Category Archives: travel

Of Phileas Fogg and other world travelers

Although considered a classic, Jules Verne simply had it all wrong when he sent Phileas Fogg Around the World in 80 Days. As exciting as the venture was – fraught with perils, mishaps, miscommunications, and a large sum of money on the line – a mere 80 days, even with modern modes of transportation, just isn’t enough to capture the scope of the lifestyles, cultures, and landscapes in the global community.  You’d need six months, minimum. Better yet a year.

Imagine an entire year traveling the globe in search of experiences that inspire, educate and, more likely than not, frighten you?  Immediately the what if’s pop-up, squelching the dream – How would we pay for it?  What about our jobs? Will my health insurance cover us?   What about our house? How would the kids go to school?  Wait!  The kids?  Do they serve chicken fingers and mac & cheese in Istanbul?    Here is where it gets complicated.  It is relatively easy to dream of going all Eat, Pray, Love and taking a sabbatical from real life when you are a singleton, reinventing yourself like Elizabeth Gilbert.  Or to plan a trip Without Reservations* like Alice Steinbach, once your children are grown.  But can this really be done with kids?

oneyearoffIn the mid 90’s David Elliot Cohen, a successful book publisher, and his family took One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children.   He, his wife Devyani, and their three children (all under 10, one still in diapers), sold their home and packed their bags.  Traversing six continents they embraced once-in-a lifetime experiences and immersed themselves in diverse cultures.


360degreesoflongitudeIn the late 00’s, after more than a decade of planning, and saving, John Higham, his wife September, and their two children Katrina (11) and Jordan (8) not only spent 52 weeks traveling the world but they did it on a budget, tandem-biking for much of the European leg of their trip.  Higham chronicles their experiences in 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World.  I love that the book is interspersed with excerpts from Katrina’s journal highlighting her perspective.  In addition, the accompanying website has amazing tips for planning your own family adventure.  I’m especially fond of Katrina’s reading list, sharing 104 books that she read during their travels that coincide with the locations they visited.

takingontheworldBut could this actually be done in this day and age?  Absolutely.  Check out the incredible blog  Samantha Sackin, her husband Tom Fassbender, and their two daughters, Frankie and Jackie, are currently in the middle of their own round-the world adventure.  Follow them across the globe to see what they’re seeing, doing, reading and eating! Frankie & Jackie each have their own blog posts on the site and each family member has a “project” for the journey – from investigating coffee in each country to photographing doors.  Definitely inspiration to make your own trip a reality!

Ok, so you think you can do this? Get planning and packing!

But, if the logistics seem insurmountable, maybe the best approach is taking baby steps towards the around-the-world goal.  Start at home.  How about a round-the-town trip?  Visit the different neighborhoods in your city  – or any city for that matter.  Discover the history, culture and diversity within your own community.   Photograph doors (like Jackie Fassbender), or discover books about different locations (like Katrina Higham).  Eat differently- try a new restaurant and only order selections from the adult menu.  Around the state?  Around the country?  Every travel adventure creates lasting memories and experiences as a family.

Or create an itinerary for a fictional trip. Imagine no financial restraints or obligations.   Where would you go?  What would be your ten must-see spots on our planet?  Find a good book to read about these places.  Develop a fictional packing list.  Carry a 45lb suitcase with you for a day!  Sleep in a tent.  Converse with someone who doesn’t speak English.  Learn key phrases in the language of the place you dream of visiting.

I imagine this is how it begins.  Put the logistics aside and dream…then figure out how to make it reality.

withoutreservations*PBP Note: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman is a Mom’s Bookshelf Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top Ten Favorite.  It is my favorite travel memoir, by far.   You know the question, “If you could invite 5 people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?”  Alice Steinbach would definitely have a seat at my table.

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K is for….

Too old for fairy godmothers and a little too tween for the magic of the mouse?  What if it wasn’t just a fantasyland…and all of it was real…especially the evil, wicked and villainous!

Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson

Five kids – Finn, Willa, Charlene, Maybeck and Philby –  are chosen to be the new Disney Host Interactives – DHIs – essentially holographic images that can guide guests through the Disney parks.  Except when the real kids go to sleep they wake up as their holograms, in the park where, with the help of an elderly mentor imagineer named Wayne, they realize that there is a battle going on – and they’ve been recruited to help take down the most evil forces Walt Disney ever created.  MR -5/6

