Whether young readers are in year-around school classrooms or have summer vacation plans, there is always room for books. Books help fill lazy, hot days with cool, vicarious trips and bring added ideas, knowledge and entertainment. Carefully chosen books have a "stick-to-the-ribs" quality of a good menu.
Following are some ideas for books about the places you plan to go on vacation or merely books to read because the family is going to travel by armchair this summer:Nearly all adults who go on trips use maps and travel guides. There are several sets of books especially for children that give introductions to places they may visit.
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (Children's Press) is a set of 52 books showing the geography, history, government, economy, arts and recreation of each of the states, concluding with an exciting "tour" of significant sights.
By the same publisher, ENCHANTMENT OF THE WORLD is a series of 51 books that give historical overviews of foreign countries. These are both a little like textbooks but give a wonderful overview of a trip.
Also by Children's Press are eight books about the NATIONAL PARKS, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Great Basin; each one has full-color photographs, maps and interesting "fun facts" of little-known statistics.
HISTORIC PLACES OF EARLY AMERICA and NATURAL WONDERS OF AMERICA (Macmillan) present full-color photographs and informative text, making them not only an indispensable reference, but perfect for armchair travelers and those planning a special holiday.
The new "Imagine Living Here" series by Vicki Cobb and Barbara Lavallee (Walker) includes THIS PLACE IS COLD, THIS PLACE IS DRY, THIS PLACE IS WET and, THIS PLACE IS HIGH. In each, a location is described where climate and altitude plays an important part in survival. In "This Place is Cold," for example, the author and illustrator found that in parts of Alaska eyelashes freeze and blubber is one of the most important commodities. The illustrations are stylized art, which adds to the mysterious facts and notions of each setting.
Speaking of visiting Alaska, IN TWO WORLDS: A YUP'IK ESKIMO FAMILY by Aylette Janness and Alice Rivers (Houghton Mifflin) is a photo essay of a Yup'ik Eskimo family in a changing world where the traditional heritage is bumping against a modern world. Children who read this book will see other children in the small Alaskan community of Scammon Bay on the coast of the Bering Sea, which is isolated from other people by a day's travel. These youngsters use computers, play after-school video games and yet hunt seals as their elders have done for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.
This would be a wonderful preface to a trip north. It is also an introduction to a group of children with similarities and yet obviously different needs.
STRINGBEAN'S TRIP TO THE SHINING SEA by Vera B. Williams and Jennifer Williams (Greenwillow) is a model for any child who wants to keep track of a trip through a creation of an album of postcards and photographs recording each important (and no so important) event in the trip. Just be prepared to buy lots of postcards and sketching materials!
My favorite travel books for children are the new "Gulliver Travels: A Kids Guide . . . " series (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). There are only four in the set so far - Washington, D.C., Florida, New York City and Southern California - but the format warrants one for each state or locale.
With easy-to-read text, this book becomes a companion on a vacation. It is meant to be written in, and there are sketches with puzzles to solve and diary entries. There are "Did you know?" kinds of statements sprinkled throughout with bits of information and questions to find more details. Outline maps invite travel lines and sketches of what is found. The calendar lists events that would be occurring each month with many recommendations for visitors centers and associations to contact for help and reservations.
I was impressed with the appendix, which lists those places which children of all ages would find interesting. There will be no unwanted surprises either, since prices and touring hours are all listed.
Car games (with puzzle answers) are given, but - alas! - never a suggestion for additional read-aloud stories, historical or fictional books or non-fiction that is available as listen-along tapes, which would correlate with the place to be visited.
(If you are looking for a list - or even a single title - use the reference "Subject Guide to Children's Books in Print" in the local library or the children's librarian can direct you to some titles.)
Reading aloud is a good activity on any summer jaunt. LISTEN TO THIS, compiled by Laura Cecil (Greenwillow), is a collection of 13 stories meant to be read aloud. Some are original stories from writers like Margaret Mahy and Virginia Hamilton. Others come from folklore. While "mind pictures" would be a fine activity, young listeners will want to look at the expressive illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark, which expand these humorous stories.
Another anthology for reading aloud is THE RANDOM HOUSE BOOK OF HUMOR FOR CHILDREN, selected by Pamela Pollack with illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky. These will appeal to a little older audience than LISTEN TO THIS, and even adults will find humorous pieces that tickle their funny bone such as "Lake Wobegon Days" by Garrison Keillor and "Life Among the Savages" by Shirley Jackson. Some of the selections are taken from novels, so be prepared to stop by a bookstore or library on the way to read the entirety of the favorites.
At the conclusion of the trip or as days begin to shorten, WHEN SUMMER ENDS by Susi Gregg Fowler and Marisabina Russo (Greenwillow) may be the choice for reading. In this picture book, a little girl tells her mother, "When summer ends, I will cry and cry." But the child - and the reader - is reminded of the many excitements of the seasons to come.
But until the seasons change and summer travel is over, remember that any time, any place, is reading time.