Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Travel Novels


Since I traveled across half the country earlier this month (moving from Minnesota to Massachusetts), the topic of travel is still very much on my mind. In an earlier post, I asked for recommendations from Story-Slinger readers: here are two, along with a few more ideas of mine on…

Great Travel Novels for Kids

Mary in Indiana recommends The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Although more often thought of as a novel of the Civil Rights era, The Watsons is at its core a story about a journey from the North into the South—and the mixing of attitudes that goes along with that journey. A Newbery honor winning title, it’s by turns funny and heartbreaking, particularly as the main character Kenny grapples with the reality of the fatal bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Mary in St. Paul asks, “Can it be magic travel or time travel?” And I say, why not, especially if we’re talking about novels by Edward Eager. Mary suggests Half Magic, Knight’s Castle, and Magic by the Lake, among others. My personal favorite of these is Half Magic, in which a group of children go on a series of half-right and half-wrong journeys after finding a (somewhat) magical coin.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt is the kind of novel that makes the reader want to travel and discover. Runholt writes with a level of detail that creates a vivid picture of life and travel in a variety of settings, from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the story starts out, to the dangerous and seedy red-light district of Amsterdam, where the mystery reaches a dramatic climax. (Lucretia also recalls a classic tale of travel and mystery: the Newbery winning From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.)

Finally, I turn to a writer who can always be depended on for a fast-paced story with broad appeal (especially to boy readers): Roland Smith. His novel of climbing Mount Everest—called Peak—is like the sixth-grader novel equivalent of Jon Krakauer’s great nonfiction read for adults Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. Of course, being the sixth grader novel equivalent, it’s not so gruesome. But it reads just as briskly—like a puff of really cold, fresh air.



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Books about Travel


The moving truck deposited our stuff. My trusty car brought me, two kids, and a dwarf hamster safely from Minnesota. Now, as the dust settles from my cross-country move, I’m thinking again of books about traveling.

Here are a few more great ones, some suggested by readers of the Book-Slinger Blog. Keep the suggestions coming!

Paul suggests The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. Boasting Caldecott Honor-worthy illustrations by Stephen Gammell, this is a raucous take on what happens when family descends upon a household. It’s more a celebration of family ties than of travel, but the station wagon that disgorges all the relatives took me straight back to childhood road trips.

Pat recommends one of Nancy White Carlstrom’s first picture books, The Moon Came, Too, illustrated by Stella Ormai. While now out of print, the book is one you’ll still find at many libraries. In gentle, rhyming text Carlstrom (author of the Jesse Bear series) presents a child’s anticipation of and joy at visiting her grandmother.


Since I’ve just moved to the greater Boston area, I’ve got one wish and one recommendation:

I’ve been wishing that Czech artist and writer Miroslav Sasek had created a This Is Boston to go along with This Is Ireland, This Is London, This Is New York, et al. Too bad he didn’t! This wonderful series stands the test of time and is visually stunning.

Lastly, I’m thrilled to see all around me a green and leafy Massachusetts setting much like that in Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D. B. Johnson. Henry the bear’s 30-mile journey from Concord to Fitchburg may seem short or even downright unambitious by today’s standards, but he packs it full of adventures worthy of his human namesake and inspiration, Henry David Thoreau.

Thanks to all for suggestions & comments. If you’ve got more travel books (especially novels) to recommend, please let the Book-Slinger know.