We love reading books as a family while taking road trips. It’s such a great way to pass the time, and way better than having everyone staring at a screen. And while I love quiet books to peruse, nonfiction to learn about the places we drive, and history, there’s something so fun about great road trip novels. I have a few criteria for what I love when it comes to road trip books for kids.
Road Trip Books for Kids of Varying Ages
I especially love road trip books for kids that are fun for multiple ages (including the grown ups!). That way, I’m not hunting down chapter books for kindergarten as well as chapter books for 2nd graders. I love ones that will capture a wide range of interests and listening comprehension. We love either reading them aloud or listening to them on audio!
If you’re interested in the audio version, you can Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks!
Road Trip Audiobooks or Read Alouds That Connect to a Place
I also love road trip books for families that are longer than just a picture book so I don’t have to change the book every 5 seconds. Chapter books are perfect for this – either read alouds or audiobooks. I especially love ones that give a strong sense of place. Many, but not all, of these are historical fiction books for kids.
Even if we’re not visiting that particular area, there’s something about hearing the specifics of a place – to get a sense of its sounds and sights and smells – that seems especially apropos when listening to the best road trip books.
Diverse Children’s Novels
It’s also important to me to have a variety of road trip novels from multiple perspectives. So much of classic children’s literature is very white-focused and told from a colonist perspective.
I do still think it’s important for our family to read those books to be fluent in those stories and ideas, problematic as some may be. However, I ALSO want to make sure we have a wide variety of perspectives – it’s super important to me to incorporate diverse children’s books into our reading, especially indigenous and native children’s books.
Here are some other fantastic diverse picture books and diverse chapter books for kids!
With that said, here are some of my very favorite road trip books for kids – I hope they are great family road trip novels for you, too!
This post on road trip books for kids contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. That means I earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, but doesn’t change your price.
Best Road Trip Books for Kids: USA Road Trip Novels
Road Trip Audiobooks and Read Alouds for Younger Children
Birchbark House Series by Louise Erdrich
This beautiful series features a young Native American girl and her family in their life through the seasons of their land. It’s connective and rich.
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This is a great one to read in conjunction with the Birchbark House series. While there are some problematic racist elements, it provides context for a historical time period and compare/contrast opportunities. It also allows parents to discuss how overt racist statements may have changed to become more subtle. Plus, the pig on the sled scene is a classic.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III
This is one on our soon-to-be-read list. A young Lakota boy adventures with his grandfather, and learns some of the oral stories and traditions of his people. What sounds like a poignant Own Voices book.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
There’s something so soothing, funny, and fun about this series. Spirited Anne is delightful in her escapades. And though it doesn’t take place in the US, the descriptions of Prince Edward Island are perfect for listening to while on a long car ride.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
I loved this book as a child, and still do now. The descriptions of New York City and the Met Museum are filled with adventure and excitement.
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Speaking of New York, this is another classic that evokes strong images of the city and will have you itching for some music on the street corner.
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Like the Little House books, Caddie Woodlawn is based in Wisconsin. The tales of her prairie upbringing are vivid and filled with excitement. Who knew the MIdwest was so exciting?
By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman
Especially perfect for California travels, this book features a 12-year old boy who journeys to California (in a ship around the Cape Horn) during the Gold Rush. It’s filled with adventure as he and his aunt’s butler find their way as stowaways on the ship and then around the land itself.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Another American classic, this one details a boy who escapes his New York City apartment crowded with siblings to his grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. Lots of courage and adventure and survival.
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Another homesteading book, this one takes place in Montana instead of Wisconsin. Hattie is only 16, but has been left a whole farm and must prove that she’s capable of caring for it.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A great one if you’re visiting the Northeast United States, this classic tale starts off in Massachusetts and follows the lives of 4 sisters. With a background of the American Civil War, it’s historical fiction that has stood the test of time.
More to the Story by Hena Khan
When you’ve finished Little Women, be sure to check out this modern take with American Muslim sisters in Atlanta. Romance and family love stay true to form!
Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton; Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton
This true story is a new one to me, and shares about an 8 year old Inuit girl who wants to learn to read. To do so, she must leave home and attend a residential school in the high Arctic. While it doesn’t take place in the US, it sounds like a beautiful tale that evokes a strong sense of place.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord; Marc Simont
A young girl moves from China to New York, and struggles as she doesn’t know any English. But she does learn to love baseball, which is perfect since Jackie Robinson is everyone’s current favorite.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
A classic children’s book about a boy who buys two hunting dogs, this book takes place in the Ozark Mountains. Perfect if you’re traveling through the South.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
This historical fiction book tells the story of a girl who crosses on a ship from England to the United States in the mid-1800s.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Taking place in the Midwest, a widowed father tries to find a new wife to help with life on the farm. Lots of soothing descriptions of late-1800s farm life.
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
A young boy grows up on a farm in Florida with his parents, who lost 6 children before him. He desperately wants a pet, and eventually adopts an orphaned fawn. A story of love and struggle.
Road Trip Books for Older Elementary and Middle Schoolers
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This beautifully scripted story of a young girl escaping Mexico with her mother and relatives to the United States is a must read for older elementary and middle school children. Some themes might be a bit intense for younger kids, but the message is important and poignant.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Another novel with problematic racist elements, but that provides room for discussion and learning. It takes place in New England and follows the assimilation and growth of a young orphan who joins her Puritan extended family.
90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
Three brothers are sent by their parents from Cuba to Miami in search of safety and a better life. But the new city has its own challenges that they must navigate.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
A long-time classic, this novel has deep and vivid descriptions of the American South. Especially with the vernacular, it’s great as a read aloud or as a road trip audiobook, and is an excellent road trip book for kids.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
This book about racism during Jim Crow Mississippi starts to push young readers to consider effects and impact, especially as it’s told from the perspective of a child. An important work in middle grade literature.
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
Set in Vermont, this book shares the story of farm workers who need assistance, and undocumented workers in the area.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
A young Chinese immigrant girl lives in a motel with her parents, and needs to hide the fact that they’re allowing other other immigrants stay for free.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
With elements of racism, the Depression, segregation, jazz music, and racist violence, this is definitely a book for older children. However, it’s so well written and explores really important themes.
Wonderstruck by Selznick, Brian
A story of runaways to New York City, 50 years apart. A well-crafted novel by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
A beautiful classic, this is the coming-of-age story of a young Latina girl in Chicago.
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
A newly orphaned biracial girl goes to live with her Black grandmother and struggles to find her place.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
A young Latina girl struggles to fit into her new life at an elite private school. The book presents discussions on family life, school bullying, and more. While it doesn’t revolve around a specific place, the school setting make it great for family listening and discussions.
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
A coming-of-age story of a young girl who moves to the Southern bayou. She finds magic in her surroundings and in her family’s history, and so will you.
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