Some families stop traveling when they have kids. They think it’s just too hard to schlep the mountains of things that kids require all around the country. But I’ve always said “hogwash” to that notion. The extra luggage is worth being able to show my kids the four corners of America. The more we travel, the less mysterious the world is, and the more we get to know the kinds of people that inhabit it. And the penguins.
The penguins? Yes, it turns out that penguins and humans have a lot in common.
Penguins of America is award-winning author James Patterson’s first book with his son Jack, also done with Florence Yue, and is illustrated by James Madsen. Just released on May 1, it considers what our country would look like if inhabited by penguins instead of humans. Filled with humorous and detailed illustrations and situations, the book celebrates how we live our daily lives, but also shows us how to avoid taking life too seriously. Inspired by Jack’s love of penguins, the writing pair have put together something really special, a look at penguins all across America, traveling, living their day-to-day life, making observations, and ooo-ing and ahh-ing over the same things that we do.
Here we see a loving couple from Iowa visiting the Grand Canyon. They are both very enthusiastic about their home state, but they also are appreciating the beauty of northern Arizona. Plus, they are being sensible by wearing wide-brimmed hats to protect against sun damage. Traveling is all about expanding your view of the world, but also being prepared along the way. These penguins are doing it right! Now, inspired by Penguins of America, I have put together a travelogue from experiences traveling with my kids from sea to shining sea. As you may notice below, I have worked in the lesson of not taking my life too seriously. See if you can spot it. It’s pretty subtle.
First Stop: The Grand Canyon!
Similarly to the Iowan penguins of James and Jack Patterson’s book, my family and I traveled to the Grand Canyon, though having a baby in tow provided a whole new challenge. Not waddling too close to the edge was more important than ever. Staying safe was a higher priority than getting the baby to smile for the camera. “Say Krill!” we tried, but to no avail. Since we had two little ones at the time, we didn’t venture down into the Canyon itself. Though something tells me that the penguins in the book didn’t either. Waddling makes the trip down and back up take even longer. Plus I hear it’s hot at the bottom. Not fun for penguins. Or kids.
Second Stop: Las Vegas!
Though many visitors go to Las Vegas for the nightlife—the shows, the gambling, and the glitz and glamour—those of us who travel with kids generally just enjoy the interesting architecture, the food, and the monorail. Here we ooo’d and ahh’d at the closest Eiffel Tower to our house. It is only half as tall as the real thing, but it came with the added benefit of not needing to learn another language or exchanging currency.
Third Stop: The California Coast!
This stop was one of our favorites. Walking up and down the beach, being calmed by the waves and delighted by the seabirds, all the while hunting for unusual shells and driftwood, is one of my family’s favorite pastimes. The beach was fairly empty, unfortunately, but my son did befriend a seagull. His name is Jerry. We still exchange holiday cards.
Fourth Stop: California’s Redwoods!
Look up! Just don’t get dizzy doing it. These magnificent California redwood trees create a calming olfactory experience. They’re so tall that you can’t even see the top. My kids tried to climb to the top, of course, but only got about halfway. Shhh, don’t tell the park rangers.
Fifth Stop: Madison, Wisconsin!
The heartland. The midwest. The place where everyone seems to be FROM. I lived in Wisconsin as a young child, and really enjoyed it. Of course, I was too young to be too bothered by the frigid winters that necessitated wearing a ski mask to school. Fortunately for this visit, it was June! We enjoyed a short visit to the state’s capital (and capitol), and I shared with my kids the importance of taking one’s favorite literary figure with you. Jane Austen was the best traveling companion ever. Nary a complaint, even when the horse threw a shoe.
Sixth Stop: Fallingwater in Pennsylvania!
Frank Lloyd Wright is a very well-known architect in the United States. He designed several public buildings, but domestic architecture was where he spent most of his effort. Fallingwater is one of the most interesting houses that he designed, complete with running water underneath, connected to the property’s waterfalls. The kids were off tubing down the stream while I took this photo. They got so drenched! I only had to change my shoes.
Final Stop: Our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C.!
The Washington, D.C., area has ridiculous amounts of things to see. Museums, governmental buildings, national battlefields, monuments, memorials, and even a National Zoo. On our most recent visit, we spent nine days exploring it all, and didn’t even come close to seeing half of what I wanted to see. That’s okay. My kids did such a good job posing with the sculptures that passersby thought they were part of the exhibit. It was so authentic! I know you’ll agree. I think we’ll make it a point to go back.
We here at GeekDad hope you’ve enjoyed this tour around our great nation. The U.S. offers diverse scenery, people, and opportunities. It’s important to get your kids out there to see as much of it as you can. Maybe you’ll notice a few penguins along the way.
And, while you’re waiting for your next road trip, check out James and Jack Patterson’s book Penguins of America, which retails for $20. It includes 64 lavishly illustrated pages of cute and amusing penguins experiencing life in America just as we do, as tourists, residents, aficionados of culture, spectators, and active participants in hobbies and attractions. Take your time with this entertaining and engaging book. Learn to take life a little less seriously, and maybe even use the book to plan your next family vacation!
About the Book’s Author
James Patterson received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community at the 2015 National Book Awards. His other awards include two Emmys, the Edgar Award, and the Children’s Choice Award for Author of the Year. He is a tireless champion of the power of books and reading, exemplified by his new children’s book imprint, JIMMY Patterson, whose mission is simple: We want every kid who finishes a JIMMY Book to say: “PLEASE GIVE ME ANOTHER BOOK.” He has donated more than one million books to students and soldiers and has over four hundred Teacher Education Scholarships at 24 colleges and universities. He has also donated millions to independent bookstores and school libraries. Patterson will be investing proceeds from the sales of JIMMY Patterson Books in pro-reading initiatives.
I partnered with @jamespatterson.