February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Books to Enhance Class Trips and Learning Adventures | Focus On

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

Brown-bag lunches and bus buddies. Headcounts, lineups, and helpful chaperones. Chatter charged with anticipation and the eye-opening wonder of new experiences. Wherever a class may roam, excursions beyond the school walls provide an array of educational opportunities and plenty of excitement for students. Preparations before field trips and discussion and guided classroom projects afterward are important parts of the learning process and help youngsters to integrate and master new information, see themselves as hands-on explorers, and amp up the fun.

The books presented here have been chosen to support and enhance expeditions to favorite preschool and elementary-aged destinations: farms and other food-producing enterprises; museums (both natural history and art); nature reserves and outdoor-observation areas; community institutions; and zoos and aquariums. A mix of fact-filled offerings and fictional adventures, all of these titles pair handsome illustrations with well-written texts to entice young readers and listeners. They can be used in the classroom to support Common Core Standards by introducing and/or reviewing site-related subject matter and vocabulary as a starting point for post-trip research projects and to inspire creative art and writing projects and initiate personal written and oral narratives. Featuring class expeditions of all kinds, the titles can also be shared to generate discussion of behavioral dos and don’ts, model positive information-seeking methods, and dispel any fears or anxieties about going to unfamiliar places.

Best of all, these appealing volumes encapsulate the magic of a field-trip experience and expand the learning–and enjoyment–well beyond the designated outing.

Farm Forays

COOPER, Elisha. Farm. illus. by author. Scholastic/Orchard. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-07075-1.

K-Gr 4–From springtime’s busy preparations to the after-harvest autumn lull, an industrious family, including the children, sees to the workings of their modern-day farm. Cooper’s elegant, loose-lined artwork depicts broad vistas and small-size close-ups, and his narrative twinkles with nitty-gritty imagery, sensory details, and gentle humor. An enlightening and enchanting overview.

FORMENTO, Alison. These Bees Count. illus. by Sarah Snow. Albert Whitman. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-7868-1.

K-Gr 2–During a trip to Busy Bee Farm, Mr. Tate and his students don protective gear and learn how the insects produce honey and pollinate plants. This exquisitely illustrated offering merges fact and fancy as the bees zip into the air and buzz a rhythmic counting song while visiting a plethora of spring-hued blooms.

HOLUB, Joan. Pumpkin Countdown. illus. by Jan Smith. Albert Whitman. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-6660-2.

K-Gr 2–Bouncy rhymes and eye-dazzling artwork depict an enjoyable jaunt to Farmer Mixenmatch’s pumpkin patch, complete with a petting zoo, corn maze, tractor ride, and oodles of objects to search for. Holub and Smith’s Apple Countdown (Albert Whitman, 2009) presents a similar synthesis of simple math challenges, interesting facts, and irresistible enthusiasm.

MCNAMARA, Margaret. The Apple Orchard Riddle. illus. by G. Brian Karas. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8; lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98783-0.

K-Gr 2–Mr.Tiffin’s students mull over a brainteaser while touring Hill’s Orchard: “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.” Gathering bushels of apple facts throughout the day, the children make guesses galore, but only the quietly observant class daydreamer gets to the riddle’s core. Personality-packed artwork spices up this winning tale.

MALNOR, Carol L. & Trina L. Hunner. Molly’s Organic Farm. illus. by Trina L. Hunner. Dawn. 2012. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-166-2; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-158469-167-9.
K-Gr 4
–As an orange-striped stray explores a community farm, inviting text introduces the gentle-on-nature methods organic farmers employ to nurture a healthy growing environment and manage pests and weeds. Children will be charmed by the cat’s-eye viewpoint, verdant watercolors, and staccato rhymes scattered throughout (“Catching whiffs./Molly sniffs”). Activity ideas and photos of the real-life Molly are appended.

PETERSON, Cris. Fantastic Farm Machines. photos by David R. Lundquist. Boyds Mills. 2006. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-271-2.

K-Gr 4–A first-person narrative introduces the Herculean heavy machinery used on Peterson’s family’s farm, from chisel plow to corn planter, irrigation pivot to crop sprayer. Mixing visual detail with lighthearted fun, Lundquist’s first-rate photos include portraits of charismatic youngsters (one boy lounges inside an enormous tractor tire), crystal-clear close-ups, and shots of these amazing contraptions in action.

