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Archive for the ‘Armchair Adventures’ Category

Armchair Adventures: Travels With Charley

April 21st, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Armchair Adventures

Here in Carlsbad our public library system does an annual “Carlsbad Reads Together” program.  The library orders multiple copies  of the same book and encourages the entire town to read it.  All the library book clubs read the book and there are other special events offered.  When I first heard that the John Steinbeck book Travels With Charley was chosen for 2010, I must confess that the hippie World Literature and Cultural Studies major in me wondered…why not something more “relevant” and multicultural to reflect today’s world.

Still, it was something of a travelougue, a  book about Steinbeck’s road trip around the country with his dog Charley.  I needed something light and fun for our family roadtrip to Tahoe so I checked it out.  After a few chapters Travels with Charley had me absolutely mesmorized.  The writing was vivid, the real Americans that Steinbeck encountered in his travels were quirky yet fascinating, and relevant???? It sure was! At certain moments I wondered if Steinbeck could have added time traveler to his resume.  Steinbeck predicted some modern realities with an accuracy that was absolutely eirie.

The book starts out in a rather light hearted way, but does have it’s dark moments.  In general, most of the content would be appropriate for tweens and teens, but there are a few moments that are too sophisticated.  I would recommend reading the book before listening to it in audio form on a family road trip.  You might be able fast forward through a few parts and still enjoy a rewarding road trip “read”. 

Since my kids are younger, I read Travels with Charleyon my own and  then shared the concept with them.  They were delighted by the idea that an author wrote a story about traveling with his dog.  The Carlsbad Public Library had a similiar approach.  They had kids write about where they would travel with Charley. 

One of Steinbeck’s last stops was in New Orleans where six year old Ruby Bridges was desegregating a school.  Steinbeck’s first hand account is very moving.  I firmly believe that this is a part of our nation’s history that should be shared as early as possible with our children if we are ever to overcome the racism that is still so prevalent in our culture.  When my oldest was a first grader he performed in a musical about Rosa Parks.  When asked why she was addressing such sophisticated subject, Justin’s teacher Ms. Flora replied, “Six year olds can relate to what Rosa experienced.  Fairness is very important to them.” So true!

Even if you don’t read Travels with Charley , I recommend that you share the book The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles with your children.  It’s another first hand account of Ruby’s experiences desegrating a school in the deep south that is written for children.  The Story of Ruby Bridges is a beautifully written and illustrated book, and can be a great jumping off point for talking about fairness and racism with your kids.

If you are in the San Diego area this Saturday April 24th , The Carlsbad Public Library is having Thomas Steinbeck, son of John Steinbeck as well as noted Steinbeck scholar  Dr. Susan Shillinglaw discuss John Steinbeck’s life and work.  For more information click here.  On April 26, The Carlsbad Playreaders  are performing The Grapes of Wrath.  Ticket prices are very affordable $5 general public and $1 for students. 

If you are interested in reading Travels With Charley and The Story of Ruby Bridges please consider purchasing them below.

Travels with Charley in Search of America: (Centennial Edition)

The Story Of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic Bookshelf) Photobucket

Looking forward to sharing more Armchair Adventures!

Happy Trails,



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Armchair Adventures

April 19th, 2010 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Armchair Adventures

Ever since I was a child, my experiences with travel and reading have been intertwined.   My children and I frequently ready Timothy and the Forest Folk, the  that my family brought back from a month long trip to England when I was a preschooler.  I chose to study at the Catholic University in Chile, because I was inspired by the books of Isabel Allende.  For the story of how a Hawaiian librarian set me on the path to reading click here.

My subscription to National Geographic World gave me a whole new series of adventures to dream on.  I still remember the articles that I read on Latin America and Africa as a child.  I entered a contest for a trip to Easter Island and was crushed when another winner was chosen.

Reading continues to be an important part of the Smith Family travels.  We usually hit the road with a big bag of library books to keep us occupied as the miles fly by and to bring a little taste of home to our hotel room at night.  We listen to audio books to take a break from the endless stream of DVDs.   I always bring a book in the hopes of finding the luxury of a stolen moment when everyone is busy doing something else.  Whether I am on a ferry to Vancouver British Columbia or in the laundry room of the Holiday Inn Express South Lake Tahoe you will find me with a book in my hand.

When I’m not on the road, magazines and travel blogs are  sources of armchair adventure.  They give me a peek at adventures I may never take… rappelling through the Jamaican jungle on a zip line,  keeping my eye out for jaguars  in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, pushing a toddler in a stroller throughout the Louvre  in Paris.

Lately it has occured to me that it is time to share these sources of armchair adventures with you. I am pleased to announce that Armchair Adventures will be a regular feature on Famiy Adventure Guidebooks.  I’ll review travel books and magazines, share some of our roadtrip favorites, give you some new travel blogs to discover, and point you in the direction of some amazing travelogues and works of fiction that will give you inspiration for your adventures.

If you find something that inspires you, you can also use this website to make a purchase.  For now I have the link to my favorite  Armchair Adventures on the column to your right.  Eventually I hope to have an Amazon Store up and running that will give you a more convenient place to purchase your favorites.

Would love to hear what books and magazines inspire your adventures!

Happy Trails,


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