*PBP Note: I’ve never read these books….but I’ve listened to them.   I recommend them for those tweens who might be feeling that a trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” is beneath them, or for those who’ve been to Disney often enough that it’s time for a new twist on an old favorite.   It is a fun ride, but don’t think too hard, or expect too much.   The first book is the best, and a great read before a trip to Disney for your upper middle reader who is looking for a new spin on what happens when the parks are closed.   I was willing to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the first 4 books – each of which highlight a different DisneyWorld park.  As the books progress, the characters age, so be prepared for the story to get bogged down with love interests as well as excessive secondary characters.  Also, as technology changes quickly, you’ll  note some outdated references in the earlier books. Consider downloading the audiobook to an ipod or mp3 player for the plane ride or listen as a family on the drive to Florida.  Who knows what magic you might encounter?

kingdomkeepers1DADKingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark – Finn is having the most vivid dream, until he realizes it isn’t a dream at all!  He is one of 5 new Disney Host Interactives – holograms that guide guests through the Disney parks.  But there is a glitch – when the kids fall asleep they wake up as their holograms and are charged to battle the evil forces trying to take over the park.  Can these 5 new friends find a way to work together, appreciate each others strengths, and keep the Magic Kingdom safe?  See what happens when the parks close and the real excitement begins.

kingdomkeepers2DADKingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn-The Kingdom Keepers are back – this time a mysterious lightning storm at Magic Kingdom triggers events that could destroy the DHI’s forever.  They head to the Animal Kingdom where the latest DHI technology is ready to be put in place, but they only have until daylight to foil the plans of the Overtakers and secure the park.  If they can’t work together will this mean the end of the Kingdom Keepers forever?

kingdomkeepers3DISKingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow – Wayne is missing and it is up to the Kingdom Keepers to find him – fast!  A whirlwind adventure through Epcot has the team meeting new villains and old nemesis.  Struggling to keep calm and stay focused as the stakes get higher, can the DHIs find Wayne and get home safely before their cover is blown?

kingdomkeepers4PPKingdom Keepers IV: Power Play –  Life is almost back to normal for the Kingdom Keepers.  With key Overtakers locked down things are pretty calm for the DHIs – until Philby receives a mysterious video, new Overtakers pop up in Downtown Disney and Charlene starts acting strangely.  It is time to take action in Hollywood Studios and Typhoon Lagoon to protect the power center for the DHI server before the Overtakers create their own series of holograms – or is it too late?

kingdomkeepers5SGKingdom Keepers V: Shell Game – With a huge promotional voyage on the Disney Dream ahead the Kingdom Keepers are ready to tackle the high seas.  Unfortunately, the Overtakers are using this journey to regroup.  They’ve stolen one of Walt Disney’s personal journals -with cryptic information that could lead to a takeover.  From aboard ship to Castaway Cay, the Kingdom Keepers have to find a way to stop the Overtakers – and figure out just what they are trying to accomplish aboard the Dream.  But who can the Kingdom Keepers trust, and are they starting to lose faith in each other?

kingdomkeepers6DPKingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage -As the Disney Dream makes its way through the Panama Canal things are heating up for the Kingdom Keepers.  The magic more intense and the stakes higher than ever – can the team keep it together long enough to solve the mystery of the Overtakers plans?  How will they defeat the most evil creature Disney ever imagined – and will they all see the end of this voyage?

kingdomkeepers7IKingdom Keepers VII: The Insider  – As high school seniors the Kingdom Keepers have spent the past three years in relative quiet.  Their trip aboard the Disney Dream is part of the past, and the Overtakers defeated.  Until they stage an unexpected comeback that requires the team to be back in action.    A long-lost icon is their only hope to protect Disneyland – the original park that started the magic.

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Filed under A to Z, Disney, magic, Middle Reader, mystery, series, travel

Keep them on the shelves!

This week is Banned Books Week here in the US.  It is an opportunity to bring to light the books, and the messages, that have been challenged, primarily over the past 4 decades, for a variety of reasons.  I’ve thought a lot about this issue, started and re-started, written and re-written this post, trying to get a handle on exactly what it means to both sides when a book is challenged or banned. But in the end I will  help carry the torch against the  banning of books. Does that mean I agree with everything I read? Nope. But I believe in the power of literature to inspire, comfort, motivate, encourage, expose and interest readers.

I have a hard time processing the banning of books.  Free speech, one of the strongest ideals held in the Bill of Rights, established in the First Amendment, is a cornerstone value on which our society was established.  Banning books means removing access to ideas, thereby limiting free speech. Regardless of personal opinions, the societal ideals we uphold need to be applied universally – we can’t pick and choose which amendments should be adhered to.  I’ll never own a gun, and I most definitely do not want my children in a home with a firearm. But I can’t stop others from owning one. Just because someone doesn’t want their child to read The Hunger Games doesn’t mean they can take away that opportunity from my child.