PLOURDE, Lynn. Field Trip Day. illus. by Thor Wickstrom. Dutton. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47994-9.

K-Gr 3–Although the intrepid Juan Dore-Nomad repeatedly wanders away from his classmates, keeping a frenzied Mrs. Shepherd and her parent chaperones constantly counting heads, the boy’s questions and observations lead to a lot of discoveries about Fandangle’s Organic Farm. Spirited watercolor-and-ink cartoons, zippy text, and over-the-top antics will keep readers smiling.

WALLACE, Nancy Elizabeth. Apples, Apples, Apples. illus. by author. Winslow. 2000. Tr $15.95 ISBN 978-1-890817-19-0; pap. $5.95. ISBN 978-0-7614-5181-5.

PreS-Gr 2–Minna and her family visit Long Hill Orchard where they learn about how apples are grown, different varieties, proper picking techniques, and yummy foods. Cleanly designed collages depict engaging rabbit characters, and clear charts and diagrams support the lively text. A recipe, apple-printing craft, and song are appended.

WATTERSON, Carol. An Edible Alphabet: 26 Reasons to Love the Farm. illus. by Michela Sorrentino. Tricycle. 2011. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58246-421-3.

Gr 1-4–Bursting with wordplay and whimsy, this exuberantly illustrated A-to-Z provides a bounty of intriguing facts and helps readers make the connection between food and farm. Letters are accompanied by alliterative snippets (“Blueberries, Beets, and Beans”) while smaller-size text introduces the featured plants, animals, or agricultural process. A captivating read-aloud or invigorating idea-starter for creative projects.

Museum Meanderings

HARTLAND, Jessie. How the Sphinx Got to the Museum. illus. by author. Blue Apple. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-60905-032-0.

Gr 1-4–Step by mesmerizing step, this picture book reveals how a statue commissioned by Pharaoh Hatshepsut circa 1470 B.C. made its way centuries later to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The cadenced text and vivacious artwork effortlessly–and entertainingly–delve into ancient Egyptian history, the museum’s acquisition process, and careers ranging from archaeologist to conservator. Similarly presented, How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum (Blue Apple, 2011) traces a Diplodocus’s journey to the Smithsonian.

HOPKINS, Lee Bennett, sel. Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums. illus. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. Abrams. 2007. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-1204-5.

Gr 3-5–From Felice Holman’s musings about how portraits reveal details of long-ago lives to Alice Shertle’s ode to a trilobite, 14 selections showcase commonly exhibited marvels. Jewel-toned paintings interpret each poem with realistic details and fanciful touches. This handsome anthology will have youngsters viewing museums and their treasures with fresh eyes.

LEHMAN, Barbara. Museum Trip. illus. by author. Houghton Harcourt. 2006. Tr $15. ISBN 978-0-618-58125-2; ebook $15. ISBN 978-0-547-77086-4.

K-Gr 4–Separated from his school group, a boy lingers over an exhibit of antique mazes and suddenly finds himself shrunk down and inside the display case. Zoomed-in illustrations show him conquering six twisting-turning labyrinths and receiving a gold medal, which he still wears–wondrously, mysteriously–when he rejoins his classmates. This winsome wordless adventure blurs the lines between reality and imagination.

MARK, Jan. The Museum Book: A Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections. illus. by Richard Holland. Candlewick. 2007. RTE $18.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3370-7.

Gr 3-6–Chronicling the ages-old human passion for collecting “interesting” things, Mark’s look at the history of museums touches upon everything from famous hoarders of yore to the origins of scientific classification and modern-day institutions. The conversational text and mixed-media collage artwork make this miscellany of amazing anecdotes and intriguing insights perfect for sharing aloud.

RACZKA, Bob. More Than Meets the Eye: Seeing Art with All Five Senses. Millbrook. 2003. lib. ed. $25.26. ISBN 978-0-7613-2797-4; pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-1994-8.

Gr 1-4–Rhyming text paired with striking reproductions encourages readers to utilize the senses when contemplating paintings. Kids drink milk with Jan Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid, listen to the clashing foils of Milton Avery’s Fencers, catch a “stinky” whiff from Jamie Wyeth’s Portrait of a Pig, and pat a Tortilla Maker’s floury treat (Diego Rivera). This simple yet imagination-expanding method of experiencing art will captivate youngsters.

ROHMANN, Eric. Time Flies. illus. by author. Crown. 1994. Tr $17. ISBN 978-0-517-59598-5; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-517-88555-0.

