It was amusing enough it stole my attention from my book. We were following this little red convertible, driven by a man who was listening to music that had him drumming wildly on the steering wheel, dancing in his seat, and swerving to and fro in his lane. All these years later, I can still picture it and remember how we laughed. That was part of our summer vacation to Florida the year I was twelve. Now, going on summer vacations is rather impossible—but that is one of many reasons (children’s) books are so wonderful. They take us places we cannot otherwise go.
They take us up into the air. The book Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson tells the story of a boy from Alabama who loves to fly and ends up as a Tuskegee Airman in Europe. Hot Air: the (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-air Balloon Ride by Majorie Priceman gives the perspective of the duck, sheep, and rooster who were the passengers on this flight. Oliver Jeffers’s Stuck almost makes it into the air; it begins with a kite…and ends with all kinds of things that are, indeed, stuck. (Oh dear.)
Books take us under the sea. Robert Burley draws us into the tale of the woman scientist who first successfully mapped the ocean floor in his book: Solving the Puzzle under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor. The book Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman reveals the explorations of a team of scientists as they study an undersea collection of millions of pieces of plastic. And if that is not a little odd enough, Freaky Stories from beneath the Sea by Caitie McAneney gives all kinds of unusual glimpses into life under the sea.
Books take us into scientific discovery. Jodi Wheeler-Toppin’s Edible Science: Experiments You Can Eat provides scientific investigation that truly satisfies. The man who invented the telescope and changed the way we understand the universe is the subject of Who Was Galileo? by Patricia Brennan Demuth. Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff tells the fun story of how the scientific method made sense of some magic. (Science--voila!)
Books take us to faraway places. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul reveals the true story of a woman and her friends who helped transform her West African community. Ji-li Jiang in Red Kite, Blue Kite offers the tale of a boy and his father who are separated during the Chinese Cultural Revolution but who find a way to communicate with each other through kites. And if Africa and China are not far enough away, Angelica Banks extends the travels of possibility to an imaginary land in her book A Week without Tuesday in which two friends must find the one man who can stop real and imaginary worlds from colliding.
Books take us to other times. Alexandra Bracken throws character Etta Spencer unexpectedly back one hundred years in time in Passenger, where Etta finds herself in the midst of mysteries and a dangerous journey to return home. The book Time Travel by Lisa Arias meanders through time as it provides fun illustrations of how time itself works. Characters are moving both forward and backward in time in Linda Buckley-Archer’s The Time Thief as a villain from the past menaces the future and protagonist Kate battles to rescue her friend Peter from the history in which he is trapped.
Books take us from where we are to where we want to be. Reading is the foundation of learning. It not only expands our knowledge of words and history and science; it increases our capacity to think beyond our own borders, introduces us to new ideas, inspires creativity, and influences who and what we become and where we go in our life journeys. Maybe we read our way to the presidency like Abraham Lincoln. Maybe we travel to the lands we first discovered in books. Maybe we go driving down a road, dancing to the music in our seats as twelve-year-old girls in neighboring cars look up from the books they are reading to watch and smile.
Christa is the Head of the Young People's Department. She came to the library with a background in education, having spent ten years as a teacher, and believes firmly in the Young People's Department vision, "Libraries=education--empowering minds through creative investigation."