Road Trip with Max and His Mom

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Road Trip with Max and His Mom Book Poster Image
Fun road trip sequel explores emotional effects of divorce.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Max and his classmates are doing projects about biographies. Names of many noteworthy people and their contributions are introduced: Sacagawea, Magellan, John Glenn, Jacques Cousteau, Fanny Workman, and Ernest Shackleton. Max takes his biography about a famous explorer to heart and decides to model his adventures in real life.

Positive Messages

Family is family no matter what shape or name it has. Explorers make sacrifices. Facing fears can bring great rewards.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Max's parents, teachers, friends, and family are there to help him through tough times. His mom teaches him how to breathe "slow, slow, slowly" when he's anxious, which helps him through a challenging time.

Violence & Scariness
Language

A waitress tells Max and his mom to "check out Barack Obama and Joe Biden's buns" on the way out of the hot dog restaurant. Max thinks it "sounded funny to be told to check out a president's buns."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Linda Urban's Road Trip with Max and His Mom, the sequel to Weekends with Max and His Dad, deals with life after divorce through the eyes of a third-grader. Max feels some anxiety when his mom announces that she plans to take a road trip to a family reunion and that Max will miss his designated weekend with his dad. Max's confusion is illustrated by sudden urges to run around, worrying about seemingly minor things, and trying to please people. But he's supported and loved in a way that lets him put his worries in perspective, helping him to view life as an adventure. 

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What's the story?

Max LeRoy is back in ROAD TRIP WITH MAX AND HIS MOM, Linda Urban's second book about a 9-year-old boy adjusting to life after his parents' divorce. Max's mom announces that she's taking Max on a road trip to a family reunion at an amusement park in Pennsylvania for his great-great aunt's 100th birthday. Though he loves seeing his mom smile and get excited, he's worried that she's making a mistake. "I'd like to go with you, but I can't," he tells her. Weekends are spent with his dad, you see, and Max doesn't know how his dad would cope without his weekend visit. The road trip does proceed as planned, but Max faces questions that children of divorce face: What happens when the schedule gets shifted around? Am I doing what's right? What is this thing called family? Am I allowed to have fun, even if my other parent isn't having fun? Max and his mom do get to have a real road trip -- complete with adventures, hot dogs, wacky cousins, and roller coasters -- and in the end, they find answers to some of these big questions.

Is it any good?

Poignant, funny, and sweet, this story about a kid's life post-divorce is realistic without being heavy. Like the first installment in this three-book series (a third is due in 2019), Road Trip with Max and His Mom does a good job illustrating the shifts that occur after a parents' split, while steadily maintaining a kid's point of view. Author Linda Urban deftly handles those awkward moments of post-divorce life, which are packed with emotional meaning. In one instance, Max invites his dad on the road trip, the details of which his parents have clearly arranged behind-the-scenes. Max's mom gently says that Dad is not invited and goes on to explain that she and Max's dad may not be very good at spending time with each other, but "we're both very, very good at loving you."

Urban takes on a subject that many families have trouble discussing, and the warmth, character, and inclusiveness that this book exudes is inspiring. Max is a kid who's scared and brave and mixed up, but he's ultimately able to move forward. And here's why: His parents make sure to pay attention to Max's needs while adjusting to their own circumstances. This is a story about divorce that can be read to young kids who'll get the message that parents are not perfect, but they're doing the best they can.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about complex feelings and anxiety in Road Trip with Max and His Mom. How does Max react when he's confused or embarrassed? How does he overcome his fears? Can you think of role models in books, TV shows, or movies who help kids deal with stressful situations in positive ways? 

  • Max's family looks different from other families, and some of his relatives don't know how to deal with that. Do you notice when families have different last names? Or is it normal to you? Why would Max feel shocked seeing his mom's name written differently?

  • Family reunions can be cool or ... uncool. How are family get-togethers portrayed in media? Are they realistic?

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