The kids for the most part did not fight. I don't think I threatened them more than once or twice, and when I did, I probably only had to resort to food threats. I don't think either Sam or I said, "We're going to turn this car around and go home if you don't stop it." Or, "We will begin dumping you from the car one by one if you don't quit fighting." Except for maybe in the first five minutes.
The drive home was even better.
What do I attribute this to?
Not movies or electronics. We don't have any in our car. Not even ipods.
The answer—BOOKS ON TAPE. Lovely, lovely books on tape with great narrators and wonderful stories and hours and hours of lovely listening.
Here are the books on tape we brought, thanks to the library, and as I evaluate them, keep in mind, I'm not really evaluating the stories themselves. Books on tape are as much about the narrator as anything.
No Place for Magic by E.D. Baker
Even the girls tired of this one quickly, though we do like the first book on tape in the series, The Frog Princess, and even though Calvin and Lucy both love the whole series. I think these stories wear out their welcome simply because they are all so similar. There just isn't that much humor or action to keep kids going when they are staring at a seatbelt crisscrossing the window.
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. Narrated by the amazing Tim Curry.
This was not a hit, to my great surprise. They just didn't like it. Not interested. Perhaps the humor in these books doesn't translate to kids very well when read aloud? Perhaps you have to know Tim Curry and picture his facial expressions? I don't know, but we didn't make it past one CD.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.
After much grumbling when I pulled it out, they loved this one. It was the biggest hit of the trip, and my kids are home for the next two weeks due to track-out, and this is the book they want to listen to at home. The narrator is just awesome (though my mom doesn't like him at all). It's the same narrator that does the Freddy books, and there is something about his crackly voice that makes you want to snuggle up and listen and listen. Even though this one is above Shaemus's head, he listened too (after some grumbling). Highly recommend this one, plus it is super long so it could easily take up the eighteen hours you might be driving to Orlando. Or Mexico. Or Canada.
Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker
Fabulous narrator. Fabulous story. The kids loved it. Only complaint—too short.
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater. Read by the author.
Awesome. The kids loved it. So funny. Again, too short!
I managed to read two books on the trip. Both unusual. Both really good. Both I would highly recommend if you feel like expanding your brain or talking about something thought-provoking at book club:
Gary Schmidt's new, What Came From the Stars
And the new biography of Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery:
Try them and give them to your kids. The Temple Gradin book could be for third grade and up, the Schmidt book maybe fourth and up. The Temple Grandin book will make you think about animals and autism and our futures. The Gary Schmidt book will make you think about death and the next life and the power we have here to control our destiny.
So worth it.