PreS-Gr 4–In this wordless picture book, a bird flies into a museum’s dinosaur hall during a storm-charged night. Suddenly, time slips away–the walls disappear, the gigantic skeletons become fully fleshed-out behemoths roaming a prehistoric landscape, and the bird is placed in peril. This gorgeously illustrated flight of fancy can inspire creative endeavors or paleontological research.

Nature Walks

ARNOSKY, Jim. Field Trips: Bug Hunting, Animal Tracking, Bird-Watching, and Shore Walking with Jim Arnosky. illus. by author. HarperCollins. 2002. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-688-15172-0.

Gr 3-5–This basic guide to outdoor rambling covers wildlife spotting and observation, animal behaviors, equipment and safety measures, and how-to tips for recording discoveries in a field notebook. Realistic drawings and silhouette charts of plants, animals, and tracks aid readers with species identification. Arnosky’s mélange of practical lore and heartfelt fervor is informative and inspiring.

HARPER, Jamie. Miss Mingo Weathers the Storm. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2012. RTE $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4931-9.

Gr 1-3–The unflappable flamingo and her multispecies class hike to a meteorological observatory atop High Hill, where they encounter everything from hot temperatures to high winds to hailstones and learn about the weather and how animals react to changing conditions. This whirlwind adventure sparkles with humor and lush artwork.

PARISH, Herman. Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail. illus. by Lynne Avril. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-209527-5; pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-06-209526-8; ebook $4.99. ISBN 978-0-06-209528-2.

PreS-Gr 2–Starring an updated but still literal-minded childhood version of the beloved character, this easy reader describes a nature excursion during which Amelia Bedelia follows her teacher’s instructions to the letter, embarking on a fun- and pun-filled adventure. The protagonist’s upbeat perseverance is just as sunny as the buoyant cartoon artwork.

WALLACE, Nancy Elizabeth. Pond Walk. illus. by author. Marshall Cavendish. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7614-5816-6.

PreS-Gr 3–An endearing bear and his mother visit Pete’s Pond to observe, identify, and investigate animals, insects, and plants. The crisp collage illustrations incorporate photos of flora and fauna, and the young naturalist’s childlike colored-pencil drawings of specimens are scattered throughout. Warmed with gentle humor, Wallace’s charmer presents an informative overview and a helpful model for exploration.

Neighborhood Rambles

BERTRAM, Debbie & Susan Bloom. The Best Book to Read. illus. by Michael Garland. Random. 2008. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84702-8; lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94702-5; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-375-87300-3.

K-Gr 3–An effervescent librarian welcomes a class, highlights various genres of books along with kid-grabbing titles (about dragon-battling, cake-baking, magic-making, and more), and invites the youngsters to browse. Jaunty rhymes and color-drenched digital illustrations depict a just-right library visit that culminates with a busload of kids who can’t wait to get reading.

BOURGEOIS, Paulette. Postal Workers. illus. by Kim LaFave. Kids Can. 2005. pap. $5.95. ISBN 978-1-55337-747-4.

K-Gr 2–In this easy reader, accessible text and soft-edged cartoon artwork outline the route Gordon’s birthday card takes from a Canadian post office to Grandma’s mailbox in Oregon, a journey that involves automated and human sorters, trucks and planes, and a smiling letter carrier. A companion volume provides an equally charming look at firefighters (Kids Can, 2005).

KRULL, Kathleen. Supermarket. illus. by Melanie Hope Greenberg. Holiday House. 2001. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-1546-5.

PreS-Gr 3–Lively text and dynamic gouache paintings provide an aisle-by-aisle overview of this distinctly American invention, discussing the history of supermarkets, how they are organized, customer shopping habits, and assorted food facts. Well-stocked with amusing touches, this accessible picture book also conveys the store’s role as family destination and community stopping place.

MURRAY, Laura. The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck. illus. by Mike Lowery. Putnam. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25779-7.

PreS-Gr 1–In his second adventure, the irrepressible cookie joins the students who created him on a visit to the fire station, where his efforts to avoid a Dalmatian’s snapping jaws result in a wild chase and a heart- and hose-pumping finale. Energetic cartoons, rhyming text, and hilarious antics make this a kid-pleasing read-aloud.

SLATE, Joseph. Miss Bindergarten Takes a Field Trip. illus. by Ashley Wolff. Dutton. 2001. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-46710-6; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-14-240139-2.

