I’ve wanted to see the world since I first ran out into my backyard as a young child, was promptly yelled at by my mom, and locked back inside.
Though I credit a certain amount of curiosity, I also believe my love of reading had a great deal to do with it. Books can take you anywhere you wanna go, for a short time, but when the pages closed, I longed to be in the lands for-real and forever.
Below you can find a few of my childhood favorites, that gave me a sense of adventure, and made me question life outside of my bedroom. I hope they give your kids a new outlook on life, too.
Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
Nothing rips out your heartstrings like kids in danger, but tragedy and emotional strife aside, Terabithia is a place in every one’s minds that we wish we could go to when life isn’t exactly what we want. From lonely children to the office worker locked in a dark cubicle for the entire day, doesn’t it feel good to let you mind wander, to turn the backyard, or bus stop, or coffee room, into a place where you’re Queen (or King) and everything is beautiful for just a few minutes?
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
I was born in New York City, and sat up at night watching the B train (now the D train) sail past my house, wishing I could hop on and live in the City alone. In this Newberry winner, a brother/sister team run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They live the dream of anyone who has ever visited, by sleeping in historic beds, viewing statues at night, and finding their own treasures in the process.
James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
Dahl’s famous story of escaping tragedy gets a lot of grief from children’s book censors for it’s somewhat graphic content. The idea, though, of taking a common household object, using it to run away from your problems to a place full of magic and friends, is acceptable to all ages. It just took one read for me to understand the title character’s need to see someplace, be somewhere else, in order to find himself.
Jumanji, Van Allsburg
Can’t get to a safari? Let the safari come to you! I think we’ve all wished travel was as easy as opening a board game. What also sneaks into the book, however, is the idea that you must play the rules of the game to survive in it; a meaning us adults can take on real safari by knowing that when we respect every place we travel to, we’ll fit in just fine.
Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans
Francophile Anna, age five. I dressed up as Madeline for the annual town Halloween contest and haven’t gone back since. The idea of strolling the city, balloon in hand, meeting a mysterious and well-dressed boy, and coming home to a house of caring BFF’s is something I’d love as much today as in 1989.
Meet Kirsten, Janet Beeler Shaw
Anyone who grew up in a house full of travel could appreciate the American Girl books. For me, Kirsten rang true to what my family experienced, coming over from Italy. I could see my grandmother, arriving in New York City, scared and excited, finding other Italian families, and creating communities. Of course, it just made me long for friends from different lands, and the chance to see the countries, too.
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
Striving through difficult times has always inspired me, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the classroom when this book was assigned, but a lot of people forget how important a part the city plays in this story of WWII era Europe. Copenhagen has become one of my favorite places to travel in my adult life, and the stories of Ellen and Annemarie (I’m sure the name-in-common helped too!) solidified that in my heart.
The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner
Finding a new place to live, in a new area… sounds great, doesn’t it? The Boxcar Children made a simple old train car into a home, in a secluded area of nature, where they learned how to adapt to their surroundings, and created the life they wanted to live. In a less backwoods sort of way, I dream of packing a bag, moving to Prague, or Buenos Aires, or Vancouver, making a new home, and being happy forever.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
This first Chronicles of Narnia book is packed with wanderlust from the first page: a mysterious mansion, the doorway to an adventurous land, a foreign people filled with secrets. Sure, the Bahamas may not be through your closet door, but the steps the children take when meeting new friends in Narnia can be approached on a Caribbean island as much as a fictional storyland.
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
For a book with no words, Sendak’s illustrated classic has stuck to the hearts and minds of generations of kids, including director Spike Jonze, whose adaptation of this story hits theaters this fall! Our hero, Max, is going through a little bit of a hard time. To cope, his mind takes him to a land where his new friends expose him to adventure and excitement, and he ultimately becomes the hero by learning exactly what he has to offer the world. Sometimes we can become so scared in our daily lives, that we get stuck. Sometimes, all it takes is something foreign and new, like being in a place where we don’t speak the language, or having to navigate our way around, or making a week last on just a few dollars, to remind us what we have in ourselves.