To Grandmother’s House We Go!

by Alena Rivers

Not all of our summer excursions can be tropical vacations. Whether taking time for staycations or logging miles and miles on the road to visit family, for children, time spent in a different place, or traveling to it, can spark imaginations and inspire new adventures. Long road trips and quiet summer days provide great opportunities for children to explore their surroundings and give their brains the freedom to daydream. Here are a group of newly-published picture books in the Butler Center that feature children and the imaginative ways they spend time with grandparents or passing the time on warrior-style road trips to visit them.

Are We There Yet? By Nina Laden, illus. by Adam McCauley (Chronicle, 2016)

A boy and his mother take an extended drive to grandmother’s house. Not long before they are on the road, the boy asks his mother, “Are we there yet?”. The mother simply replies, “No.” This familiar-to-adults exchange is repeated across each two-page spread of the book while readers are taken on an illustrated journey through cities, over bridges past farms and deserts until they reach grandmother’s house. The story is a simple reminder for kids and their adult caregivers of the excitement just outside the car window that can be easily overlooked on long road trips.

Are We There Yet? By Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 2016)

Caldecott medalist, Dan Santat creates a larger-than-life visual voyage when a young boy and his parents embark on what feels like the longest car ride ever to his grandmother’s birthday party. The boy’s initial excitement about the road trip is soon stunted by the bland scenery outside his car window. Santat illustrates imaginative scenes and uses minimal but complimentary text to depict what can happen when you let your brain run wild during the most mind-numbing, tiresome treks to the fun waiting at the end of the road.

The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser, illus. by Barry Root (Candlewick, 2016)

Charlie, a young boy, makes annual, two-week summer visits to his grandparents’ farm. Not much happens during these summer visits so Charlie amuses himself by playing near a stream with tadpoles and turtles. Charlie discovers that by using a rock to hit the railing of a bridge over the stream, the result is a bell-like sound with its faint echo following it. One day after banging the bridge, an extra sound, just like his, is returned in the distance. Who or what is causing this additional sound? The mystery adds just the right amount of excitement to speed up the slow summer days that remain before Charlie’s parents come to pick him up. Soft water color and gouache shades of green, yellow and orange enhance the feeling of quiet warmth indicative of summer mornings and late afternoons.

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen, illus. by Irene Luxbacher (Kids Can, 2016)

Young Theodora, or Theo as her grandfather, Poppa, calls her, decides that a trip on a streetcar to a nearby beach is the perfect birthday present for her adventurous grandfather. The journey takes time but there is much to see along the way. When they finally reach the beach, Theo and Poppa spend the day discovering its many treasures and dreaming up big adventures. Their trip ends with a refreshing meal of gazpacho soup and another surprise waiting for Poppa in his apartment. Colorful, mixed-media artwork provides vivid illustrations of the city, beach and all the places in between.

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