustrations, and wonder if in fact dogs and cats can ever be friends!
Just One More by Wendi Silvano. While this book is the sole story that takes place on a bus, instead of a car, the characters are still technically traveling on the road. The story was hilarious to me, because it is so authentic and real (down to the bag of chickens). A bus driver keeps loading passengers on his overcrowded bus through the Andes Mountains, until finally not even one more will fit. This was my experience every day on the way to my university in Quito, Ecuador, except instead of the story’s “Just one more,” our bus drivers would shout “Sigue no mas” (just keep going- it doesn’t matter that you think there’s no more room… we will fit you in!).
Wagons Ho! by George Hallowell and Joan Holub. This story is for slightly older children than the other books, and is graphically packed with fun facts and images. The premise of the story is to compare 2 families traveling (actually moving) from Missouri to Oregon by covered wagon and by car. The first family takes 5 weeks, in 1846, to compete the cross-country journey; the second family takes only 5 days, in present time, to cover the same ground. This book is interesting for older kids and adults as well, as you learn what stops they make, what they bring with them, and how they meet at their destination.
Easy Readers (age 5+)
My Car Trip by Sindy McKay offers parents to take turns with their beginner readers, with the parent’s page on the left, and then the child’s page on the right. Great for the earliest readers (see photo at the beginning of the article)!
Olivia Takes a Trip by Ellie O’Ryan. Olivia decides the car trip is too boring, so she decides to pretend they are flying in an airplane, and then loves the drive! Notice how the author has some images mixed with the text to help the young readers decipher the story.
Fred and Ted’s Road Trip by Peter Eastman. Eastman, the protégé of Dr. Seuss has 2 of the dog characters from Go, Dog, Go! back to take a road trip with each other. Simple, rhyming text for beginning readers, and classic illustrations.
Chapter books (7+ or great for younger kids as read-aloud chapter books!)
Amelia’s Are-We-There-Yet Longest Ever Car Trip by Marissa Moss. Filled with diagrams and illustrations, this short novel reads like a hand-written journal. Amelia is off to visit her best friend, but must drive a long way in order to see her again. Amidst sibling jokes (Amelia is traveling with her younger sister Cleo), and lots of famous sights, kids will pore over the detailed pages.
Barfing in the Backseat #12: How I Survived My Family Road Trip by Henry Winkler. The title really says it all:). This easy-reading book is part of a series of books that highlight the adventures of a young boy named Hank Zipzer. No matter how hard Hank tries in school, he just can’t get it right. This hilarious story about his family road trip is inspiring and entertaining- especially as a read-aloud! An interesting fact: this book was written by the Fonz (Happy Days!) who struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia during his childhood.
Travels with my Family, by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel, tells the story of a family whose parents only want to visit obscure places “in the middle of nowhere.” Each chapter the eccentric family visits a new quirky destination, and their traveling adventures keep you smiling throughout the book. It does leave you inspired to try to get off the beaten path on your next family vacation!
Have I left any great road trip books off the list? Which other books would you include?