Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel, edited by Sarah Franklin

I don’t have kids and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to take a vacation, so I don’t know what possessed me to pick up this book, unless it was the cute camel on the cover. Mistakenly thinking it was the story of one family’s vacation, I was startled to find it was a collection of essays by various writers, all traveling with children. I was also startled by how much I enjoyed the book.
Not only are there trips across Europe and North America, but also Niger, South Korea, Venezuela, the Caribbean, Vietnam and South Africa. Nearly every kind of transport is used and the stories are not always about the destination or trip itself, sometimes it’s about preparing for it. Though most of the essays have humor(some are laugh-out-loud funny), there are a few that are serious and reflective. The majority deal with babies and toddlers, but a couple contain older kids. One of the best was Sarah Franklin’s recounting of taking her baby, Jonah, across the Atlantic after a free upgrade to first class, complete with snobby flight attendant. Another favorite was Adrienne St. John-Delacroix’s weeks in Brussels with her teenaged Goth daughter, who brought along every single CD she owned.
The trips aren’t always vacations, some are related to work or research or health. Susan Wolter Nettell’s account of transporting her sister’s newly born quadruplets across several states by train, because of medical needs that couldn’t be met close to home. Another touching story is about a family escaping the auction of their family farm after several droughts ruined their livelihood.
In all of the essays, though, is what a difference children make when traveling. Whether it’s the mass of equipment, aggravation, a sudden concern for safety, a fresh angle on things or being able to connect with others; children of any age add a vast new dimension that wasn’t there before. I was impressed with the equanimity that most of the parents dealt with difficulties, so different than my own family. Despite all of the entries having a specific theme, there was plenty of variety and styles that it never got monotonous. It was that and the humor that makes me recommend this collection to readers, whether or not they actually have, or even like, kids.

Seal Press 2008 298 pp. ISBN-13:978-1-58005-242-9

6 comments on “How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel, edited by Sarah Franklin

  1. rosyb
    March 29, 2010

    What a very strange notion for a book. Sounds very entertaining and something I would read if it were around the place…but maybe not actually go out and buy. I suppose i don’t have kids though so perhaps I’m not quite the right demographic. ;) I love that camel, though.

  2. Melrose
    March 29, 2010

    Jackie, I loved your review of this book. It sounds like a collection of very interesting and out of the ordinary experiences. Children do, as you say, make quite a difference to travel. Even going to the shops when they are smaller is a whole different experience from shopping on your own, far more complex, and, having a child with you at all times, presents a whole new perspective on even the simplest tasks. It sounds too like the trips evoked a whole gamut of emotions, and that the book could make you both laugh and cry. And that it brought out the resilience of both parents and children when put in challenging situations.

  3. Kate Lace
    March 29, 2010

    OMG traveling with kids is something I never want to do again. In fact the aversion therapy I endured while traveling with them makes it a complete surprise that I still enjoy the odd holiday I still have! So I think I’ll just have to read this book if only to discover how others survived

  4. Melrose
    March 29, 2010

    I think maybe the difference is that travelling with your own kids is different to travelling surrounded by other people’s. Even parents who enjoy travelling with their children can get really irritated by the other person’s child who is kicking the back of their seat nonstop! The trip with the quadruplets who needed medical treatment, or the family whose home and livelihood had been lost, sound more like stories of family tenacity and necessity, and I’m sure they would have preferred not to be making the journey. It’s a reminder that the family group that seems pretty carefree may not necessarily be so, and it would be interesting to know how the farm children coped with the unhappy turn of events. I think the one thing young children do bring to sad or unfortunate circumstances is that life does go on, that life is cyclical. They are reminders of new life and new beginnings, though they can be annoying at times!

  5. Nikki
    March 30, 2010

    I agree that it’s strange concept for a book, but I actually think that it sounds entertaining! The sort of thing you’d read on a flight when a kid’s kicking the back of your seat, to remind yourself that it’s much harder for the parent!

  6. Sarah Franklin
    March 31, 2010

    Hello,

    I just wanted to pop in and say thanks for such a lovely review! It made me giggle to read the comments – I guess it *is* a strange concept for a book, but when I first thought of it, we’d just started travelling with our first-born and I was blown over by what a different experience it was. And our story was pretty straightforward compared with some of the brilliant women who came forward with their tales.

    What a great site – I’ll definitely be back.

    Sarah

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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