Armchair Travel: Books For When You Wish You Were Traveling

I know I’m not alone in deeply missing traveling to new places and feeling that privileged sadness of all the places we’ve missed out on going during the pandemic.

In the meantime, while we perhaps take our careful local adventures or just dream about someday, I wanted to round up books that help me escape somewhere new, from board books and picture books I’m reading with our daughters to ones that I love for myself.  Some books have actual travel and a wonderfully rich sense of place, while others are more about how they inspire those adventurous, wanderlust feelings.  Hopefully they’ll all bring you at least a piece of that travel magic!




  • Jenna Evan Welch’s Love & Gelato series
    • The first and third are my favorites. Highly recommended even if YA is often not your thing!
  • Naomi Shihab Nye’s Habibi
  • L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle


Middle Grade

Picture Books

  • Juana Martinez-Neal’s Zonia’s Rain Forest
    • I’ve never seen another book like this one, which takes you right into the Amazon rain forest through the eyes of an Asháninka girl.
  • Kate Messner’s and Christopher Neal’s Over and Under the Canyon
    • Thank you, Chronicle!  We love this Over and Under series and it always makes me so in awe of what’s out there in this amazing world.  I can’t see anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this detailed, immersive, and engaging book, plus now I’m itching for a canyon hike.
  • Frane Lessac’s Australian Baby Animals
    • Thank you, Candlewick! Joyful and gently informative, this one is just plain cute all around.
  • Anuska Allepuz’s The Walloos’ Big Adventure
    • Thank you, Candlewick! We’re all very big fans of this one and I hope you’ll pick it up.  With its vibrant illustrations, fuzzy feel, and fun story, this one will both make you feel adventurous and yet cozy and familial.  We’re reading it on repeat.
  • Patricia MacLachlan’s and Marc Boutavant’s Barkus: The Most Fun
    • Thank you, Chronicle!  This is a very cute series starring a loveable dog (can’t go wrong there) and reminds me of classic favorites Frog and Toad and Henry and Mudge.  This one includes adventures like camping, visiting a farm, and a snowy cabin in the woods, so cozy up and settle in for a sweet read with your little one.
  • Mac Barnett’s and Carson Ellis’s What Is Love?
    • Thank you, Chronicle! A fable-esque journey to discover what love is will make you think of adventures in your life and lead to sweet discussions with your little one about what love is to them.  Ellis is a favorite illustrator and I remember her discussing her friendship with Mac Barnett at a reading of hers I went to, which makes me cherish this book all the more because I love thinking about the two of them working together on it.
  • Pete Oswald’s Hike
    • I tend to not prefer wordless picture books, but we adore this one.
  • Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds
    • Henri Mattise fan?  This book is a visual delight.
  • Jennifer K. Mann’s The Camping Trip
    • First of all, I love seeing a Black family camping.  I also am so taken by all the beautiful details in this book.  It’s a favorite.
  • Maud Poulain’s and Camille Tisserand’s Magnetology: Animals
    • Thank you, Chronicle!  Oh the HOURS our daughter spends with this awesome book. I know I would have loved it as a kid, too, and cannot recommend it more as a gift for almost any kid in your life.  It would also be a great choice for a long car ride or airplane trip.  There’s a pouch for all the magnetic animals in the front and each spread is a different habitat for animals so kids can learn about the animals, arrange and rearrange the animals, and really get so many play possibilities. All of us in the family have been raving over how wonderful this idea is…and wondering which Magnetology book to pick next….
  • Matt Lamothe’s This Is How We Do It
    • How people around the world live will inspire you and perhaps make you feel a bit of that magic of travel discovery.
  • Alexis Deacon’s Ergo
    • Thank you, Candlewick! This one might be a stretch for this category, but its twist on Plato’s Cave allegory (this time it’s a baby chick about to hatch) really amused the adults, with our daughter just finding it cute and entertaining, and I feel like it can be included for a reminder of there being a world outside of ourselves.  Silly and yet thought-provoking, this is a special one.
  • Sandra Morris’s North & South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres
    • Thank you, Candlewick!  I love informational books like this and seeing how it immediately piques our daughter’s interest in so many things.  This one explores how animals around the world adapt to the seasons and you’re going to be fascinated.
  • Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey
    • One I have a distinct memory of reading as a kid.

Board Books

  • Rachel Isadora’s Say Hello
  • All Aboard series
  • Sanjay Patel’s and Emily Haynes’s Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth
    • Thank you, Chronicle! I’d say this one skews to older readers because it’s longer and a more complex story, although our baby loves the contrasting, vibrant images (so do I) and will grin through it while we read it to our toddler.  It’s the legend of how the Mahabharata was written and makes me want to go eat some laddoo in India right away.
  • Emily Winfield Martin’s The Littlest Family’s Big Day
    • Go-to baby gift.  I adore the illustrations and story of this one and have yet to be sick of reading it, which is to say that it’s endlessly great.
  • Teagan White’s Adventures with Barefoot Critters
  • Little Passport series
  • Christopher Franceschelli’s Cityblock
  • Bob Thiele’s and Tim Hopgood’s What a Wonderful World
  • Pat Zietlow Miller’s and Eliza Wheeler’s Wherever You Go 

Spy any above you love?  Which ones should be added to the list?  I could use all the armchair travel, please.

If you would like to join in on the fun, please go to the submissions page!

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