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Day Trips for Book Lovers

These ideas for summer excursions bring your child's favorite books to life.

A visit to Chincoteague Island, setting for <i>Misty of Chincoteague</i>, is a horse-lover's dream.
A visit to Chincoteague Island, setting for Misty of Chincoteague, is a horse-lover's dream.

Not everyone lives near Chincoteague lsland off the Maryland and Virginia coastline (Misty of Chincoteague) or has a chance to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder house museum in the Ozarks (Little House on the Prairie). But books can inspire some exciting day trips. Consider your child's favorite stories — perhaps old classics, or something new he read during the past school year. Notice the themes that emerge, and plan a related trip. This is a fun way to support your child's curiosity about the subjects she loves most. We've identified some popular genres and suggested some activities the whole family can enjoy.


If your child loves...Day trip ideasInspirational titles
History Invite a few of his friends to take a group cooking class focusing on that period's cuisine.  A local culinary school, a living history museum or plantation, or a restaurant in a historic setting may be willing to do this for you. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse
Ben and Me, Robert Lawson
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
Battles Visit a battlefield to see a historic reenactment, or even participate in one. Another option: Explore a battleship that's now in dry dock. Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson, Ann Turner
Slave Dancer, Paula Fox
The Secret of Sarah Revere, Ann Rinaldi
L'il Dan, The Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story, Romare Bearden
Knights and medieval topics Visit a museum with an armor exhibit; eat a meal with your hands at Medieval Times restaurant (there are eight across the country); attend a medieval festival on a summer weekend.  With music, sporting events, and competitions, all performed in historic dress, your child will find himself fully immersed in the period. Crispin, the Cross of Lead, Avi
The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman
Knight's Castle, Edward Eager
The Castle Builder, Dennis Nolan
Explorers Find out which ones ventured through your area. Plan a journey that replicates the experience. Even if Lewis and Clark were nowhere near your home, reading an excerpt from their journal and re-creating some measure of one day's journey in a nearby park can give your child a sense of the magnitude of the endeavor.  Mark a trail through the woods and walk it carrying a backpack, and perhaps some of the equipment the explorers brought along.  Or go tubing down a river that figures in your child's reading; just for the day, call it the mighty Mississippi, even if it isn't. Lewis and Clark: In Their Own Words, George Sullivan
Encounter, Jane Yolen
To the Edge of the World, Michele Torrey
Finding the Titanic, Robert D. Ballard
Animals Join your child in volunteering for a morning at the animal shelter. She'll find our just what's involved in keeping the pets clean, happy, and well fed. Or head for a thoroughbred horse farm or racetrack; some have trackside restaurants that serve breakfast during morning workouts. A Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
The Story of Ferdinand, Munro Leaf
Babe, the Gallant Pig, Dick King-Smith
Clifford the Big Red Dog, Norman Bridwell
Boating and fishing Visit a fish hatchery. You can also take a fishing trip or a riverboat cruise. If you're lucky enough to live near a canal, rent a boat and take a leisurely ride through the locks. Watch the water rise and fall as you travel from place to place. All Dads on Deck, Judy Delton
True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi
Jim Davis: A High-Sea Adventure, John Masefield
Young Man and the Sea, Rodman Philbrick
Adventure Consider a kayaking lesson for the whole family. Go fossil hunting or spelunking. Walk through underground caverns. Sit by a waterfall.  The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
BFG, Roald Dahl
Five on a Treasure Island, Enid Blyton
Robots Engineer a trip to a factory where things are assembled. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Mecha-Monkeys from Mars, Dav Pilkey
Robots Rising, Carol Sonenklar
Snowie Rolie, William Joyce
Batteries Not Included, Seth McEvoy
Detective stories See if an investigator at your local police department would be willing to tell your child how he does his job and share a tale or two. You can also visit a magic shop and buy some "surveillance" equipment like binoculars, a walkie-talkie, a fingerprinting kit, and a magnifying glass, and send your child off on their own benign spying missions.  The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, Donald J. Sobol
Miss Nelson is Missing, Harry G. Allard
Olivia and the Missing Toy, Ian Falconer
Music Budding musicians might enjoy a visit to a factory where guitars are made. Or get tickets to a film or music festival that focuses on a particular country or composer. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, Lloyd Moss
Duke Ellington, Mike Venezia
When Marion Sang, Pam Munoz Ryan
The Muffin Fiend, Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Biographies A day trip to the house where a famous person was born is always fun, especially when that person's books, papers, and personal effects are still on display. (A trip to the gift shop afterwards is mandatory!)Sojourner Truth, Ain't I a Woman, Patricia McKissack and Frederick McKissack
Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard, Mawi Asgedom
Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown, Elaine Landau
Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, Sharon Robinson
Art Visit an art museum for half a day, then bring the kids to a paint-your-own-pottery place to reproduce some of the same colors and ideas you saw that day. Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliett
No Good in Art, Miriam Cohen
Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer, Robert Byrd
Van Gogh, Mike Venezia
Ancient Egypt Visit ruins and archaeological finds at a museum. Sketch some of the structures, then re-create them at home with a pile of cardboard boxes or tent poles and sheets. The Magnificent Mummy Maker, Elvira Woodruff
Ancient Egypt Revealed, Peter Crisp
The Egypt Game, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Ancient Egypt, Joanna Cole
American Indians Attend a powwow or festival that celebrates Native American heritage. Investigate the foods our country's first inhabitants ate and forage for them in the woods with the help of a qualified instructor. Arrow to the Sun, Gerald McDermott
Island of the Blue Dolphin, Scott O'Dell
Kaya: An American Girl, Janet Beeler Shaw
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, Navajo Girl, Ann Turner
Archaeology Take a trip to a sandy beach. Ask the kids to cover their eyes for a few minutes while you bury "fossils" (painted rocks) in the sand. Then hand out small shovels and paintbrushes to dust off the sand, and let the kids unearth all the treasures. Depending on where you live, there might be an actual dig going on in your area, where children can participate or observe; check with the science department of your local college or look for an archaeology camp.  A Bone from a Dry Sea, Peter Dickinson
Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones, Byron Barton
The Field Mouse and the Dinosaur Named Sue, Jan Wahl
Fingerprints and Talking Bones, Charlotte Jones
Comic books and graphic novels Have your child adopt his favorite character's identity for the entire day, whether you're on a trip or just staying home. This is a chance to try on a new name and identity and use the customs and manners of another place and time - even the future! Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Captain Poopypants, Dav Pilkey
The Adventures of Tintin, Herge
Meanwhile... Jules Feiffer
Just Annoying, Andy Griffiths

You can also approach summer in the opposite way — visit somewhere first, then introduce a book, especially to tempt a child who's not an avid reader. Destination ideas abound online, or consult a regional travel guide. Two to try: Frommer's Family Vacations in the National Parks, by Charles Wohlforth, and Watch it Made in the USA: A Visitor's Guide to the Companies that Make Your Favorite Products, by Karen Axelrod and Bruce Brumberg. Fodor's Family Adventures, by Christine Loomis, focuses on longer vacations, not day trips, but includes names of books for kids who like archaeology, hiking, backpacking, and animals.

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