My husband Brad and I both experienced camping adventures while growing up. His family took several trips in a motorhome, mine in a camper. In my case, six kids, one bathroom, not enough beds. Despite close quarters, sunburns, poison ivy, and motion sickness from being stashed in the back of the family station wagon, (again, me!), we both wanted to raise our kids with similar experiences.
Flash forward to adventures in a camper with pop out ends (a solid metal frame but screened in beds that extended out) with our three little ones. At some point Brad and I decided we wanted to travel to all of the fifty states with our kiddos.
Then life took a tragic turn.
Our oldest daughter, Claire, died unexpectedly from a misdiagnosed heart condition. Our little reader gone too soon was just 10 years-old. For those of you who have followed my journey, we created an amazing children’s book festival in her honor, Claire’s Day.
We also focused on honoring our relationships with each other and our two children, Kyle and Ian. And, we followed through on the promise of experiencing our amazing country together as a family. We bought a motorhome to accomplish this goal. Our first journey, three weeks of pure bliss in discovering the Wild West just three years after our tragic loss, helped us find our souls again.
(Well…it was mostly blissful. We had our fair share of challenges, including a septic incident, a close brush with an afternoon storm in the Tetons and a scary encounter with a new momma moose in the brush near Jackson Hole. But who remembers those?) Once our travels were through, “Bessie” was a hit for tailgating at their colleges, University of Kentucky and The Ohio State University.
It was a sad day when we decided to sell Bessie.
Covid put a hold on our plans to see more of the world, so Brad and I hit the road again in another motorhome. We’ve been traveling since October, our journey entailing over five months and six states. We have our kayaks, our bikes, our golf clubs, and our 8 year-old Labrador, Luna. It’s been an amazing experience so far…check out my blog on our adventures here.
This time around, I’ve met families full-timing with their kids. For various reasons, from the ability to work remotely, to a desire to homeschool, these families have sold their homes and hit the road in an RV.
Between our experiences on the road with our children, and my observations of other families, I’ve toyed with sharing our stories. In doing my homework, I discovered some great reads for middle graders about being on the road. I’d like to thank Afoma Ulesi and her blog, Reading Middle Grade for her wonderful recommendations!
Here are a few titles featuring road trips in an RV the middle-grade readers in your life may enjoy.
Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Olivia is on the road trip of her dreams, with her trusty camera and her big sister Ruth by her side. Three years ago, before their family moved from California to Tennessee, Olivia and Ruth buried a time capsule on their favorite beach. Now, they’re taking an RV back across the country to uncover the memories they left behind. But Ruth’s depression has been getting worse, so Olivia has created a plan to help her remember how life used to be: a makeshift scavenger hunt across the country, like pirates hunting for treasure, taking pictures and making memories along the way.
All she wants is to take the picture that makes her sister smile. But what if things can never go back to how they used to be? What if they never find the treasure they’re seeking? Through all the questions, loving her sister, not changing her, is all Olivia can do–and maybe it’s enough.
Far from Fair by Elana K. Arnold
Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the cramped Coach with her parents and exasperating younger brother, sharing one stupid cell phone among the four of them. And there’s definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy’s house, hundreds of miles later. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right?
Wrong Way Summer by Heidi Lang
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A moving summer road-trip story for fans of Crenshaw and The Someday Birds
Claire used to love her dad’s fantastical stories, especially tales about her absent mom–who could be off with the circus or stolen by the troll king, depending on the day. But now that she’s 12, Claire thinks she’s old enough to know the truth. When her dad sells the house and moves her and her brother into a converted van, she’s tired of the tall tales and refuses to pretend it’s all some grand adventure, despite how enthusiastically her little brother embraces this newest fantasy. Claire is faced with a choice: Will she play along with the stories her dad is spinning for her little brother, or will she force her family to face reality once and for all? Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, Wrong Way Summer is a road-trip journey and coming-of-age story about one girl’s struggle to understand when a lie is really a lie and when it’s something more: hope.
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
Winner of the 2018 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award * Two starred reviews * A New York Public Library Best Kids Book of 2017 * A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2017
Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan.
When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.
Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.
How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
– Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
– Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
– Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds history, memories, and most important, the way home.
What Not to Bring:
– A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.
Take a trip through the American South with the New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.
I did a lot of camping with my kids and I absolutely love my research mobile now. Great roundup of MG books!