PreS-Gr 2–The affable canine teacher takes her kindergarteners on a neighborhood tour with stops at a bakery, fire station, post office, library, and park (for a picnic). Spanning the alphabet from Adam the alligator to Zack the zebra, rhyming verses and bright-hued illustrations reveal the adventures of the likable characters, and an appended search-for-the-shape feature adds to the fun.

Zoo and Aquarium Expeditions

ALIKI. My Visit to the Zoo. illus. by author. HarperCollins. 1997. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-024939-7; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-446217-4.

K-Gr 3As they ramble through a zoo’s wooded grounds and well-maintained habitats, two youngsters learn about the animal inhabitants and their natural environments, conservation and ecological issues, and the park’s role as wildlife sanctuary. Told in first-person text brimming with childlike charm, this stunningly illustrated volume is a perfect field trip primer. See also My Visit to the Aquarium (HarperCollins, 1993).

HARVEY, Jeanne Walker. Astro: The Steller Sea Lion. illus. by Shennen Bersani. Sylvan Dell. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-60718-076-0; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-1-60718-087-6.

K-Gr 4–Orphaned, rescued, and raised by Marine Mammal Center staffers in California, a sea lion pup is released into the ocean with high hopes, but after he returns time and time again to shore—and human companionship—his caregivers must come up with an alternate plan. This touching based-in-fact story is illustrated with expansive photorealistic paintings.

HATKOFF, Juliana, Isabella Hatkoff, & Craig Hatkoff. Leo the Snow Leopard: The True Story of an Amazing Rescue. Scholastic. 2010. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-22927-2.

K-Gr 5–Found by a goatherd in Pakistan’s rugged mountains, an orphaned cub began an arduous journey to his future home at New York’s Bronx Zoo. This upbeat true tale conveys how caring individuals from different nations collaborated to save an endangered animal and demonstrates a zoo’s role in wildlife rehabilitation and conservation.

KOMIYA, Teruyuki, ed. Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual-Size Animal Encyclopedia. photos by Toyofumi Fukuda. 2008. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-934734-20-9.
––––. More Life-Size Zoo: An All-New Actual-Size Animal Encyclopedia. photos by Toshimitsu Matsuhashi. 2010. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-934734-19-3.
ea vol: Seven Footer.

K-Gr 3–Displaying superb photos of favorite zoo animals on eye-catching spreads (and several dramatic foldouts), these books mix close-up head shots of larger species (elephant, aardvark, lion, etc.) with full-body images of smaller creatures (koala, sloth, bat). Entries include chatty intros, “can you find” prompts for closer observation, and fun facts. All-around browsers’ delights, these oversize volumes are useful for prepping for or revisiting a zoo.

LEWIS, J. Patrick, ed. National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! National Geographic. 2012. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-1009-6; lib. ed. $28.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-1054-6.

Gr 1-5–Well-chosen poems are paired with breathtaking photos of the featured creatures, many depicted in their natural habitats. Entries vary from playful to thought-provoking, and the mixture of word and visual image is potent. Providing creative perspectives on critters from polliwogs to panthers, egrets to elephants, these selections will inspire youngsters to try penning an animal ode.

POYDAR, Nancy. Fish School. illus. by author. Holiday House. 2009. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2140-4.

K-Gr 3–Determined to teach his new goldfish everything he learns, Charlie zips his pet into a plastic bag and sneaks him along on an aquarium field trip. However, his secret is revealed when his backpack containing Wishy goes missing, and his caring classmates jump in to save the day. This cheerfully illustrated tale is an outing with colorful fish species, facts, and metaphors.

SCOTTON, Rob. Splat and the Cool School Trip. illus. by author. HarperCollins. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-213386-1; ebook $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-213388-5.

K-Gr 2–The endearing cat returns in another satisfyingly silly romp. It’s zoo day, and Splat can’t wait to see the penguins. However, when his mouse friend Seymour arrives on the scene unexpectedly, the ensuing hullabaloo results in a penguin-house closure and a disappointed kitty. Never fear, clever Seymour has an idea that brings about a brighter-than-blue-skies ending.

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who lives in Colorado.

Media picks

By Phyllis Levy Mandell

Kid Guides: Aquariums.DVD. 88 min. Thetravelingtrio.tv. 2007, 2008 release. ISBN 978-1-56839-297-4. $19.95.

