10 books to get your little ones excited for a family vacation

July 17, 2019

Gone are the days when a family trip meant fielding an endless barrage of “Are we there yet?”. But while the streaming platforms have never had more TV options, the Birds have never been Angrier, and the Fortnites have never been... Fortnitier, nothing beats a good ol’ book to truly enhance the travelling experience. Books are unmatched in their ability to get readers of all ages amped up for a trip, to learn more about the places they’re visiting, or to simply make the most of escaping to a beautiful locale. And yes, while summer travels might provide the right opportunity to dust off your old Boxcar Children series for a new generation, there are many wonderful modern titles to keep your little ones occupied on the road.

For the early reader:

Baby Goes to Market (Atinuke, Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank, Candlewick Press) This colourful board book takes readers to southwest Nigerian marketplace, in which a baby learns about numbers by counting the oranges, chin-chin biscuits, and sweet corn being placed in his mother’s basket.


For the future naturalist:

Walk This Wild World (Sam Brewster, Big Picture Press) This nonfiction primer takes readers on informative journeys to Congolese jungle, Spanish Wetlands and Himalayan peaks. Because of the book’s tactile qualities (there are flaps to lift with facts about howler monkeys in the Amazon or wildebeests of the Serengeti hidden underneath), this book is suitable for toddlers, as well as elementary school aged children curious about wildlife.


For the dreamer

Mermaid Dreams (Written and illustrated by Kate Pugsley, Tundra Books) Maya’s parents see their beach vacation as a chance to unwind and take a nap, but Maya would rather explore the deep seas. The simple watercolour illustrations pop in this story about a girl who plays make-believe to connect with her new surroundings.


For the hands-on helper:

Owen at the Park (Written and Illustrated by Scott Ritchie, Groundwood Books) Owen’s father works at the park — the Tiergarten in Berlin, to be exact — keeping the grounds neat and green for the tourists, and Owen loves acting as his second in command. There’s a range of life and greenery hidden in the middle of the city.


For the kid who can’t sit still:

Anna at the Art Museum (Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, illustrated by Lil Crump, Annick Press) For Anna, the art museum is a place filled with strict rules and boring old pictures, and she doesn’t see what the big fuss is about. A series of events will teach her that art is for everybody, even if she appreciates it in her own way.


For the creative kid:

Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings (Francie Latour, Illustrated by Ken Daley, Groundwood Books) A girl visits family in Haiti, and learns about the country’s rich and complicated history through her aunt’s evocative artwork. As this story proves, there are many ways to learn about a place and a culture beyond what is just available in history books.


For the junior roadtripper:

Carson Crosses Canada (By Linda Bailey, Illustrated by Kass Reich, Tundra Books) A woman and her pup drive from British Columbia to Newfoundland, stopping along the way to see the rich variety of natural treasures and sightseeing spots that Canada has to offer in this funny and lighthearted tale.


For the burgeoning environmentalist:

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding The World’s Coral Reefs (Kate Messner, illustrations by Matthew Forsythe, Chronicle Books) In telling the biography of scientist Ken Nedimyer and his efforts to restore coral reefs, the lush illustrations in this book will make any reader fall in love with ocean life—and will make them want to save it.


For the sentimental child:

My Grandma and Me (Mina Javaherbin, Illustrated by Lindsey Yankey, Candlewick Press) The author reminisces about growing up in Iran with her beloved grandmother, remembering their morning prayer rituals, eating homemade cookies, observing Ramadan. It’s a book about how a sense of place can be closely tied to family, brought to life with beautifully detailed soft illustrations.


For the city kid:

Yellow Yellow (Frank Asch, Illustrated by Mark Alan Stamaty, Drawn and Quarterly) Through detail-packed, comic-strip style illustrations that will keep even the most reluctant readers busy for hours, a young boy ekes out a place for himself in a bustling chaotic city.

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For the city kid forced to go outside:

The Not-So Great Outdoors (Written and Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, Tundra Books) For the fussy narrator of this book, a family vacation means no TV, no playing with friends, and none of the regular comforts of home. If getting your child to come alone on a trip often feels like pulling teeth, subtly nudge this title in their direction and introduce them to the beauty of the outdoors.


Getting there

Check out our National Geographic Family Journeys tours here.

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