Spring break season is upon us, which for many means taking part in the time-honored tradition of the family road trip. When I was a kid, this meant a trek across Kansas to Colorado, the backseat of our green station wagon filled with snacks and plenty of comics and books for my brother and me. Reading kept us occupied until car sickness kicked in (compounded by munching on too many Cheetos), and then we tortured my parents by endlessly inquiring, “Are we there yet?”
Even though parents now have all sorts of gadget and gizmo options to keep the kiddos entertained – portable DVD players, license plate game apps for your smart phone – I still think books are one of the best ways to pass the time. I recommend checking out books on CD or downloading audiobooks from your library before you hit the road. Here are some kids’ books the grown-ups will also enjoy, as well as books for adults that won’t have your kids repeating certain four-letter words once they return to school. Have suggestions of your own? Please share in the comments!
Kids’ Books the Grown-ups Will Like, Too
- Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” starts out with a dark premise – Nobody Owens is raised by ghosts after the rest of his family is murdered – so this is more appropriate for older elementary school students on up. That being said, the storytelling is fantastic, funny and the message ultimately life-affirming.
- You really can’t go wrong with anything read by the fabulous Jim Dale, and he brings J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to life. Start at the beginning with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
- I hesitate to call J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” a kids’ book because it is beloved by readers of all ages. In this tale, Bilbo Baggins reluctantly leaves the comforts of home to pursue adventure and treasure, encountering dwarves, elves and a dragon. The story of a quest seems the perfect accompaniment to a traveler’s own long journey!
- Kadir Nelson’s “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball” describes the Negro League and tells tales of its heroes from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. Dion Graham’s enthusiastic narration brings these historical figures to life.
Grown-up Books Okay for Little Ears
- British humor lovers should check out “My Man Jeeves” by P.G. Wodehouse. This collection of stories, first published in 1919, features the relationship between hapless Bertie Wooster and his cool-headed valet Jeeves. Wodehouse pokes fun at the aristocracy and provides plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to make the time in the car pass more pleasantly.
- “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency“is first in Alexander McCall Smith’s series of books about Botswana-based sleuth Precious Ramotswe who goes against tradition and starts her own business. This character-driven, light mystery series with a strong sense of place comes to life through the capable narration of Lisette Lecat who transports listeners to Africa with her amazing range of accents.
- Fannie Flagg has a special talent for witty storytelling about small-town life. In “Standing in the Rainbow” we are introduced to Elmwood, Missouri and the post-war optimism of the late 1940s through the eyes of 10-year-old Bobby. Flagg gives us a cast of quirky characters – from funeral home directors to gospel singers – with whom Bobby interacts over a span of more than 50 years. Heart-warming, funny and nostalgic, this story will soon make you feel like you are spending time with old friends.
What books would you recommend for traveling families?