Equal opportunity aside, what is it about banned books that gets everyone so riled up? And why are these books, or any books, so important?  Often the banning of books is a way to protect our children from what we have deemed as scary, unfamiliar, or shocking. Reading is way to experience the world, without having to actually experience it. Learning through literature enables readers to branch out, safely. Books help us to think differently, sometimes that makes us uncomfortable, but it is a necessary challenge pushing us to grow.  Allowing your child to read banned books gives you the chance to comment and weigh in, imparting your values either in reinforcement or opposition.

I’ve put together 5 reasons that books, all books, should be kept on the shelves.

1.) Literature is a reflection of our society. Reading about someone like you eases isolation and validates your feelings and existence.

thefamily bookThe Family Book by Todd Parr (PB) has been challenged because it represents families of all types, some with only one parent, some with two parents of the same sex. How painful and unfair for children in these family groups to never see their life represented – for diverse families make up much of our population. The moral of the book is that all families are special and filled with love – an experience everyone should see validated.

AreYouThereGodmodernAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume (MR) is one of the top 100 most challenged books of the 90’s and 00’s. Just like any other 12 year old girl, Margaret struggles with buying her first bra, getting her period, and establishing her identity. What an honest heroine for pre-teen girls to know – and to help them realize that what they are going through is normal. Unless they don’t get to read it.

2.) Books open our eyes to existences different from our own, which increases understanding. Exposure to differing beliefs, lifestyles, and experiences breeds empathy and tolerance.

betternatethaneverBetter Nate Than Ever  by Tim Federle (MR) follows the story of Nate, a Broadway show loving misfit, from his small hometown in Pennsylvania to New York City to realize his dream of auditioning for a role on-stage. I’ve read this one cover to cover and what stuck with me the most was the idea of pursuing your dreams, and realizing you aren’t alone. Nate encounters some interesting characters on his journey who validate his uniqueness. There is also an “appreciate your family” piece that I like, too. Nate, along with his show-biz troubles, also has a minor sub-plot that addresses his current confusion about his budding sexuality. Ending unresolved, is he gay or isn’t he?, the book promotes a compassionate character who can help young readers not feel so alone. But it also creates empathy and understanding for those who, tempted to bully or belittle what they don’t understand, will reconsider in favor of tolerance or even friendship. Click HERE to read author Tim Federle’s thoughts on banning his book.

olivesoceanOlive’s Ocean  by Kevin Henkes (MR)  is #59 on the ALA list of challenged books for the 00’s primarily because it deals with mortality. Olive and Martha could have been friends, but they never knew it, and now it’s too late. Olive was killed in a car accident and, when her mother gives Martha pages of Olive’s journal that reveal how Olive really thought of Martha, it causes her to rethink who she is an who she wants to be. At it’s heart Olive’s Ocean is a coming-of age story about the loss of innocence and realization of our own mortality. It also examines the idea that we never truly know how we are perceived by others, or what our impact may be on their lives. (Newbery Honor Book)

3.) Imagination and fantasy encourage creativity and originality. They also require us to take a hard look at our own world.

wrinkleintimeA Wrinkle in Time  by Madeline L’Engel (MR) is a fantasy story with a female protagonist who travels through time and space searching for her father. It’s mystery and adventure in a fantasy world. Since it’s publication in 1962 it has been criticized for being too adult, too Christian, not Christian enough, and frankly addressing the battle between good and evil. Paperback Pigeon moment of honesty – I hated this book as a child. It was confusing and I didn’t get it. And that is one of the biggest complaints about it. However, banning something because you don’t understand is prejudice, fear bred of ignorance. I put it down and didn’t read the rest of the series. No harm done. But my sister-in-law loved this series as a girl, and I’m glad she was given the chance to read it. (Newbery Medal Winner)

harrypottersorcerersstoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (MR) is one of the most popular, and most challenged, books of the 00’s. Primary concerns are the use of witchcraft and its direct opposition with religious teachings. I’m going to fall back on the Bill of Rights for this one, #1 in fact not only has the freedom of speech, but freedom of religion, too. Banning access to these books based on religious reasons violates the freedom to believe and practice as we wish. Another opposition – the scary nature of the stories and the characters frequent experiences with death. Dealing with death- of a pet, grand-parent or other loved one- is sadly, a part of life. Reading about it can help children to process loss, before they have to encounter it in real life.

hungergamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA) is violent, graphic, and emotionally draining. In another Paperback Pigeon moment of honesty – I hated this book. Yep. So why should it be on shelves? Clearly it is a created fantasy world, a dystopian society, far fictionalized from our own. Yet, it provokes a lot of thought about our current society. I especially like the idea of the voyeuristic sensibilities of watching the Hunger Games via satellite in all the districts. How does that correlate to our current fascination with reality TV? How far will we go for entertainment? In the insular fictional word of Panem readers see an exaggerated reality, and determine how far it really is from our society.

