with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Amelia Takes a Road Trip

Amelia Hits the Road, by Marissa Moss (and YEEHAW – Amelia!), is a fantastic book for children, introducing them to travel and life on the road.

This is my new travel notebook. Mom bought it for me so I wouldn’t be bored on the long driving part of this trip. She said if I’m busy writing, I won’t be busy fighting with Clea. I don’t fight with Cleo. She fights with me.

…Mom says we should enjoy this togetherness. It seems like TOO much togetherness, if you ask me. Especially when Cleo gets carsick. Then the last thing in the world I want is to be together with her!

….We sand every song we could think of – “Found a Peanut”, “On Top of Old Smoky”, “Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky”, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”, “Goofy Grimy Gopher Guts” – until Mom screamed at us to STOP!

Then Cleo started reading every sign we passed until I hit her to shut her up and she him me back so I hit her again and Mom yelled at us some more.

I asked Mom is she was enjoying all this togetherness. She just glared at me.
Amelia Hits the Road, by Marissa Moss (and YEEHAW – Amelia!)

Does this sound like every road trip you ever took as a child! FINALLY, someone is telling the truth about travel as a child and travel with a child.

The book is a delight. It is colorful, filled with activities and suggestions for things to do. It isn’t a “things to do on a trip” book, but more of a guide which inspires the child or children towards activity, such as the list of songs to sing shown as an example of what Amelia and her sister did. Notice that it also shows the consequences of when it gets out of control.

The graphics and pictures are wonderful, designed to amuse the young and the old. It’s an adventure and practical guide for a traveling children, helping them to understand that, yes, long drives suck and are boring, so expect it and get over it, and that there are still many things to do to amuse yourself on long travel days.

One unexpected aspect of Amelia Hits the Road is the journaling. The book is written as if it is a real journal, with hand drawn pictures, doodles, graphics, and even notes in the margin. Pictures replace words sometimes, and postcards and pictures appear to be stuck onto the pages alongside stamps and other memorabilia traditionally collected as you travel.

By setting the book in journal form, the child is encouraged to create their own journal of the trip, copying the techniques and preserving memories of the family trip. They are encouraged to write, learning how to write and express an idea and concept, as well as storytelling techniques.

I can see the child, 30 years from now, coming across their journal and a copy of the book in some dusty box and being instantly transported back in time to when their brother kept hitting her in the backseat and calling her names, and the glory and delight when he got carsick and puked up all over the door before the window could be opened. As gory as it is, for a child now grown up, it’s a brilliant example of the cosmic forces of the universe exacting a precious moment of revenge.

The book’s journal goes from California to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, and then back through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park, one of the most popular travel routes for many Americans, as well as international travelers. Amelia is introduced to a diverse range of educational information, but it isn’t hammered in, it’s experienced.

Highlights of her adventures include understanding tourist gimmicks (“The truly mysterious place was the gift shop, where there was an astonishing display of junk. I couldn’t believe anyone would buy that stuff.”), geology (“Mom says the Grand Canyon is the Earth’s old age wrinkles, like the lines on her forehead.”), astronomy (“I love to think that people saw and named those same stars thousands of years ago!”), discovery and exploration (“I can’t imagine being the first person who saw all this.”), international and cultural exchange (“I met a boy. His name is Mako. We hiked together the whole way. Mako is from Japan, and he’s really nice.”), change and evolution and differences in generation values and experiences (“Mom says sometimes when things change, they get worse, not better. But she’s not always right. She only likes old music.”), archeology (“I thought I would find some treasure or old coins, but I didn’t. Cleo found a bone. She said it was from a dead miner. Mom said it was a chicken bone…”), and the unpleasant business of war (“…we were in a place called Manaznar, where 10,000 Japanese-Americans lived during World War II…”).

For the family traveling through the California-Arizona triangle tour, this is a wonderful guide to what the family and children will be experiencing along the way, with some well-thought out and expressed perspectives.

For the parent, there is enough in this book to keep any child amused on road trip. There are things to do, games to play, assignments, and examples. At the least, the parent could ask the kid to write down everything they want to do on the trip from suggestions in the book. And then check them off each time the family or child does them.

If you are traveling with a child on a driving trip across the country or even across the state, I highly recommend Amelia Hits the Road as a wonderful aid to your traveling family adventures.

Impressed with this book on Amelia’s adventures, I also recommend the whole creative series of Amelia books.

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