Skip to main content

Travels with My Family by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel 119 pp RL 2

Marie-Louise Gay is the author and illustrator of many picture books, including the "Stella" and "Sam" series. Her bright and gentle water colors, along with the quirky siblings, big sister Stella and little brother Sam, make for beautiful books for the 2- 4 year old crowd and are also good beginning readers for older children. Gay also illustrates the "Houndsley and Catina" series of beginning reader books written by James Howe, of "Bunnicula" fame. Travels with my Family is her first chapter book, and, along with her husband (and traveling partner) David Homel, they have written a wonderful book, which I suspect is largely autobiographical as the author info notes that they have two sons and a cat named Miro.

The book consists of nine chapters, each one recounting a different vacation trip. However, as Charlie, the narrator and big brother to Max, states in the very first paragraph of the book, his parents don't go on on "normal" vacations that include hotels with swimming pools, amusement parks, giant water slides or miniature golf. When Charlie's family travels, they go in a car with no air conditioning and their cat, Miro joins them and gets carsick. Instead of "fun" vacations, Charlie's family travels to Maine and gets a visit from hurricane Bob. From there they head to Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia where Max, who can't swim, is almost drowned when the family is stranded on a shrinking sand bar as the tide comes in. They also visit northern California, where Charlie rescues Max from a sneaker wave. Not having a change of clothes, Max is forced to sit wrapped in a table cloth in the laundromat in the town of Punta Reyes as his clothes dry. They also get stuck in a sand storm in Arizona, meet some crazy farm animals on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, have a heart stopping moment in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and have some harrying adventures in Mexico, including a man who tries to fix their car engine with a spoon.

This book is ideal because it is a really well written, entertaining book for kids reading at a high second or third grade reading level and there are so few of these. It is really a travelogue more than a traditional chapter book with a plot, a climax and a resolution. Gay's illustrations lose some of their beauty in black and white, but they are a playful, welcome addition to the text. Travels with My Family is also a super book because all families take vacations, even if it is just a six hour drive to visit grandparents, so everyone can relate to these stories. As I was reading it, I was reminded of some of the crazy, but mostly fun, family vacations I have been on with my husband, kids and extended family (there were eighteen of us at a villa in Tuscany last summer) over the last five years. If you are reading this out loud to your kids, it's a great opportunity to reminisce. It's also the perfect inspiration to sit down and write out some of your own memories of family trips with your kids' help. Gay and Homel have written a sequel, On the Road Again, More Travels with my Family, in which they move the kids to the French countryside for a year. Currently it is only in hardcover.

If your child likes this book, don't miss Alison Lester's Are We There Yet? While it is a picture book, it is a very detailed account of a family's three month trip driving around their home continent of Australia. Lester is the magnificent author/illustrator of Imagine and Magic Beach, two of my all-time favorite picture books, as well as chapter books I plan to review someday soon.


Jeremy said…
Ivy finished this one in one evening and a morning of happy reading -- she loved it! Thanks for the recommendation.

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…