Good Books for Explorers (or anyone stuck in quarantine)

Raise your hand if you watched Reading Rainbow as a kid. If you did, you’ll remember the theme song:

Butterfly in the sky
I can go twice as high
Take a look
It’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow
I can go anywhere
Friends to know
And ways to grow
A Reading Rainbow
I can be anything
Take a look
It’s in a book
A Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow taught us that we can go anywhere we want without leaving home. We all know this. If you’re feeling restless, stir crazy, wanderlusty and stuck, all you need to do is crack open a book. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve read for adventure. I’ve used this trick many times in adulthood when spring break wasn’t an option. Its more of a bandaid than an actual cure, but it will take the edge off. Since we’re sticking much closer to home than usual these days I wanted to share a few of my favorite books for explorers of all ages. I’ve actually wanted to do this for a while, and now my procrastination seems quite timely. The books I listed aren’t new. Except for one, they’ve been around for years and decades, even. They aren’t what you may consider “classic”, in fact, I think many of them are pretty far off the beaten path, as far as books go. These are simply books for both kids, adults, and everyone in between, that I have loved (or my boys are now loving). I’ve organized them chronologically by age group from toddler on up. If you or your kiddos are feeling cooped up, see if you can get your hands on a copy of one of these. . .


Follow Me Around the World by Roger Priddy

We’ve been talking a lot about very basic geography lately. Ever since moving away from New York last summer, we’ve had many discussions regarding how we get different places, where those places are in the world, what we find there, etc. We’re loving this around the world interactive maze book. I sometimes like to enhance the lesson by getting out our globe and spinning it to each continent as we turn the pages. We talk about where the Grandmas live, and every time we pass the Statue of Liberty on the North America page, Miles exclaims “Look! Its Welome to New York!” a la the Taylor Swift song in the opening scene of the movie Pets, which is set in NYC. Thus making my geography and T. Swift and NYC-loving mama heart explode with pride. Miles loves tracing his finger through the 3D maze around each continent, passing animals, man-made and natural landmarks along the way. Even though it has become one of those books you should start to cringe when you tell them “go pick out a book” because you’ve read it so. many. times. You actually don’t mind “reading” it because it practically reads itself and while you are waiting for your little explorer to wander through Australia, you yourself can peruse the delightfully adorable illustrations for your next travel inspo.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Miss Rumphius and I are kindred spirits. We both have a thing for conservatories in the dead of winter and, in the book, little Alice wants to grow up and see faraway places. She grows up and does just that. When she grows old she lives by the sea and even though she has had an incredibly full life, she knows that her true purpose is to make the world more beautiful. You’ll have to read to see how she does this. Then you can decide how you are going to make the world more beautiful. While you’re thinking, you can read it again and enjoy the beautiful pictures and imagine yourself on a tropical isle, or riding a camel in Egypt.

Moe the Dog in Tropical Paradise by Diane Stanley

Moe is all of us right now. Moe the Dog teaches us that we can have a vacation without leaving home. My roommates in DC and I would throw a tropical beach themed party every late-January, just to warm ourselves up and have an excuse to grab a drink from the annually inflated palm tree cooler. Moe the Dog in Tropical Paradise is along those lines. Moe lives somewhere cold, has a week off of work in freezing January, realizes he cannot afford to go to Tahiti, and so he makes the most of his situation by bringing the tropics home. Read it with your kids, then channel your inner Moe and have the best staycation ever.

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy is the namesake character of the Betsy-Tacy series, which I read and re-read religiously over the years. She is a character who, to me, will always hold the familiarity of a friend. I think she and I see the world through similar eyes. Betsy and the Great world is the second to last book in the series. Betsy is mostly grown up and takes off in 1916 on a solo year traveling Europe, quoting Kipling to herself “Down to Gehenna or up to the throne, he travels fastest who travels alone”. A mantra I picked up as I traveled in my 20s and I now frequently quote to myself as my husband and I drag our two little boys through various European cities. Not that I don’t want them with us, but I mean, you know… Betsy has always been a fictional friend of mine, but we’ve especially bonded lately as her highs and lows in travel and foreign cultures have recently been my own. Read it for an early 1900s trip through Europe with someone who will surely become a dear friend.

Dove by Robin Lee Graham. . .

. . . is the true story of the author, who as a 16 year old in 1965, departed to sail solo around the world. It tells his epic journey spanning five years, dozens of islands, continents, and oceans, finding love and beginning a family along the way. I first read it as a teenager and have read and re-read it whenever I feel the need for free spirited adventure. It is truly inspiring and reminds me to make sure I don’t just participate in life, but really live. It takes you to many tropical locations, and will make you want to jump in to the nearest body of water for a swim. Or maybe that’s just me.

Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage

Much like Dove, this book is for anyone with a desire to see whats beyond the horizon. And again, much like Dove and sailing, you do not need to have an interest in, or knowledge of biking to love and appreciate this book, which tells the true tale of a young couple who take two years to bike around the world. Its honestly been a really long time since I’ve read this book, but as I was considering this list to share, I knew it had to be on it. I can picture the book on the bookshelf at my parent’s house…and since I just finished my current read, will probably have to go download it on my Kindle and read it again.

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

In a Sunburned Country

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

and of course, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Read Bill Bryson when you need to get away and have a laugh. So, like, right now. He will take you through small town America in The Lost Continent. Across Australia In a Sunburned Country. Through Europe in Neither Here Nor There. And, of course, hike you all the way up the Appalachian Trail in A Walk in the Woods. He has written many other books in addition to these, both travel related, a memoir, some examining languages and science. Read them all. He is one of my favorite authors for his ability to make me laugh ’til I cry, all while taking me on a journey and teaching me a few things along the way. W

So there you have it. An incomplete list of my favorite books. You can stay home and have an adventure. You can stay home and learn a lot about a lot of things. Think of something that sparks your curiosity and then find a book to satisfy it.

ps. I have linked to Amazon, but I am in no way affiliated with Amazon, or sponsored by anyone in any way. Will, however, consider offers. I just want to make it easy for you to click and buy because what is the internet for, if not convenience?

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