CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK REVIEW – ROAD TRIP
by Danny Parker
illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom
Road Trip is one of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia notable titles, in the Book of the Year: Early Childhood category.
The only thing worse than a long and boring road trip is driving with someone who loves long and boring road trips.
Even when that someone is your dad.
As you may have guessed, Road Trip is a story about getting somewhere and is all about the interaction between father and son as they travel along. It is about the journey, and the time it will take, not the destination.
From the opening page we join the pair in animated conversation as they travel along – their journey is already underway – and we are immediately conscious of the book’s theme: time. Or, more precisely, how long a particular piece of time is: an hour.
‘How long is an hour, Dad?
Could you please say?
I feel like an hour
might take us all day!’
‘It’s sixty short minutes,
not one moment more.
A bike ride.
A boat trip.
Ice cream by the shore.’
With subtle humour and clever narration the story, taking the form of rhyming verses, plays out a scene familiar to all of us from at least one of our character’s points of view: a long family drive; a child growing increasingly bored, restless and maybe even a little cranky; a parent driving and trying to engage with and distract their little passengers; and the time it seems to take.
What I think makes this book special is the playful back-and-forth wordplay between the parent and child. The son is clearly over his initial excitement to be going on a trip and an hour seems to be some impossibly long and unending thing, like the unfolding road ahead of them.
As an adult the dad, on the other hand, sees an hour as a mere wink in the eye of time, a moment to savour before it is gone.
‘But when will we get there?
It’s just a disaster …
Couldn’t we go just a little bit faster?’
‘An hour is a journey worth all of the waiting,
all of the sighing and anticipating.’
It won’t be a huge plot spoiler to say they do indeed get to their destination on the very last page but I’ll need to wrap this review up before I give all the great lines of dialogue away. Except for this classic quip from below:
To sum up, Road Trip is a different and delightful way of looking at travelling, conversing and how time passes. I have to also give props to the illustrator for the wonderful imagery. I’m no art critic so I don’t have an adequately fancy vocab to say that the hand drawn images are a perfect fit for the sentiment of the author’s words, having an almost old-fashioned something about their style and a lovely textural quality to them.
It is definitely worth the time, no matter how long it seems, to have a read.
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