4.) Historical novels, when taught in context, provide a window to the past. Just as modern literature reflects the values of our current society, classic literature was at one time contemporary – they reflect the world in which they were written.

tokillamockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (YA) is one of the most banned books of the 20th century, and is still on the list of banned books today. Why? Because it’s deals with racism. Of course it’s about racism – and tolerance, and understanding the weaknesses of the human condition and societal influence on morality. It’s about doing what is right, and just, against adversity. Using literature to teach about the inequity and injustice of racism, means that racism will have to be examined, addressed, and refuted. Not ignored. Set in 1936, published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird, when read in historical context, opens minds to how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go.  (Pulitzer Prize 1961)

diaryofayounggirlAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (YA) has been banned for its open and honest portrayal of teenage adolescence. First, it should be open and honest – it was her diary after all. Secondly, when placed in historical context, that is what makes it so compelling and important. Anne is just another pre-teen girl (see Margaret, #1 above) so she is identifiable to readers. Yet what she is experiencing at the hands of the Nazi regime is unimaginable. This book has humanized and personified the Jewish experience during World War II for young readers since it as first published in 1947 (English version 1952).

5.) Early readers don’t come to the table with an understanding of societal constraints. Adults teach those, often too early and unnecessarily.

inthenightkitchenIn the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak (PB) is banned primarily because the main character, in a dream sequence, is illustrated naked. I’ve read this book to many preschool aged kids and they don’t ever seem to dwell on this. “He’s dreaming so he doesn’t have clothes” or “Isn’t he cold?” Older kids and adults are the ones uncomfortable with this because society has taught us that our bodies should be covered (and, yes, I highly encourage wearing pants to the grocery store), but by placing those constraints on a preschool age group, and book, we deny children the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful story.

andtangomakesthreeAnd Tango Makes Three  by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson (PB) is probably the most challenged book of the late 00’s. It’s based on the true story of a male penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo who were given an egg to raise. Although a great story for children of same-sex couples to see their situation mirrored in literature (see #1 above), it can also help other children gain understanding and empathy for differing family groups (see #2 above). Many children just want to read about penguins. Sometimes grown-ups think too much.

I strongly encourage handling topics in an age-appropriate manner, reading and discussing along with your child, or pre-reading middle-reader/young-adult book choices so that you can be ready to openly answers questions or concerns. Even though it requires work, effort and time, and sometimes saying no, it all comes down to parents being responsible for guiding their children’s literature choices. Just don’t try to guide my children’s choices. You can leave that up to me.

• For a list of banned books check out the American Library Association.
• Check out the Paperback Pigeon pinterest page on banned books:
• Concerned about what your kids are reading? Common Sense Media provides reviews and age suggestions– compare their reviews with books you’ve read so you can decide if you agree or disagree with their ratings. Then you can refer to their reviews to help guide your child appropriately.
• Or visit your local library – many have displays up this week for Banned Books Week!

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Filed under Banned Books, classics, History, travel

G is for….

No matter where you go, or how old you are, bedtime is the perfect time for a book.

Good Night World by Adam Gamble & various authors/illustrators

This series of simple board books begin in the early morning in Spring, and with the turn of each page walk you through the day/year visiting the highlights of each location.  These adorable stories help the littlest readers re-visit (and remember) their favorite vacation spots.  With over 70 titles in the series you can find these wonderful travel souvenirs to complement almost any trip – from Israel to Ohio, San Diego to New Orleans.   Generic titles such as Good Night Lake, Good Night Zoo, and Good Night Beach provide a delightful complement to any excursion. PB

Check out the Good Night Our World series!

Here are some Paperback Pigeon Favorites….

goodnightmartha'svineyardGood Night Martha’s Vineyard by Megan Weeks Adams – All the favorites of the Vineyard are here!  From the Flying Horses Carousel to the beach to the wild turkeys.  Begin your trip with a Ferry ride and finish at the snow covered gazebo in Ocean Park.  In-between you can re-live all the highlights of your on Island vacation.

goodnightvermontGood Night Vermont by Michael Tougias –  Maple sugaring, mountain biking, and skiing take you through the seasons in Vermont.   Cross covered bridges and spot moose while hiking and camping, but don’t forget to pick up this lovely reminder of why Vermont is a beautiful place to visit all year ’round.

goodnightlosangelesGood Night Los Angeles by Adam Gamble – Tour LA and visit all the sights!  From movie stars in Hollywood to lifeguards on Venice Beach there is plenty to see in Los Angeles.  Take a walk past Grauman’s Chinese Theater and don’t forget to check out the stars on the walk of fame!

