Reading is believing Books: A story about the place you are visiting can add to the children's excitement.

Taking the Kids

January 18, 1998|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Claudia Kinkaid is bored, restless and longing for the kind of excitement that will change her life.

The fact that Claudia is only 11 doesn't stop her. She runs away, taking her younger brother, Jamie, along. The two camp out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, leaving their parents to mount a frantic search while they're having the adventure of their young lives.

If you're thinking this is pure fiction, you're right: Claudia and Jamie are straight off the pages of E. L. Konigsburg's children's classic "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" (Bantam Doubleday Dell, $4.99).

But the Metropolitan Museum is real. So is New York City. And the 30-year-old story is a terrific introduction for children to both, as well as to museums anywhere.

Such stories can make new places much more real for children visiting them for the first time, whether it's a San Francisco tale about "The Cable Car and the Dragon" (by Herb Caen, Chronicle Books, $5.95), the new American Girl Josephina books (by Valerie Tripp, Pleasant Co., $5.95) about a Hispanic girl growing up in New Mexico in the 1820s, or "Make Way for Ducklings" (by Robert McCloskey, Penguin, $7.99), which made the Mallard family that opted to live in Boston's Public Garden so famous there's now a statue of them there.

"Books like these make the trip a more personal experience for children," explains Jim Brown, principal of Washington Oak Elementary School in Coventry, R.I.

"The children aren't just seeing monuments or buildings. They understand that real people -- parents and children -- have their lives and adventures in this place,"agrees Leslie Edmonds Holt, president-elect of the Children's Division of the American Library Association.

The concept works as well for young children as for preteens. Virtually every character young children like, from Barney the dinosaur to Arthur the aardvark to Clifford the dog, go on vacation.

If you know you'll see something specific -- boats, for example, tall buildings, the ocean -- try to find a picture book about that subject for young children. For visits to Grandma's house, Holt suggests "Just Grandma and Me" (by Merced Mayer, Golden Books, $3.25).

If you're going to see dolphins with your preteens, get them "The Music of Dolphins" (by Karen Hesse, Scholastic, $4.50), about a girl who wants to return to the dolphin family who raised her.

Children heading west might want to read "The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses" (by Paul Goble, Simon and Schuster, $5.99), while those planning a New England trip might want to pick up the award-winning "Johnny Tremaine" (by Esther Forbes, Dell Publishing, $5.50) or "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" (by Elizabeth George Speare, BDD Books, $5.50).

Wherever we travel, I check out shops for stories set in that locale. My 11-year-old daughter bought "The Mystery of the Blue Gowned Ghost" (by Linda Wirkner, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, $4.50), a story about a young girl reluctantly visiting Colonial Williamsburg today who encounters a family mystery. My daughter liked touring Williamsburg by day and reading the story by night.

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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