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.
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