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Reading Without Walls: Hit the Road, Rails, and Trails

Explore ways of getting around through fiction and nonfiction books! We've selected a “wheelie” great collection of books to steer young readers toward a wide range of genres — informational nonfiction, biography, history, poetry, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery — as well as different formats (audio books, graphic novels, and chapter books).

This booklist supports the Reading Without Walls Challenge, a nationwide initiative launched by Gene Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

To expand learning around this topic, we also recommend these educational apps:

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

Are We There Yet? A Journey Around Australia

By: Alison Lester
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The year Grace turned eight, her Mum and Dad took her and her siblings on a trip around Australia. The kids "missed school for the whole winter term" and Grace documented much of what she learned, where she went, and the adventures they had as they experienced the diversity of the continent. Grace’s informal voice is informative yet engaging, completed by line drawings and simple maps.

Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys

By: Matt Phelan
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Follow three long ago adventurers who traveled around the world by bike, by herself, and on a sloop. The graphic novel format brings their adventures to life.

Babymouse Burns Rubber

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In this latest installment of the ever-pink and imaginative rodent, Babymouse, she discovers she needs help from a pal to make her soap box car. However, at the derby, it is Wilson who needs help. It's Babymouse to the rescue! Pink is used successfully to define the fantasy in the otherwise black and white cartoons in this ever-fresh graphic novel series.

Dinotrux

By: Chris Gall
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Millions of years ago, huge, hungry prehistoric 'dinotrux' ruled the world. A terrible storm caused some dinotrux to seek better weather. Those that shed their "misbehaving ways" over the millennia are still on the job today. This imaginative take on trucks and dinosaurs is sure to make readers young and old view subjects anew while making them laugh out loud.

Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates

By: Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
Illustrated by: Richard Walz
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Folks often resist change, even when it came to improving roads and modes of transportation in a growing United States. An informal text and informative but relaxed illustrations capture the essence of this history, suggesting what may be next. Additional resources are included.

Last Stop on Market Street

By: Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A slightly grumpy CJ asks his grandma why they have to take a bus across town every Sunday after church. Her answers are playful, wise, and effective; CJ admits he's glad they came to see their friends at the soup kitchen where they serve. Bright, stylized illustrations and rich, well-paced language presents a warm relationship and a diverse urban locale. (2016 Newbery Medal Winner)

Locomotive

By: Brian Floca
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

They met in the middle, the workers who built the railway across the United States. The narration speaks directly to readers which follows two unnamed children journey to California. Combined with richly detailed illustration, this dramatic, informative journey is the winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal. (2014 Caldecott Medal Winner)

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure

By: Nadja Spiegelman
Illustrated by: Sergio García Sánchez
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

New York's crowded subway system is known for many things, but being easy on a lost kid isn't one of them. Pablo gets separated from his new schoolmates during his first field trip in New York City. Luckily, he has a little knowledge, a new friend, and the surprisingly approachable city itself to guide his way. This story features maps, archival photos, and fascinating facts in a graphic novel format to help readers explore the subway.

Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist

By: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by: James Ransome
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Marshall Taylor’s bike stunts get him a job at the famous Indiana bike shop Hay and Willits. But he’s meant for even bigger things — namely the 1899 World Cycling championship — where his skin color attracts as much attention as his domination on the racetrack.

Nate the Great on the Owl Express

By: Marjorie Sharmat, Mitchell Sharmat
Illustrated by: Martha Weston
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Nate, boy detective, and his dog Sludge hit the rails to help Olivia and Hoot, her pet owl. When Hoot disappears, Nate must solve the case of the vanishing owl before the train reaches its destination.

On the Blue Comet

By: Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by: Bagram Ibatoulline
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The Great Depression changed everything for 11-year-old Oscar and his widowed dad. Oscar's prized model trains are sold, his dad leaves Illinois to find work in California, and Oscar begins an adventure through time and places after he jumps onto a model train.

Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems

By: J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian
Illustrated by: Jeremy Holmes
Genre: Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Funny, engaging poems and pictures worth poring over offer readers delightful details about some really crazy cars! Ready for a ride in the Dragonwagon? How about an Eel-ectric Car? You really auto take these poems out for a spin.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

By: Beverly Cleary
Illustrated by: Tracy Dockray, Louis Darling
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

While on a family vacation in California, the Gridleys stay in an old hotel where a mouse named Ralph finds a toy motorcycle and meets Keith, the youngest Gridley. Thus begins a friendship and a memorable adventure of a mouse on a motorcycle. Ralph's adventures continue in Ralph S. Mouse (1982).

Ultimate Trains

By: Peter McMahon
Illustrated by: Andy Mora
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophisticated readers will learn a great deal about trains and how they work in straightforward text and color photographs. Suggested experiments bring concepts into focus but are best done by older children or with an adult

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"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo