About the Holiday
In 2019 Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest travel center operator, established National Road Trip Day to mark the start of the summer travel period from Memorial Day weekend through the beginning of September. If you’re traveling to see family or friends you haven’t seen in awhile or setting your sights on new adventures near or far, remember to pack a few great books to take along – like today’s book, which takes readers on a long, cross-country road trip, with a best buddy, of course!
Carson Crosses Canada
Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Kass Reich
Annie Magruder and her little dog, Carson, had a pretty great life living along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. One day a letter arrived for Annie from her sister Elsie. Elsie was sick and needed cheering up so Annie packed her bags, loaded up her camping gear, and “filled a cooler with baloney sandwiches.” For Carson she brought along dog food and of course Squeaky Chicken. They pulled away from their house and headed east.
“All morning they drove in the rattlebang car.” Were they there yet? Carson wanted to know. But they were on a loooong trip—all across Canada, Annie told him. She also said there’d be a surprise for him at the end. “Carson loved surprises. Squeaky Chicken had been a surprise. Every time Carson chewed, he got a brand-new noise. Skreeeee! Wheeeee! Iiiiiy!”
Twisty roads took them into the Rocky Mountains, where Annie pitched her tent for the night. Carson stood guard, watching for bears. The next day they rolled into dinosaur country. Carson could hardly control his excitement at seeing the enormous bones. Could this be his surprise? But Carson didn’t get to take a single bite—not even a little lick.
On day three they came to flat farmland, where “grain grew in carpets—yellow, blue, gold.” While Annie admired the wide-open sky during a picnic lunch, Carson chased after grasshoppers, finally snatching one for his dessert. On the next day, the sun was so hot that as Annie and Carson drove past Lake Winnipeg, they stopped to take a dip.
After that there were more days and even more days spent in the car passing forests of trees and boulders. Carson passed the time barking and wondering about his surprise. At night, when he and Annie camped, they listened to the loons calling, “Ooo-wooooo. Ooo-hoo-hoo.” When they reached Niagara Falls, they stopped to watch the thundering water and got soaked with its spray.
In Quebec City, Annie and Carson enjoyed French delights, including a pork pie called tourtière, which Carson gobbled up in two bites. Was this their destination? Oh, no—they still had a ways to go! Once, while Carson was napping, he heard Annie shout, “‘Look! The Atlantic Ocean!’” Carson was so thrilled to see an ocean once more that he ran to the edge and rolled in the mud until he was covered.
The next day brought “an island of red and green” as pretty as a postcard plus lobster rolls for two. Here, Annie told Carson, they were getting close. There was still one night’s stop, however. “In the campground that night, there was fiddle music—so friendly and fast, it made everyone dance. Annie clapped and jigged. Carson chased his tail.” With the promise of “‘tomorrow’” whispered in his ear, Carson fell asleep.
A ferry ride took them to Elsie’s. Her “house stood waiting beside the ocean. It was red like the house back home. Out came a woman who looked like Annie. Her steps were slow, but her smile was as wide as the sea.” Annie and her sister hugged for a long time until Carson yipped, looking for his surprise. Bounding toward him came a dog that looked “so much like Carson, it was like looking into a mirror.” It was his brother, Digby! They hadn’t seen each other since they were puppies. Spending time with Annie and Carson was just what Elsie needed. The four “loved the salt air. They loved the red house. And they loved their sweet time together.”
For young armchair travelers, Linda Bailey has crafted a wonderful story that combines the best of sightseeing with an emotional tug that is warm and uplifting. The love between Annie and Carson is evident from the first page and swells as they reunite with Elsie and Digby, taking readers along for the rewarding ride. Bailey’s lyrical and humorous view of Canada’s expansive beauty through the eyes of both Annie and Carson will delight kids and leave them wanting to learn more. The reaffirmation that family stays strong even across many miles will cheer children and adult readers alike.
Kass Reich’s gorgeous hand-painted gouache illustrations put children in the back seat of the little, well-packed “rattlebang” car with sweet Carson on a tour of Canada. They’ll view awesome redwood trees, majestic mountains, the bone yards of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Quebec City, fields, lakes, and clear nights. Reich’s vivid colors and rich details invite kids to linger over the pages and learn even more about Canada. Little ones will also like pointing out Squeaky Chicken, who is happily enjoying the trip as well.
The book’s endpapers provide a colorful map of Canada with Carson and Annie’s route clearly marked along with their sightseeing stops.
Carson Crosses Canada is a sweet, beautiful book that kids will want to read again and again. It would be a wonderful addition to home and library bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 8
Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918838
Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website!
You can learn more about Kass Reich and her books as well as view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!
National Road Trip Day Activity
Road Trip Race Game
Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable car or truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.
The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:
- Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
- White paper
- Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
- Glue or tape
- Toy trucks or cars
- Printable Cars Game Pieces | Trucks Game Pieces (optional)
- Printable 8-sided Playing Die
- Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper (or more for a longer track)
- Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
- Glue or tape the strips in place
- Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board.
- Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
- Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
- Choose a player to go first
- Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
- The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner
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