Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's Summertime and that means car trips with the kids! Both my rugrats love reading, and will happily while away the hours (that they're screen-restricted) with their nose in books. They're seven and ten right now. Any good suggestions for things to keep them happy and humming along so I can listen to my podcasts in peace, and have a bit of time to mess around setting up the tent without them whining that they have dirt in their sandals?
Bob, Queen Anne
Fortunately for you, I have a 12-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother (the eggs in my family have a long shelf life). I made a vow when they were younger, and that vow was to buy them books for every major holiday and to never question the origins of their birth, even though – and I'm not being melodramatic here – they might actually be demons.
Look at the evidence: they both shot out of the womb cackling instead of crying, we had to file their teeth down to a congenial size (pity we couldn't do the same for their heads), and last Valentine's Day my brother gave me a homemade card that read: "God has abandoned you. Love Max."
Nevertheless, I do love them. They affectionately call me "Spinster Queen," I affectionately call them human, and I have remained faithful to my vow, except for the Christmas I bought them a trampoline and rape whistles because their parents pissed me off.
Based on my experience, here are a few books your children might like: Wonderstruck, The Book Thief, the Captain Underpants series, and for your older child, anything by the Norwegian cartoonist Jason, whose minimalist stories are especially well suited for road trips (be forewarned: his work is rather dark... I hear my siblings doing spit takes with holy water while reading it).