Middle Grade Series for a Virtual Vacation
Things should be looking up the further we traverse into 2021 and although select locations are opening up to visitors, many factors like historical site visitation hours and international travel are limited and make for a poor vacation season. This can be hard on any age group but especially for younger children who are experiencing what can only be described as a unique school year.
Now’s a good time to remind young readers that though physical travel may not be an option, one of the best ways to vicariously experience another place, culture, time, or experience is through books, and these select series are great ways for young readers to vacation to another space, even if it’s only virtually.
Carmen Sandiego books by Various Authors
If you’ve seen Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego, you know this is the perfect TV series for young viewers drawn to action, adventure, and the concept of wanderlust. The show follows the international master thief Carmen Sandiego as she travels the world and steals back rare items from the villainous organization VILE. So she’s a fedora-wearing, coat-doned Robin Hood of sorts. Along the way, viewers not only get to see the global locations Carmen travels too, but with the help of her tech genius, Player, they learn some geographical, historical, and cultural facts about these locations. The books based on this Netflix series are just as high-octane and educational (some with maps!), and the site has even more games, videos, and resources, like an educators’ guide for further fun.
Series Length: 3 books, 3 graphic novels, and 2 choose-your-own-caper books.
Buy the 1st graphic novel:
Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton (Elisabetta Dami)
Created by Elisabetta Dami, the Geronimo Stilton series has over 100 books featuring anthropomorphic, world-wandering mice such a Geronimo (the mild-mannered publisher of The Rodent’s Gazette), Thea (Geronimo’s younger sister and the daring and sometimes reckless special correspondent for The Rodent’s Gazette), Trap (Geronimo and Thea’s jokester cousin and Geronimo’s occasional travel buddy), and Benjamin (Geronimo and Thea’s favorite nine-year-old nephew). There’s a lot to love about this series from the quirky characters to the sheer amount of content. Whether you’re looking to visit Egypt, the Gobi Desert, Mount Kilimanjaro, or the Amazon Jungle, check if Geronimo or Thea have documented their exciting adventures there first.
Series Length: 76 main books, 31 Thea Stilton books, 12 Kingdom of Fantasy spin-offs (with some extra special editions), and just so so many more from special editions to graphic novels to spin-offs of spin-offs.
Buy book one:
Magic Tree House series by Beth Beckman and illustrated by Holley Maher
If the Magic Tree House books and the Geronimo Stilton series have anything in common, other than their characters’ vast array of global experiences, it’s that if readers get into these books, it’s commonplace for them to regularly reach for these on library shelves. Unlike Geronimo, however, these books take on a more historical approach via a magical tree house. Alongside siblings Jack and Annie, readers will time travel to various locations including the Wild West, the plains and mountains of Africa, the frozen Arctic, the forests of India, and ancient Japan, Egypt, and China. Educators will want to visit their teachers site for printables, STEM and educators’ guides, facts, and trivia, and young readers looking for historical fiction, “first-hand” accounts will want to give Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived books a try.
Series Length: 35 books, not including the fact tracker books (nonfiction companions), the Merlin Mission series, the graphic novel editions, or the deluxe fully illustrated editions. Visit the series’ site for exclusive games, resources, and more!
Buy book one:
Greetings from Somewhere series by Harper Paris and illustrated by Marcos Calo
Paris and Calo’s Greetings from Somewhere series is the perfect series for young readers with an inkling for mysteries and an appreciation of humor. This series follows eight-year-old twins Ella and Ethan as they fly around the world with their father and travel writer mother.
From Venice, Italy and Beijing, China to Maasai Mara, Kenya, and Machu Picchu, Peru they solve mini mysteries of cryptic maps, stolen paintings, and secret stone structures. With plentiful illustrations, appealing travel stamps on the book covers, and digestible writing, these short chapters books are great for younger readers craving some international experiences with a bit of mystery on the side.
Series Length: 10 books.
Buy book one:
Little Kid, Big City! series by Beth Beckman and illustrated by Holley Maher
Ok, so there’s only one book out in this series so far, but this is shaping up to be the perfect series for hypothetical vacations. Written by Beth Beckman, from Little Kid, Big City, and featuring adorable art from Holley Maher, from Wink Wink Paper Co., Little Kid, Big City!: New York takes readers on an illustrative tour across New York City from Ellis Island and Chinatown to Greenwich village and the theater district, outlining notable New York delicacies, fun facts, and memorable landmarks. More than just a tour guide, this book allows readers to pick their own path with instructions on which page to flip to for which part of New York they’d like to “visit” next. There’s even a foldout map and a useful travel from home activity kit!
Series Length: 1 book so far with Little Kid, Big City!: London coming out in June 2021 and two more books releasing in due time. Maybe Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris? We’ll see…
Buy book one:
Where Is? series by Various Authors
From Who HQ and a spin-off from the well known Who Was? and What Was? series, these books invite readers on a globe-trotting experience from international landmarks (ie. the Taj Mahal, the Kremlin, the Colosseum) and cities (ie. Easter Island, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu) to regions (ie. the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon, the Serengeti) and more expansive locations (ie. our solar system and the constellations). Full of helpful sketches and condensed into 112 pages, these nonfiction books split up the history and culture of a location into organized chapters, often highlighting the people surrounding the area, the creation of the landmark or structures, the modern and historical significance of the location, and more.
Series Length: 37 books…so far…
Try Where Are the Galapagos Islands?:
Find Momo series by Andrew Knapp
The Find Momo series may not be designed for middle graders specifically, but Andrew Knapp’s photography books, featuring his sneaky border collie Momo, are jolly good fun for the whole family. Based off of Knapp’s stunning photos of Momo from his Instagram (now also featuring Boo!), the books are similar to Where’s Waldo? books in the way Momo hides behind cars, among fields, and in front of national and international landmarks for your searching pleasure. If you’re a fan of search & find games or just want to lose yourself in gorgeous photography from across America and Europe, Momo’s your guide to transporting yourself somewhere new, beautiful, and refreshing.
Ages: Any age. Ages 2-5 for board books.
Buy Find Momo:
Gabrielle likes a lot of things and dislikes very little. Retired ice cream cake decorator, occasional farmhand, and reminiscing library worker, she spent her childhood dreaming of fighting fires and her college days writing about Bong Joon-ho before he was cool. Now, she preaches the importance of dental hygiene; chats up books, movies, and comics via the Quirk blog; and legally climbs silos. Whether the legality of the silo climbing makes her more or less interesting is up for debate. Email [email protected] if you want to review our titles or feature our authors.