Anybody else flummoxed by summer travel options? Staying home unexpectedly, or trip plans greatly changed? To leave home, or stay put?
No matter your actual travel outcomes, keep the adventurous spirit alive in your middle grader’s heart and mind with some virtual trips connected to “destinations” in these excellent MG reads. These ideas might inspire you as a Middle Grade parent, librarian, or teacher to seek out more “travel” locations in your readers’ favorites books. Better yet, challenge your kids, students, and MG library patrons to dream up virtual itineraries connected to books they’ve enjoyed and want to share.
Here are some examples of virtual tours or destinations tied to settings and plot in a few great MG reads:
In Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again, main character Kim Hà lives in 1975 South Vietnam, just before the Fall of Saigon. Hà visits President Thiệu’s Palace with her mother and hears the President’s speech to the widows and children of men missing in action, like Hà’s father. The look of the Palace might surprise you—take a short trip and see the building, now Independence Palace, that still stands today. Scroll down for a Google map and take a “walk” around the exterior of the Palace.
Hà and her family then become refugees, fleeing their country shortly after that Palace visit. Before resettling in America, the family and many other refugees find safety on Guam. Travel to Guam in 1975 with the pictures and articles in this publication to get an idea of the sights Ha might have seen during that evacuation effort.
In Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, Elijah is the first child born into freedom in the community of Buxton. Buxton was a town in southwestern Ontario, Canada where many freed and escaped slaves settled during American slavery. The child of escaped slaves, Elijah sees the value of freedom when newly escaped slaves arrive in Buxton, and he learns it more deeply when he takes a dangerous trip across the border into America to help a neighbor. Readers can explore Buxton through this scrapbook about its inhabitants, its founder, and its Liberty Bell here at the Buxton Museum, and learn the history of this important place.
For travel of a more interplanetary nature, try Mars! In Kevin Emerson’s Last Day on Mars, Liam and Phoebe intend to catch the last ship off the planet as the human race evacuates to establish a settlement on a distant new world. Take a look around Mars, the planet upon which Liam and Phoebe grew up, and “walk” its surface from your home.
Reading Jennifer Holm’s Full of Beans? Head south on a photo journey to old Key West. It’s the 1930’s during the Great Depression, and New Deal representatives have arrived to bring tourism to the area in its new role as “Recovery Key.” Beans—cousin of Turtle, title character in Holm’s Turtle in Paradise—tries to sort out an honest role in his community amidst a host of adult untruths. Key West in the early 1930s will populate readers’ imaginations with images of streets, buildings, and cars as Beans might have seen them.
In One Speck of Truth, author Caela Carter writes a story of trust and family relationships. Main character Alma’s father is gone, and her stepfather is no longer a part of the picture. To confuse matters, Alma’s mom doesn’t always tell the truth, and her latest decision involving Alma is pretty baffling: the two are flying to Lisbon, where her father grew up. Alma wonders if the city and its sites might hold the answer she’s looking for. Here’s a peek at some interesting modern-day sites in Lisbon.
And here’s one more! Head to the Big Apple and take a peek at some of the (modernized) sights that Claudia and Jamie Kincaid might have seen during their great adventure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in MUF’s namesake, E.L. Konigsburg’s classic From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Scroll down a bit for the Great Hall!
These examples of virtual day trips offer variety, visual interest, and a look into key historical backgrounds; hopefully they inspire you to explore settings in your favorite middle grade works as well. Safe travels this summer, everyone!