The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summer Vacation: Books About Road Trips - May 2014

Selected and annotated by Hannah Reside


Young Adult

Borris, Albert. Crash into Me. Simon Pulse, 2009. 272p. Gr. 8-12.
Four teenagers are drawn together online by one morose interest: death. The four decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to visit the sites of famous celebrities’ suicides and culminate their trip in their own suicides. The four share their stories with each other on the trip and their motivations for such an extreme decision.

Caletti, Deb. The Last Forever. Simon, 2014. 336p. Gr 8-12.
After her mother’s death, Tess struggles to hold on to any happiness. Her father is equally despondent, but he decides the best solution is to take Tess on a road trip to her estranged grandmother—and to leave her there. Tess finds herself connecting with the local people, and her relationship with townie Henry deepens into something much more.

Carbone, Elisa. Jump. Viking, 2010. 288p. Gr. 7-10.
P.K. has two choices: being shipped off to boarding school or escaping out West to rock-climb every day. Naturally, she chooses the latter and on a whim invites Critter, a fellow rock climber who also wants to escape, though he wants to get away from the mental institution he was placed in after a suicide attempt. The unlikely duo makes it out West, but the adventure is just starting.

Clement-Moore, Rosemary. Spirit and Dust. Delacorte, 2013. 400p. Gr. 7-10.
Daisy isn’t your average teenager: she can speak to the dead. Her skills have proved useful, especially to the FBI, but they lead to her own peril when she herself is kidnapped. Her kidnapper, a crime boss, will stop at nothing to use Daisy’s gift as they make their way across the country to avoid being caught.

Dagg, Carole Estby. The Year We Were Famous. Clarion, 2011. 256p. Gr. 6–9.
In an effort to save the family farm, seventeen-year-old Clara and her mother make a deal with a publisher to walk across the country in seven months for $10,000. This historical fiction novel is written from levelheaded Clara’s perspective, while her passionate and driven mother tries to fight nature and sometimes other people along the way from from Washington to NYC. The true story is based on interviews Helga and Clara—the author’s great-grandmother and great-aunt, respectively—gave while on their voyage in 1896.

de la Peña, Matt. We Were Here. Delacorte, 2009. 357p. Gr. 8-12.
In this journal-style novel, Miguel, an imprisoned teen, joins fellow inmates Mong and Rondell in an escape plan that brings them from California to Mexico, with each boy escaping for his own reasons. Miguel is forced to come to terms with his crime as well as the reality of life: escaping juvie does not mean he has escaped the other things imprisoning him.

Doktorski, Jennifer Salvato. How My Summer Went Up in Flames. Simon Pulse, 2013. 302p. Gr. 7-10.
Rosie is an impulsive teen, not afraid to speak her mind or act on her feelings. Unfortunately, this temper led to a temporary restraining order from her ex-boyfriend. To prevent Rosie making the situation worse, her parents send her on a road trip with the trusty boy next door and his two friends from New Jersey to Arizona. She learns a lot about relationships on the trip . . . and maybe a few things about romance.

Harrington, Hannah. Saving June. Harlequin Teen, 2011. 384p. Gr. 9-12.
The overdose-induced death of Harper’s sister, June, is enough for Harper to decide to leave home and take June’s ashes to California. Accompanied by mysterious Jake, who knows more about June than anyone else seems to, Harper embarks on an adventure as she deals with the loss of her sister and her own spirituality.

John, Antony. Thou Shalt Not Road Trip. Dial, 2012. 336p. Gr. 8-12.
Luke, a teenage Christian writer, goes on a book tour to promote his new book accompanied by his older brother Matt. Matt also brings along his girlfriend Alex and Alex’s sister Fran—Luke’s ex-best friend. The four navigate relationships, spirituality, and the meaning of friendship as they traverse the country promoting Luke’s book.

Kizer, Amber. A Matter of Days. Delacorte, 2013. 276p. Gr. 7-10.
In this dystopian novel, Nadia and her young brother Rabbit are orphaned due to a worldwide pandemic. They have to survive in the wild as they trek from Seattle to their grandfather in West Virginia. They meet many other survivors along the way, but they constantly have to worry about what awaits them in West Virginia.

Matson, Morgan. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. Simon, 2010. 344p. Gr. 8-12.
Amy’s mother is uprooting the family, opting to move to Connecticut to get rid of the bad memories of California. Amy is responsible for getting the family car across the country, but there’s one problem: she hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel since her father died in a car accident. Roger, a college-boy family friend, offers to drive, and the two navigate their own obstacles as they travel across the country.

Skuse, C. J. Pretty Bad Things. Chicken House/Scholastic, 2011. 244p. Gr. 9-12.
Twins Paisley and Beau have had a hard life. After finding their abusive mother dead and their father missing as six-year-olds, the two wandered the woods for three days, attracting media attention. Their vapid grandmother exploited this fact all through their childhood, eventually separating the pair. But Paisley and Beau come back together as teenagers and develop a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque plan to get themselves back in the spotlight.