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Filed under A to Z, Picture Book, travel, United States

E is for…

There is something magical, mysterious, and exciting about staying in a hotel.  But what if you lived there?  With the entire hotel to explore, your every whim taken care of, and room service just a phone call away it is sure to be an adventure every day!

Eloise by Kay Thompson

There is no more glamorous hotel residence than the classic Plaza hotel, right on Central Park in New York City.  Eloise, the Plaza’s most famous resident,  is at once endearing and terrorizing, ignored and adored, and full of confidence as she engages a cast of characters who work and reside with her.  With her pug Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee, and her champion and companion Nanny, Eloise takes charge!  Things don’t always go as planned for, as Eloise says, “After all I am only six”.    For a real life Eloise adventure check out the Plaza’s Family page to learn about the Eloise events or to stay in the Eloise Suite!  PB

eloiseEloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups is the original tale of the little girl at the top of the Plaza.  With distinctly darling drawings by Hilary Knight adults will delight in sharing this classic tale with their children during any hotel stay.

eloisechristmasEloise at Christmastime It’s the holidays at the Plaza and Eloise is determined to make sure everyone celebrates in true Eloise style.  A lovely complement to a trip to New York City at Christmastime.


eloisebawthEloise Takes a BawthWith Eloise nothing goes as planned, especially when you are taking a bath in the Plaza Hotel.  Enjoy this darling tale of a little girl who keeps everyone at the hotel on their toes and just one little drop out of the bath causes more trouble than you’d ever imagine.

eloiseparisEloise in Paris Bon Jour!  Eloise is leaving the Plaza and is ready to discover the City of Lights!  With Nanny by her side she is ready to do positively everything in Paris, with predictable Eloise results.



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Filed under A to Z, classics, New York City, Picture Book, travel

D is for….

Dodsworth by Tim Egan

Traveling the world is a lifelong dream for many.   Few, if any, of those many would care to do it in the company of a poorly behaved, trouble-making duck.  Dodsworth is no different.  As he travels the globe he just can’t seem to shake the duck, which results in hilarious travel tales that are fun & funny for both kids and adults.  Even Dodsworth has to admit the duck is a little endearing, after a while.  These short chapter books, with repetitive  word choices are perfect for beginning readers, and great to share as a read-aloud, too.  RA/ER -1/3

dodsworthinnyDodsworth in New York – Dodsworth wants to see the world.  Before leaving his hometown of New York he needs some breakfast.  Unfortunately for Dodsworth, and luckily for readers,  on his trip for pancakes at Hodges’ Cafe  he meets a crazy duck who leads Dodsworth across New York city, past famous sights right onto a boat that’s traveling across the ocean….

dodsworthparisDodsworth in Paris – The Eiffel Tower beckons as Dodsworth and the duck visit the City of Lights.   But try as he may the duck just can’t seem to stay out of trouble!   For  comedic mischief from Notre Dame to the Louvre follow Dodsworth and the duck as they don a beret and visit the sights of Paris.  This early reader contains some French words which help build diverse vocabulary, but may require a grown-up to assist with the initial reading.

dodsworthlondonDodsworth in London – They’ve crossed the channel via hot-air balloon and Dodsworth and the duck (still sporting his beret) are now in London.  This time a case of mistaken identity leaves Dodsworth with the wrong duck!  How will Dodsworth find his duck, and return this one to it’s home?  From double-decker buses to Buckingham Palace this hilarious duo don’t miss a thing while in London!

dodsworthromeDodsworth in Rome – When in Rome…trouble is bound to follow Dodsworth and the duck.  From entering a pizza throwing contest to a visit to the Sistine Chapel, with these two nothing ever goes as planned.  Follow Dodsworth and the duck on another adventure as the scooter around Rome as they see the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain and eat lots of gelato!

dodsworthtokyoDodsworth in Tokyo – Dodsworth is excited to visit Tokyo, but nervous that the duck will have trouble minding his manners.  As usual, the duck doesn’t disappoint and has accidents everywhere he goes. This time however, he redeems himself by helping a young girl.  Even Dodsworth has to smile at that.  Many of the Japanese words may be too difficult for the earliest readers, but the pictures help with decoding and adults will enjoy these adventures too, so read along together!

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Filed under A to Z, animals, Asia, Early Readers, europe, series, travel

C is for….

Finding true friendship is sometimes all we need to discover who we really are.

Cornelia & the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley Blume

Most consider it good fortune to be the daughter of someone famous.  For eleven-year old Cornelia the reality is absentee parents and a quirky personality.  Seeking solace in a dictionary, the isolation makes her reclusive.  This is the world of Cornelia, and eleven year old in New York City, until the mysterious, elderly Virginia Somerset moves in next door with her servant Patel and her french bulldog, Mr. Kinyatta.   As Virginia shares the stories of her worldly travels with Cornelia a mutual friendship develops.  Cornelia learns more about Virginia, and herself, with each story.  But as they spend more time together Cornelia realizes that Virginia’s stories are her legacy, and she is running out of time to gift them to Cornelia. MR/4-6
corneliaandsomersetsisters   Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

*A Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite*

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, Asia, europe, History, Middle Reader, North America, travel

Easy as A, B, C…..

