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.

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