Book Birthdays! Bookish Road Trips for Kids

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The holidays are over, decorations are stored away, and we suddenly discover winter has settled in and has a strong grip on us. What is there to look truly forward to in the next several weeks? Book travel! I love planning book travel! Make your next vacation a bookish road trip for kids with exciting literacy travel destinations.

I am in the best adult book club. For a year, we read books that have the same setting. Then, we travel to the spot and enjoy ourselves.

In our first year, we read books about Charleston and then spent a glorious spring break walking around the historical city, visiting places we had read about.

The next year, we spent a year reading John Steinbeck novels and we walked in his footsteps in Pacific Grove, California.

Key West was next, and we actually got to meet Judy Blume at her bookshop.

This year, we are reading and preparing for the Kentucky Derby. The book club has changed my life!

Book Birthday Bookish Road Trips

Which got me thinking about my granddaughter.

She is the only grandchild on both sides of the family and really doesn’t need a lot. So why not do our own books travel club to celebrate her birthday each year?

How many stuffed animals does one really need? Traveling with Grandma on a sweet trip is what she’ll really remember!

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

So, when Ada Ru turned five, I gave her the picture book Swim Jim, by Kaz Windness. In this wonderfully delightful story, Jim isn’t afraid of swimming. He’s afraid of sinking. So was Ada Ru. Of course, Jim does eventually learn to swim with the help of floaties and ends up loving it. Ada needed some confidence of her own. 

We live in Denver, so we boarded the Union Pacific Railroad, the California Zephyr, to Glenwood Springs to spend the day in the world famous hot springs pool 

We had so much fun. When we got back home, I did a photo collage of our trip on the end pages of the book to remember our fun time together. Our Book Birthday officially became a thing.

Memphis, Tennessee

I turned one of my bucket list items into Ada’s 6th birthday trip. When I taught a duck unit in kindergarten, I always read Patricia Polacco’s picture book about the five ducks at The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, John Philip Duck. Polacco writes about the history of the ducks that live on the roof of the hotel and how every morning they are escorted down the elevator, across the lobby on a red carpet, to spend the day in the fountains. I signed Ada up to be an honorary duck master, and off we went. She was so excited to see the fountain and exclaimed it was as beautiful as Polacco had illustrated. Ada proudly became the duck master and marched the ducks to the fountains. She certainly was dedicated and had to keep coming back throughout the day to check on their welfare.

San Diego Zoo

Ada learned about koalas in kindergarten and asked if I could take her to Australia for her next birthday. After laughing, I replied that it was a trip mom and dad would want to take her on.  But perhaps we could do the San Diego Zoo that has a koala exhibit. I have chosen the book I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso. 

This is a funny picture book about a stuffed koala that the young boy doesn’t need anymore. Unfortunately, he soon discovers that the koala is impossible to get rid of and keeps showing up back at the house. The book has the humor and quirkiness that Ada will just love.

There are so many books that are perfect to supplement any family vacation. Here are some of the future ones I want to use for my mini travel book club with Ada.


Originally published in 1941, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, is a classic for every child’s bookshelf. But did you know that Boston’s Public Gardens has bronze statues of Mrs. Mallard and her children Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack? You can also ride on the historic Swan Boats and travel around Beacon and Charles Street.  Kids of all ages will love waddling in the ducks’ footsteps, and I know Ada will, too.


If you are heading to the Pacific Northwest, you can walk in Beverly Cleary’s footsteps. There is a 3-mile walk around Portland that begins at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park. This park has statues of Ramona, Henry, and Ribsy. You can see two of Cleary’s childhood homes, stroll down Klickitat Street, and see a movie at the Hollywood Theatre, the same theater where Henry Huggins and Otis Spofford saw their movies in Cleary’s books.

You can do an entire author study before your trip, but my favorite is Ramona the Pest. It’s the book that turned me into a lifelong reader.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Katherine Applegate’s Odder takes place in Monterey, California. You can actually see the otters swimming in the ocean, but it is the Monterey Bay Aquarium that is the star of the show. After reading Odder, kids will naturally want to help animals that need to be rehabilitated and will be enthralled by everything that the aquarium has to offer. The jellyfish exhibit is not to be missed. The same with Applegate’s middle grade novel in verse.

Odder is based on a true story of the Aquarium’s program to save the young otters through the use of surrogate mothers. Odder a definite must-read. I am sure Ada will fall in love with otters as much as she loves koalas.

Sidenote: Monterey is also where John Steinbeck wrote, and many of his books are set. Be sure to walk in Steinbeck’s steps and visit the town’s statue commemorating his great books.

San Francisco Bridge

Dave Egger’s This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is an engaging nonfiction expanded picture book featuring the history and architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The bridge is an icon for traveling to the city. Eggers’ book will have the kids spouting facts about the bridge as they marvel and experience its greatness. Thankfully, the bridge was never painted gray and remains red to this day.

Liberty Island

Dave Eggers also has written a similar book, Her Right Foot, offering fun facts about our famous Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island. No trip to New York City would be complete without a boat ride to visit and pay tribute to our country’s history. Her Right Foot is similar to The Bridge Will Not Be Gray filled with compelling fun facts.

Colorado Mountains

Ready for a Colorado camping trip? (Sorry, Ada. My camping days are long over.) You will love Kellye Crocker’s middle grade novel set in the Colorado mountains. Ava has to travel with her dad to meet his new girlfriend. But Ava is filled with anxiety and afraid of everything that can go wrong with the trip, including altitude sickness and squirrels. Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties is the journey you didn’t know you needed and is filled with laughter and lots of heart.


Any trip to Hawaii must now include Malia Maunakea’s Lei and the Fire Goddess. Lei travels to the big island to visit her Tutu for the summer. But she accidentally angers Pele, the fire goddess and now must save herself, her grandma, and best friend. Kids will be enthralled discovering the Hawaiian gods and goddesses in Maunakea’s middle grade novel. Hawaii is a big trip, so Ada and I will have to include all the family when we go.


But the place Ada most dreams about now is Scotland. When she was a baby, Melissa Savage was on her book tour for Lemons. Savage fell in love with Ada Ru’s name and used Ada’s name for the main character in Nessie Quest. This detective middle grade book has Ada Ru on the search for Nessie in Scotland with her new friend. My Ada is having the book read aloud to her right now, but she’s already trying to convince us all that she has to become the next Nessie detective and search for this creature.

Plan Your Next Bookish Vacation

Planning your next vacation can be as much fun as the trip itself. Challenge yourself to find a book for your next family adventure. I promise the book will become a keepsake of your memories.  

At Christmas, I knew Ada needed a globe or an atlas to help her learn the geography of where we were traveling to.

I chose a globe so she could get a sense of the world being round, not flat. There are so many atlases and globes to choose from. Make sure you check the publication date to guarantee you have the most current. I do recommend atlases specific for children. I like the ones with illustrations or animals to help put the countries and locations into a more understandable perspective. Don’t forget to keep updating your maps as your children and grandchildren continue to grow!

Where are you going to go next? I hope you share your book choice with us. Have fun book traveling to your next destination. 

bookish road trips for kids

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  1. What an awesome article! Loved reading about your travels, both young and old! There is nothing more powerful than the gift of reading and travel. Both were a part of my life when I was young and continue to be now as enter my retirement years. Can’t wait to start this tradition with my grandson.