Gr 1-6–Want to see through a jellyfish? Watch sharks being fed? Matt and Brittney take viewers on tours of the Downtown Aquarium in Houston, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and The Monterey Bay Regional Aquarium in California. The photographs of each facility and the marine life are breathtaking.

Kid Guides: Museums. DVD. 88 min. Janson Media. 2008. ISBN 978-1-56839-298-2. $19.95.

Gr 1-6–Travel with Matt and Brittney on visits to the predominantly hands-on Franklin Institute Museum in Philadelphia where they explore a human heart, discover what gives fireworks their colors, ride a sky bike above the exhibits, and meet Ben Franklin for a fascinating lesson in the Hall of Electricity. At the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, the hosts learn how to write and decipher codes, plant information, and more.

Kid Guides: Zoos.DVD. 1:50 hrs. Thetravelingtrio.tv. 2007. ISBN 978-1-56839-296-6. $19.95.

Gr 1-6–Tour three of the country’s most exciting zoos—St. Louis Zoo, the National Zoo in Washington, DC, and the Ft. Worth Zoo in Texas. Go behind the scenes to share amazing experiences with the animals. At the end of each segment, one creature is examined in the “Explorer’s Corner” and another is featured in “Star of the Week.” Learn how pandas and elephants are cared for, see how keepers handle venomous snakes, participate in a sea lion show, and more.

My Fantastic Field Trip to the Planets: A Musical Adventure (rev. ed.). DVD. 90 min. CDUniverse. 2009. ISBN 0-9770520-1-X. $16.98.

K-Gr 3–A young boy takes an imaginary rocket trip into space and meets the sun and the planets. The bonus bits are the real strength of this production. They include some wonderful featurettes from NASA about the history of space travel, life in orbit, a tour of the International Space Station, and more. Updated to reflect the change in Pluto’s standing.

The Traveling Trio. 4 DVDs. range: 71-94 min. Big Red Hat Prods. 2011. $59.99 ser.

Gr 3-7–Three preteen siblings, the “Traveling Trio,” introduce different countries and cultures in 13 episodes. Viewers visit specific sights and learn about the history, geography, arts, culture, currency, and foods of the region. The kid-friendly locations visited include Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Hungary, Texas, and more.

Digital picks

By Joy Fleishhacker

4-H Virtual Farm. Virginia Cooperative Extension/Virginia Tech. (Accessed 6/24/13).

Gr 2-6–From wheat producers to aquaculture, dairy cows to cattle, poultry farm to horse farm, this interactive site provides overviews of six different operations. Fun-to-explore video clips and photo/interviews with agricultural professionals, virtual tours, animations, and clear graphics convey the workings of each establishment, scientific concepts, related vocabulary, and more.

Meet Me at the Corner: Virtual Field Trips for Kids. Donna W. Guthrie. (Accessed 6/24/13).

K-Gr 5–Founded in 2006 by Guthrie, an educator and children’s book author, this site features elucidating videos about a wide array of destinations and interesting topics. Searchable by subject categories, the kid-conducted podcasts are supplemented with background material, learning activities, and topic-related websites.

San Diego Zoo: Kids. San Diego Zoo. (Accessed 6/24/13).

K-Gr 5–Colorful, easy-to-navigate, and packed with information, this site invites youngsters to check out live animal cams; encounter numerous species by browsing photos, videos, and clearly presented facts; investigate zoo jobs; play games; and try their hand at drawing activities and craft projects.

Virtual NMNH Museum Tour: Dinosaurs. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. (Accessed 6/24/13).

Gr 3-6–Visitors click on objects in a virtual hall to access information about various dinosaur species and the study of paleontology. Included are crisp fossil photos and 3-D images, a Cretaceous Period diorama, a microscope interactive for viewing specimens, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s extensive fossil collection.

Wackykids. Denver Art Museum. (Accessed 6/24/13).

K-Gr 3–“The wac in wacky stands for world art and cultures,” explain this site’s authors. It showcases several artworks–a Chinese Dragon Robe, an ancient Egyptian mummy case, a Mayan figurine, and more–along with info about the people who produced each object. Crafts, booklists, and web links are also included.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.


  1. I was thrilled to learn that ASTRO THE STELLER SEA LION was featured in your list of Books to Enhance Class Trips and Learning Adventures! And, I’m happy to report that Astro continues to thrive at his home at the wonderful Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut.