Pictures from Our Vacation

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Pictures from Our Vacation Book Poster Image
Best book about the family road trip.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive messages

The mom encourages creativity by giving her kids a camera and a journal.

Violence & scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book offers a unique perspective on the family vacation, and is an especially good choice if they are about to take off on a lengthy road trip. The mention of a memorial held as part of a family reunion may evoke discussions of funerals and death, however most of the book is about ways to build and keep memories of trips, especially family adventures.

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What's the story?

Told from the perspective of the young girl, the story evolves as the girl settles into the family adventure. Admittedly, she starts off expecting the trip to be fun, which for many families is not the case. She is patient through the two-day ride, imaginative when they spend the night in a strange motel, and cooperative while following around her nostalgic father as he tries to find an old swimming hole he swam in as a kid. And she is intrigued ... by people she sees at the lake, by the cousins who fill the family farmhouse, the relatives she never knew, and the stories they tell. In the end, she realizes that it's hard to take pictures that show those kinds of memories. She will just keep them in her mind.

Is it any good?

This is a remarkable, multilayered book full of unique pictorial details. It's set up much like a scrapbook with maps, captioned photos, thought bubbles, and journal notes as well as a continuous narrative. Author Lynne Rae Perkins has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books, and, in 2006, she won the Newbery Award for her novel Criss Cross.

Anyone who has taken a road trip with kids knows it can be tricky. Many parents resort to giving their kids movies to watch, or activities to keep them busy. The mom in this case gives her kids cameras and journals. What a great idea! After a few learning mistakes (a photo of the girl's feet, another of the back of Dad's head), the kids get the hang of it. And looking out the window, taking photos of things, keeps them involved in the actual trip, rather than simply living through it. Interestingly, the more involved they get in their vacation, the fewer photos they actually take.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about vacations they've taken. How did you feel when you started the trip? What did you expect? Did it turn out as you thought it would? Did you take photos or keep a journal to help you remember what you did? Do you agree with the girl's father that pictures with people in them are the best? Do you agree with the girl's mother that it's hard to take photos when you are having fun? The girl thought that the pictures in your mind are better than the ones you take with a camera. What do you think?

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