Planes, trains, cars; beaches, mountains, cities; friends and family or brand-new faces. Whether summer travel takes children just down the road or across the world, it can be an adventure. Or, honestly, sometimes it can be frustrating or frightening. For children, traveling can bring a mix of emotions. They may be excited to see relatives who live far away but nervous about getting on the plane to go there. They may be looking forward to seeing the ocean but scared of going in the water. Reading stories about going on vacation can be reassuring for children and creates the opportunity to start a conversation about what their trip will be like.
Fly by Nathan Clement
While Fly tells the story of a family traveling on an airplane, the real focus is the work of the ground crew, pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers who get the plane safely from one place to another. There are few words in this picture book, with an emphasis on phrases or vocabulary used in the work of the crews. Rather than describing the plane as it leaves the gate, the text tells us that the pilot says “Roger. Brakes released. Ready for push,” and ground control responds, “You are clear to taxi.” Though we see the family looking out the window and the author explains that “some passengers read. Some watch clouds. Some snooze,” Fly has less emphasis on the passenger’s experience of flying and more on what the pilot and crew are doing. This is an interesting perspective for children who may not realize everything that is happening behind the scenes while they are flying.
Maisy Goes on Vacation by Lucy Cousins
Maisy is going on vacation to the beach, and she is excited! She packs her hat, camera, stuffed bear, and books into her special suitcase, then meets her friends at the train station. On the train, Maisy and her friends color and eat snacks while they try to catch a view of the ocean from their window. Once at their hotel, they unpack, then get dressed for the beach where they swim, play in the sand, and collect seashells. During a break, they eat ice cream and write postcards to friends describing their day at the ocean. At the end of the day, they return to their hotel and get ready for bed. Preschoolers will enjoy the simple words and descriptions in Maisy Goes on Vacation and will be able to relate to the relatively uncomplicated activities and schedule of Maisy and her friends.
Traveling by Train by Pierre Winters and Tineke Meirink
For elementary-aged children interested in some introductory details about trains and how they work, Traveling by Train is just the ticket. Starting with a brief explanation of the history of trains, Traveling by Train then gives short descriptions of diesel trains, electric trains, and high-speed trains, and explains what makes freight trains and tunnel trains special. A labeled illustration of the interior of a passenger car shows where to put luggage and where the restroom is. In addition to the information about the nuts and bolts of the train, Traveling by Train also describes the work of all the people needed to keep the train running, including maintenance workers, the engineer, and the signalman. There are age-appropriate explanations of how to navigate the train station (many stations have multiple tracks), how to buy a ticket, and what a traveler might experience on different types of trains - some with a dining car or sleeping cars. Throughout the book, there are “Did you know” bubbles with interesting facts. Traveling by Train presents a wide variety of information for children old enough to be curious about some details of train travel.
Darcie Caswell is the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL. This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.