Smith, Andrew. In the Path of Falling Objects. Feiwel, 2009. 336p. Gr. 9-12.
In this thriller, brothers Simon and Jonah hitchhike across the country with a man and the woman who appears to be his girlfriend. The two brothers plan to make it to Arizona to meet their father as he is released from prison, but their benefactors aren’t who they claim. The boys end up on a perilous journey, finding that they are in over their heads.

Weingarten, Lynn. Wherever Nina Lies. Point/Scholastic, 2009. 336p. Gr. 7-10.
Ellie is searching for clues after her older sister Nina disappeared two years ago. When she finds a strange drawing by her sister, she attempts to finding out the meaning behind it. She recruits a love interest, Sean, and the two unravel the mystery all along the West coast, attempting to uncover what exactly happened to Nina.

Middle Grade (4-8)

Barnhouse, Rebecca. The Book of the Maidservant. Random House, 2009. 231p. Gr. 6-9.
In this historical fiction novel, Johanna is sent to accompany the falsely pious Margery Kempe to Rome. Soon arguments and fighting erupt between Kempe and the other travelers, and Kempe abandons the group, leaving young Johanna to fend for herself in a foreign land to try to make her way to Rome. The novel is inspired by the fifteenth-century text The Book of Margery Kempe.

Blackwood, Gary. Around the World in 100 Days. Dutton, 2010. 368p. Gr. 5-8.
Harry Fogg, son of the famous Phileas Fogg, recklessly vows to drive a motorcar around the world in 100 days in 1891 without any help aside from boats. His pride and £6,000 are on the line as he faces all sorts of hiccups. Joining the adventure are a friend and mechanic, a skeptic rule-enforcer, and a reporter.

Frederick, Heather Vogel. Once Upon a Toad. Simon, 2012. 263p. Gr. 4-6.
Forced to live with her dad and evil stepsister, Cat is even more upset when her aunt comes for a visit. Suddenly, her stepsister can’t stop spewing jewels out of her mouth. And Cat, well . . . she’s got toads. This gains media attention, and the two sisters embark on a road trip to escape all the people after them and their “gifts.”

Gantos, Jack. From Norvelt to Nowhere. Farrar, 2013. 278p. Gr. 6-9.
The sequel to the successful Dead End in Norvelt, this middle-grade novel has twelve-year-old Jack on a hilarious journey down South with an eccentric, elderly, harpoon-wielding Miss Volker, all to catch a criminal and murderer, Mr. Spizz. The two cause mayhem wherever they go in this novel set in the early 1960s.

Gutman, Dan. Mission Unstoppable. Harper/HarperCollins, 2011. 293p. Gr. 4–6.
Twelve-year-old twins Coke and Pepsi are on a cross-country RV road trip with their quirky and strange parents, all the while dodging evil villains who only want to kill the siblings. This action-packed novel—first in a series—is full of wacky hijinks, and even wackier real-life stops along the way.

Rosoff, Meg. Picture Me Gone. Putnam, 2013. 239p. Gr. 6-9.
On a trip with her father to visit a friend in upstate New York, Mila finds herself on a quest to find the inexplicably missing man they came to visit. She and her father piece together the mystery of the man’s disappearance, but they end up finding out a lot about each other as well.

Picture Books

Hallowell, George. Wagons Ho!; by George Hallowell and Joan Holub and illus. by Lynne Avril. Whitman, 2011. 32p. Gr. 2-4.
This book traces the trip from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon in two very different modes. One side of the story portrays Jenny Johnson moving with her family in a covered wagon during the westward expansion; the other side follows Katie Miller, whose family is moving in modern times with a car, trailer, and moving van. Readers will soon discover both vast differences between the times and the similar fears of moving and traveling.

Geisert, Arthur. Thunderstorm; written and illus. by Arthur Geisert. Enchanted Lion, 2013. 32p. 6-10 yrs.
In this wordless picture book, a truck makes its way through a thunderstorm as a family tries to haul hay bales before the weather hits. The book provides a timeline that readers can follow as the storm rolls in and Mother Nature rages in a small farming community.

Horowitz, Dave. Duck Duck Moose; written and illus. by Dave Horowitz. Putnam, 2009. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
Moose has two best friends, Duck and Duck. He doesn’t understand why they want to leave the Great North Woods to go South for the winter. But when he realizes how lonely he will be, he hitches a ride with the Ducks for a road trip to Florida, where they have all sorts of adventures until Spring returns.

Michalak, Jamie. Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels; illus. by Frank Remkiewicz. Candlewick, 2009. 42p. Gr. 1-3.
In this beginning chapter book, Sparky the turtle and Joe the giraffe are unlikely friends. By a strange set of circumstances, Joe wins a car, and the two escape the zoo on a road trip full of adventures and mishaps. Young readers will laugh as the two explore the human world and innocently cause mayhem wherever they go.

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander. Ruth and the Green Book; illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda, 2010. 32p. 5-9 yrs.
Ruth is so excited to go on a car trip with her family in the 1950s. But she soon discovers that many people are not as accepting of African Americans as they were in Chicago. This historical fiction picture book shows one girl’s perceptions of Jim Crow laws and the struggles of black families in a segregated country as she makes her way South.

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