Reading books on a long car trip. How antediluvian is that?

If, like me, you have not invested in a portable DVD player for your children and/or grandchildren, books will be handy distractions. My car is always littered with books that I periodically switch around. As soon as I finish clicking the seat belts, I hand each child a book. And those little angels read quietly until we reach our destination. Or at least until I've backed down the driveway.

For the very little kids, I have big board books that tuck under the arm rests of their car seats. These books inevitably get rough treatment: dropped on the car floor, stepped on, spilled on, torn. But they're also being enjoyed.

For 4- and 5-year-olds who've moved beyond the simplest books but aren't reading yet, books like "Where's Waldo" and "I Spy" keep them happily absorbed for the length of the driveway and even (sometimes) past our mailbox.

"Can You See What I See" by Walter Wick is a series for all ages of "Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve."

"Treasure Ship" is the latest and also the greatest, in the opinion of my favorite 4-year-old.

Each amazingly detailed photograph in the book is accompanied by a list of objects to find. Even when children can't read the list, they pore over the illustrations making discoveries of their own.

For school-age children, children's almanacs, "Guinness World Records," and any other fat book of entertaining facts are good choices. Prepare to hear, "Did you know ...?" about 1,000 times per mile.

"The Once Upon a Time Map Book" by B.G. Hennessy is different and equally engaging. The book includes detailed maps of six magical lands starting with a tour of Neverland with Peter Pan.

As children work to the find the treasure hidden in each land, they'll be following directions and learning the concepts of a compass, latitude and longitude and a map key.

Maybe if I'd started reading maps at age 6, I'd have learned how to do it by now.

"World of the Weird" by Tracey Turner is perfect for kids in middle school and up. It's conveniently small for a car trip, but packed with color photos and a whole lot of very weird stuff. There's the sofa that broke the record for the fastest piece of furniture in the world. The sliding rocks of Death Valley are a mystery still unsolved.

Levitation, spontaneous human combustion, luck, curses, eccentrics and more!

Even if you don't expect your children to pay any attention, toss some books in your car. Think of the books as bait for potential bookworms.

Contact Fran Hawk at