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer.  As my husband and I are both educators, this upcoming week means that all five people in our house head back to school within days of each other.  The lazy, hazy days of summer (which alternated with crazy, busy days) are behind us and we are returning to the welcome routine and rhythm of the fall.

This return to school also means a return to homework.  My girls in elementary school are asked to read 15 minutes per night, any material of their choosing, as part of their ELA homework.  That means making sure that reading material is readily available.   We start with trips to the library to get a variety of choices, or visit Barnes & Noble to get the latest “must-have” in a series, and check Amazon for ideas to help us prepare.

As we embark on another school year I thought it would be great for the Paperback Pigeon to get back to basics…so, for the foreseeable future, each week I will be posting a suggestion for a book or series to excite your reader about travel – and their independent reading requirements for school – from A to Z.

A is for Agatha: Girl of Mystery by Sir Steve Stevenson

Twelve year-old Agatha Mistery is called on by her cousin Dash to help him solve mysteries and complete assignments from his prestigious academy – the Eye International Spy School.  Jet-setting around the world, Agatha uses her remarkable photographic memory, Dash’s cool spy school gadgets, and the help of her intrepid former-boxer butler, Watson to gather clues and solve crimes.  Exploring locations across the globe – from Egypt to Scotland to Niagara Falls – Agatha tackles curses, heists, treasures and murder.  This exciting series keeps readers turning the pages while introducing diverse and exciting locales around the world. ER/3-RA

agathamystery1The Curse of the Pharaoh #1   In this debut story Agatha is off to Egypt to recover a missing artifact from an archaeological dig in the Valley of the Kings.

agathamystery2The Pearl of Bengal #2  Agatha heads to India to discover the truth behind the theft of the Pearl of Bengal.  With the help of Dash, Watson and her Uncle Raymond, a wildlife photographer, Agatha is sure to solve the crime.

agathamystery3The King of Scotland’s Sword #3  A missing sword leads Agatha to Scotland where she tackles mysterious curses and frightening ghosts to solve the mystery.

agathamystery4The Heist at Niagara Falls #4  A jewel heist takes Agatha to Niagara Falls where she and Dash encounter Canada’s most notorious thief.  Can they take on this mastermind criminal and return the jewels to their rightful owner?

agathamystery5The Eiffel Tower Incident #5 The stakes are higher in the city of lights….this time it’s murder.  Agatha and Dash rush to Paris to solve the mysterious murder of a Russian Diplomat.  As they travel the streets they only have the clue “Red Rose” to guide them in catching the culprit.

agathamystery6The Treasure of the Bermuda Triangle #6  A missing gold Mayan calendar leads Agatha on another adventure, but this time solving the mystery isn’t the only challenge- the Bermuda Triangle has it’s own mysteries and dangers that Agatha and Dash must contend with.

agathamystery7The Crown of Venice #7  Publication date Nov 13, 2014 – The Crown of Venice is missing!  This famous ancient artifact was stolen during carnival and everyone is a suspect!

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, Asia, Early Reader, Early Readers, europe, Multi-Cultural, mystery, North America, series, travel

Summertime and the Reading is Easy!

Time to kick back, relax, enjoy the sunshine, pool time and inhale the aromas of sunscreen, sweat and chlorine.  It is officially summer! Today is the last day of the school year for my kids.  Ahead of us stretch the promise of endless days filled with outdoor adventures in sun and sand, on foot and on bike.  Late nights promise stargazing by a campfire and drive-in movies.  Of course the best part to them is no school – no required learning based on curriculum and tests.  They can spend the next eight weeks focused on whatever they want.

However, an organized Pigeon like myself, who wants to fit as much into a busy summer as possible, needs to know what my kids want.  So each summer we make a giant posterboard that hangs in our kitchen and says,

“This Summer I Want To…..”

They fill in the rest.  Ideas range from “go strawberry picking” to “have a no sock day” (which was debated as valid since hardly anyone around here wears socks in summer anyway).  We try to limit the ridiculous (skydiving, pie-in-the-face day) but encourage big and small ideas (ice cream for breakfast, trip to California).  Often what they write says more than they realize.  “Enjoy camp” showed up this year.   I thought the wording of that was interesting – not “go to camp” but “enjoy camp”.  It is going to require a bit more investigating to figure out what that means.  This board, while a depository for the kids summer dreams, is open to the entire family.  I put down my suggestions for fun summer activities, too.  Some of which are embraced (Renaissance Festival) and others derided or ignored (clean your room day).  When we do an activity on the board we check it off. By September we are amazed at everything we’ve done with our summer, which is full and busy (biking, hiking, camping, swimming) and surprisingly laid back (“do nothing day” had 3 checks last summer).

