Thank you Lindsey for this post!
We are certainly limited to what we can do with our children during these days/weeks of staying at home. One thing we are not limited to is the ability to adventure to new places. Traveling has always been a dominant part of our own family’s ethos and though we can’t pack a physical bag and visit a tangible place, we can still venture into lands via stories that take place around the world. I’m excited to share with you some of our favorite “places” to travel to through literature and I highly recommend pulling your children close and visiting them yourself. When wanderlust comes calling...
Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder - Though the Ingalls family lives in a different time period, the prairie is a wondrous journey, told over the scape of a year’s time. Their life, much like ours currently, was restricted to what could be done in their own home and the land around them. It’s a great journey to travel through with your children to show them, that though it seems we have lost our modern lifestyles, we have come from generations that lived a life of staying busy and well with just their immediate family around. Without the rest of the world at her fingertips, young Laura learns the appreciation for the seasons and how each new one brings something new to be grateful for. She reminds us that a simple life is as rich as a busy one.
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett- Though you can find plenty of books that take you to England, The Secret Garden was our top choice for this list. A gorgeous, spooky Manor in the Yorkshire countryside becomes our home while we wander through hidden passageways and stumble upon a key in the vine covered walls outside the Manor. Mary, our heroine, takes us into the dead garden (Winter) and we work with her tilling the garden until it blooms through Spring and Summer. Thanks to Mary’s curiosity we meet a hidden friend in the Manor and together, we learn that kindness and compassion grow from tending to something or someone, other than ourselves. This adventure, specifically, teaches us about the Cholera epidemic, which is what displaces Mary from her own family and brings her to England. My own children love learning that this is not the first time the world has been plagued by illness and there is the promise that, we too, will be able to find our own secret gardens when this pandemic is over.
Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren- Though Sweden does not play a huge role in the story of Pippi, your children will delight in this Norwegian tale of a little girl who lives by herself and lives life simply the way she wants to. Pippi does have a desire to fit in, but her quirky ideas and behavior make adults roll their eyes and misunderstand her. Our whole family enjoys laughing with Pippi and maybe during these days when we are hunkered down at home, we might all try to add a little more whimsy to the way we do things, even if it means there is more of a mess to clean up afterwards.
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry- Annemarie lives in cobblestoned Copenhagen during the devastating time of WWII 1943, though this time was ridden in depravation, heartache and fear, this young girl shows us the important lesson of being brave enough to help those who need it. It is a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and these are the types of stories we should never stop reading aloud to our children.
The Water Horse, Dick King-Smith- A favorite in our family, if you’ve been to Scotland you know it’s truly a special land, one of which it feels completely probable that wonders like fairies and water horses might actually be true. The Water Horse is a sweet story about a family’s find of a monster, they not only love that monster so much, they love him so well. Finding him a home, one in which is famous today, Loch Ness.
Heidi, Johanna Spyri- Purple Mountain peaks speckled with goats, Heidi, is simply the best place for a step out of your home and into the Swiss Alps. If any book has the ability to reach out and physically put you someplace else, this is it. Along with the wonderful visit to the Mountain tops and Heidi’s simple, wondrous life with her grandfather and goatherd Peter, you’ll go with Heidi when she’s transferred to the city and stuffed into a world without sunbeams and wildflowers. But her loving nature and gentle spirit bring so much love to those around her, through her we learn to love during times when our hearts are aching and to cherish the time we have in fresh air and the place we call home.
Prince Edward Island
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery- Every child should have the chance to meet Anne, as they’re likely to become bosom buddies. Anne takes us through idyllic P.E. Island and through her hope and wonder for the world she teaches us that there is beauty in everything, despite whatever wrenches are thrown in our way. You will certainly walk away feeling that the little Canadian island, might possibly, be the dreamiest place on earth.
The Inventions of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick - Hugo, under the roof of Paris will take you through a visual delight, both mentally and physically, as the book is filled with sketches. Out of all of the books on the list, this one must be done with the actual book in your hands. Your children will be so happy you took an enchanted trip to Paris to meet an orphaned boy on the hunt for some pretty important secrets.
Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry- The islands of Chincoteague and Assateague are famously known for being the home of horses that were shipwrecked off of the coast of Virginia. Still to this day, you can visit the islands and watch the horses do their famous swim across the canal. This book is based on a true story and though some of the language is dated, it makes for a lovely bit of dreaming about being amongst the wild horses.
New York City, NY
Stuart Little, E.B. White- Stuart is a little mouse, born to a human family. He has an audacious personality and a kind heart and spends his chapters on an adventure through New York City, even though it’s a trip to the city through the eyes of someone very, very tiny, you’ll still enjoy your time away.
The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling- The Jungle Book is notoriously known as the story of Mowgli raised by wolves and a Tiger named Sher Kahn, but the original story is also filled with other fun animal tales like Riki-tiki-tavi the mongoose and several lesser known tales. All of Kipling’s stories are engaging and somehow simple and profound at the same time.
Books, like traveling itself, are less about what journey you choose to go on, but that you chose to go at all. We can visit so many places and meet so many new friends, just by spending time with our children in these books and so many others! Chapter books may seem daunting, but children as young as 3 or 4 can take a chapter a day. There’s no need to feel like you must have a child capable of sitting through long reading periods in order to begin traveling through larger books with them. The slower you need to go, the longer you get to stay in the story and that allows time to savor it and let the story bind itself to you and your time with your kids. Happy traveling!