Summer is perfect for taking day trips with family. The weather is warm and Iowa’s green fields look beautiful as miles speed by on a road trip. Our state has over a hundred state parks and nature preserves offering gorgeous settings to hike or play in. Many of our communities have fascinating histories or attractions that appeal to kids. And let’s not forget the acclaimed Iowa State Fair and butter cow! Luckily there are great picture books about the Hawkeye State that you can share in the car while traveling.
My favorite is by author/illustrator Arthur Geisert. He relocated and now resides in Bernard, a small town of 98 people in northeast Iowa. He and his neighbors in the hard scrabble town have become fond friends. So he has featured them in an alphabet book called Country Road ABC: an Illustrated Journey through America’s Farmland. This book is a loving yet realistic record of what life is like in small farming communities. Examples for letters include farming information with multiple stories being told in intricate etchings. Some are funny and all can found cruising down county highways.
Sue F. Cornelison wrote The Twelve Days of Christmas in Iowa. A take-off on the song, it is also a nice introduction to Iowa. In it, a boy named Aiden visits his cousin Ella on holiday. She lives on a farm and is so happy to see him that she gives him a special Iowa gift each day. He then writes home about them, telling his parents (and readers) all about our state’s lore, history, and famous places (like LeMars – the Ice Cream Capitol of the World!)
If driving (or being hungry) takes you to the Amanas, be sure to find a copy of Kolonie Kinder: a Children’s Story of Communal Amana. It’s about a day in the life of a little girl living in South Amana when the Colonies still lived apart from the world. And speaking of hunger, no vacation is complete without a visit to the Iowa State Fair. There, besides contests and carnival rides, you can find almost any food conveniently placed on a stick to eat. Susan Knapp’s Bells Goes to the Fair is a fun introduction for kids going to the fair for the first time. It tells the true story of a naughty dog’s escapade after he gets loose there. Iowa’s Tradition: an ABC Photo Album of the Iowa State Fair is another good title by J.O. Parker.
Should you travel north, be sure to check out Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library! It is based on Vicki Myron’s true story of Dewey Readmore Books, a cat who lived at the Spencer Public Library for many years. There he became world famous and the town’s water tower now sports paw prints in his honor. But if going south, take a look at William Hosford’s Geo the Geode, a book about Iowa’s official state rock which visitors can search for at Geode State Park near Burlington. If lucky, you might just find one!
These books celebrate Iowa and are available at the Iowa City Public Library. Read them together and may happy trails be yours.