A must-do on our list every year is the summer reading program at our local library. It encourages kids to read over the summer, but without specific requirements.  They are rewarded for reading what they want to read. And there is no discussion, comprehension assessment or test after.  Just a prize.  They go in a”secret room” and pick their prize each week – cute nick-nacks that clutter my house, but to them are a source of pride and accomplishment.  Teen readers earn entries into a drawing – last year’s prize was an iPad.  Yup, pretty cool incentive to read.

These first few days of summer hold all the magic.  The possibilities are endless, the wonder of days stretched out before us without schedule or requirement.  Sit down on the porch with an ice cream cone at twilight and watch fireflies or swing in a hammock and bring along one of these amazing summer reads. Mom’s Bookshelf: Summer has a grown-up collection of seasonal reads perfect for the beach, backyard, patio or pool.

nightbeforesummervacationThe Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing – In the rush to pack for vacation something is sure to be missed in this adorable story told in the familiar cadence of Clement Moore’s classic poem.PB

RHSsummertreasureSummer Treasure (Robin Hill School) by Robin McNamara – Hannah sees her teacher on a trip to the beach and gets a special surprise. ER/1



summerpartySummer Party by Cynthia Rylant – The Cousins, Rosie, Tess and Lily are heading home.  But they will miss Aunt Lucy’s house and each other.  So they decide to throw a special party to welcome their parents home and celebrate their good times spent at the cottage. ER/2

MTHsummerseaserpentSummer of the Sea Serpent :Magic Tree House #31 by Mary Pope Osborne – The 3rd book in the “Merlin Missions” begins on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when Jack and Annie must solve another riddle and travel to a land of myth and mystery. ER/2-3

judymoodynotbummersummerJudy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Book #10) by Megan McDonald – It’s bad enough that Judy’s best friends are leaving for the summer, but now her parents are going on a trip and she’d stuck home with Stink and Aunt Opal!  Not to be defeated Judy is determined to make this summer the most exciting, eventful and thrilling ever – with hilarious, unexpected results. MR/3

summerhumphreySummer According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney – Humphrey, everyone’s favorite class hamster, is shocked to find out that school is ending!  What will he do for the summer?  Go to camp, of course!  Along with many familiar friends from Room 26 Humphrey braves the wild and has lots of summer fun. MR/3-4

seaglasssummerSeaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee – Poppy loves animals and hopes to become a veterinarian.  She gets her chance when her parents let her visit her Uncle Sanjay, a vet, while they go to India for the summer.  Poppy’s summer of discovery teachers her that there is more to being a vet than just taking care of the animals.  With a little help she’ll learn to balance the hard work, joy and sadness of caring for furry creatures.  MR/4

frozensummerFrozen Summer by Mary Jane Auch  – The summer of 1816 was shockingly cold and for Rememberance Nye and her family, who recently settled on this new frontier, the unusual weather causes enormous challenges that threaten their very survival.  Take a trip to Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY to see a cabin just like the one the Nye family lived in. MR/4

penderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall – When the Penderwick sisters spend their summer at Arundel they charm the housekeeper, befriend the young boy who lives there and get into a variety of exciting adventures.  Delightfully charming and sweet, sincere and heartwarming!  National Book Award Winner and A Paperback Pigeon All Time Favorite. MR/4-5

onecrazysummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia – It’s the summer of 1968 and Delphine and her sisters fly from Brooklyn to Oakland to meet the mother who abandoned them years earlier.  They eat take-out Chinese food, attend a summer program run by the Black Panthers, and try to make peace with the reality that their mother really doesn’t want to know them.  In a summer filled with self discovery, the girls realize that there are some bonds you can’t deny, and family is worth fighting for.  MR/5-6 A Newberry Honor Book, Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalist

summergermansoldierSummer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene – When 12 year old Patty Bergen’s hometown becomes the site of a German POW camp during WWII she finds herself befriending an prisoner.  How can this Jewish girl reconcile her relationship with the enemy?  To what lengths will Patty go to keep her friendship secret, and is the risk worth it? MR/5-6

hiddensummerThe Hidden Summer by Gin Phillips – Torn apart by a feud between their mothers, best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden to see each other all summer.  They secretly maintain their friendship by meeting at an abandoned golf course where a series of clues reveal a mystery waiting to be solved, and the opportunity to become who they’re meant to be.  YA/ 6 & up


Filed under Multi-Cultural, Seasons, Summer, travel, Uncategorized


A seaside Bed & Breakfast, a Park Avenue penthouse or the Holiday Inn – there is something wonderfully exhilarating about staying in a hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I’d choose the penthouse over the chain motel any day of the week, but even the most modest (I’m talking affordable – not gross), can be an exciting adventure. I love walking into a freshly made room, setting up my suitcase and picking my side of the bed. Checking into a hotel feels like the jumping off point for an adventure.

Kids seem to  be particularly drawn to staying in hotels. There is a unique thrill about discovering where the ice machine is and filling the baggie lined bucket to the brim with square shaped cubes. My middle daughter particularly delights in collecting toiletriesthe “free” stuff – soaps, shower caps, pens and coffee packets. She does this to the point that we have often settled in only to realize that all the toiletries have already been confiscated – and we have to ask her to return them and wait until checkout to add to her collection. Lobbies hold a variety of wonders. Empty ballrooms are cavernous playgrounds. The breakfast is “the best ever” and the pool is “awesome”.

A hotel is the perfect setting for adventure, where a cast of characters are at the ready to see to your every need. Whether relaxing oceanside in Hawaii or just visiting grandma, the next time you check in, check out one of these great hotel reads.

Eloieloisese by Kay Thompson – What’s better than spending your vacation in a hotel? Living there!  And there is no more glamorous hotel residence than the classic Plaza hotel, right on Central Park in New York City.  Eloise is at once endearing and terrorizing, ignored and adored, and full of confidence as she engages a cast of characters who work and reside with her at the Plaza.  With her pug Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee and her champion and companion Nanny, Eloise takes charge!  Things don’t always go as planned for as Eloise says, “After all I am only six”.    For a real life Eloise adventure check out the Plaza’s Family page to learn about the Eloise events or to stay in the Eloise Suite!  PB

pipgrandhotelPip in the Grand Hotel by Johannes Hucke – A pet mouse on the loose leads to a frantic chase that takes the reader behind the scenes of a Grand Hotel!  Mary wants her mouse back, and the Manager wants the mouse OUT!  What follows are pages of vivid, eye-catching illustrations of a busy hotel at work, and play that will interest readers as they help search for the little rodent!  It all ends happily, with a celebration in the Grand Dining Salon. PB

hotellarryAt the Hotel Larry by Daniel Pinkwater – After Larry the Polar Bear saves a man’s life, he buys Larry a hotel as a reward.  They move into the hotel, and the daughter narrates this tale of Larry and his affinity for the basement pool.  But when Larry and the girl venture out for pancakes and a visit to the zoo (in disguise, of course) Larry meets up with his brother and invites the zoo polar bears back to the hotel for a swim and some fun! PB

elevatorfamilyThe Elevator Family by Douglas Evans – When the Wilson family finds that their San Francisco hotel doesn’t have any available rooms, they check in to the elevator for a three day stay.   Their entertaining vacation is full of “visits” by the colorful residents of the hotel.  Although their trip has its “ups…and downs,” they bring a new perspective and cheery attitude that is shared by all who encounter them.   A charming chapter book with a unique perspective on finding what matters in life.  ER-3/RA

gshotelishauntedThis Hotel Is Haunted! (Geronimo Stilton #50)– Another fun adventure with Geronimo!  This time he is trying to help save his childhood friends hotel from a ghost!  Geronimo knows that there is no such thing as ghosts, but things are getting scary.  With the help of his friend, detective Hercule Poirat, Geronimo is ready to get the scoop and stop the spook!  Written in the eye-catching style, and peppered with interesting facts about hotels, this clever, cool mystery will keep you guessing. ER-3/RA

floorsFloors: Book 1 by Patrick Carman – Leo loves the Whippet Hotel.  As the janitors son, Leo knows all the ins-and outs of the unique hotel, where nothing is quite what it seems and unusual is the normal.  But the hotel owner is missing, and  Leo is charged with solving a mystery that threatens the very existence of the Whippet Hotel.  Leo, his new friend Remi, a colorful cast of characters, and several ducks find that sometimes friendship and loyalty really can win out.  MR/RA

hocuspocusHocus Pocus Hotel by Michael Dahl – Charlie Hitchcock has a photographic memory and a problem. The middle school tough guy, Tyler Yu, wants to meet him after school.  Turns out Tyler isn’t always so tough, and he needs Charlie’s help.  The hotel Tyler’s family runs, The Abracadabra, was built by magicians and mysterious things are going on.  It’s up to Charlie and Tyler to figure what’s happening with the help of elevator operator Mr. Brack, who has a secret of his own.   Great for kids that love magic and mysteries! MR

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Filed under europe, hotel, mystery, travel, United States