For many of you, flying with kids in tow is now as common as hopping in the car. Families living overseas seem to fly even more often then when I was a child.
For our family, the first trip across the Atlantic was actually by boat, on the Queen Mary, which took 6 days to get from the harbor in New York to Dover, England. At that time, back in the early 1960s it was actually cheaper for our family of 6 to go by cruise boat than to fly, and it definitely had some advantages – slowly adjusting to the time change and a 6 day all-included family vacation!
That said, I know all children respond differently to air travel – this is a list of books that you can browse through and I recommend you have several on hand or in your home library to help prepare and anticipate that next plane ride.
Books can help alleviate some of the fears children may have and add an element of fun to the upcoming trip. Packing a plane book or two is also a great way for children to de-stress in a busy airport or keep them busy on long plane rides.
I recently was traveling by plane and just happened to have a copy of Amazing Planes by Tony Mitton that I picked up at a thrift store while on my trip. A young mom was traveling on the same plane with her toddler and I lent her the book. I listened in as she read through the book with him several times through. He sat quietly, listening to her read, pointing to the illustrations and saying words like: “up”, and “sky”. At the end of the flight, she returned the book and gratefully thanked me sharing my book with her. Maybe I should always carry a few favorite plane books with her in my carry-on!
Here are a few of my favorite airplane books:
Airport by Byron Barton
For ages 3 to 6
An ideal book for the very young, Airport takes a young child through the different steps of air travel, beginning with the arrival at the airport until take off. With simple text and colorful, bold illustrations, including a cross-section of an airplane, this book is a must read for your toddler and preschool traveling by plane. Take it along and read it on the plane! I also recommend Planes where Barton explores all the uses for planes, including writing messages in the sky. Also look for his other transportation board books Trains, Trucks, Boats.
Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout
For ages 3-6
This book stands out to me because of it’s unique and eye-catching design and graphics including it’s focus on airport and flight related signs from around the world. Perfect for an early learner who enjoys transportation, signs and counting!
Mighty Machines Airplane by Christopher Maynard
For ages 4 and up
If you have a “planes, trains and automobile” enthusiast in your family, they will love this Dorling Kindersley book, packed with amazing facts, stunning photographs and artwork, that sheds light on how these powerful machines work. Includes the inner workings of a jumbo jet, a stunt plane and a space shuttle.
Amazing Airplane by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
For ages 3-6
From the airport terminal to the flight deck, this little book is perfect for preschoolers, covering topics like how a plane flies, safety rules, in-flight entertainment and air traffic control. Filled with action, a slew of crazy animals, and rhyming verses, this is sure to calm or amuse your little traveler.
“A plane is big and heavy,
Yet it climbs up really high.
It zooms along the runway
and soars into the sky.”
If your child loves this one, be sure to check out Mitton and Parker’s other amazing machine books, including Busy Boats and Terrific Trains.
Mitton and Parker have also recently published an addition to this series Amazing Airplanes titled Amazing Airplanes Sound Book which explores 10 different sounds you will hear in an airport, from the roar of the plane’s engines to the pilot in his cockpit. Great for preschoolers!
The Airport Book by Lisa Brown (2016). (for ages 3-7)
Join a family of four as they embark on a trip to visit grandma and grandpa (looks like somewhere warm and tropical – sounds nice, right about now, right?). Although there is not a lot of text, the pages are filled with details: bustling airports, travelers, and conversations along the way. Brown not only describes all the detail but adds in information about things that can happen like children crying, cars honking, and bouncy plane rides:
Which parent will not relate to this page?
“Inside the airport you stand in lines,
You stand in lines to get your tickets,
You stand in lines to check your bags,
There are lines for the restrooms.
There are lines to go through security.”
Adding to the appeal of this creative book, Brown also incorporates diversity – the family featured in this book are biracial. There are also people in wheel chairs, and people and families of all different ethnicities, as you would encounter in International airports everywhere.
A fun book to look at and have conversations about – new details to discover at each reading. This book is also easy for your pre-reader to look at on their own. An added and amusing bonus is a hidden sock monkey on each page that your child has to find.
I highly recommend this book, both for new travelers and seasoned travelers who will be familiar and find comfort in all the hustle and bustle of plane travel. This is not just a dull “learn about” story, it’s amusing, fun, mysterious and filled with facts all put together like a well packed suitcase.
Going on a Plane (Usborne First Experience) by Anne Civardi and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright (2000)
Usborne First series introduces young children to situations they might experience for the first time (or for other children, like TCKs, something they are very familiar with). The illustrations by Stephen Cartwright are cheerful and reassuring, as well as adding touches of humor that appeals to kids. In this picture book, the plane ride involves a meal and going through customs, a perfect first experience for International travel. Ideal for preschoolers.
Flying by Donald Crews (1986)
For ages 3 – 6
Another great, classic preschool book, this informational picture book is bright, colorful and lively. This book gives preschoolers a bird’s eye view of the things they will see below as they fly – highways, cities, rivers, country, mountains, clouds, and finally the descent into at night into a city by night.
“Flying over highways.
Flying over cities.
Flying across the country.
Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Down and Illustrated by David Gordon
For ages 3-7
This book offers a rhyming tour of the variety of sounds a child might hear before, during, and after takeoff. Rhythmic noises make for a great read-aloud. A final double-page spread helps clarify some of the sights and physical sensations of a plane ride, from luggage loading to queasiness.
Going on an airplane by Fred Rogers
In this First Experience book by Fred Rogers from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a young family embarks on a trip by plane. As with all Mister Roger’s shows and books, the child reading it will feel reassured as everything is explained at the child’s level. All the questions and fears are addressed here in an easy-to-understand format, with lots of colorful photos. Although this 1989 edition is a little dated – no computer screens in the cockpit, wide aisles and large seats – I remember those days! Despite this, it still offers lots of relevant information and advice. I also love that the family is Asian and the book shows a wild range of culturally diverse travelers and airport staff.
Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport by Richard Scarry
For ages 3-7
If you are and your child are Richard Scarry fans, this is the perfect book to pack for the next trip. Join Richard Scarry’s beloved characters Huckle Cat, Sally, and Lowly Worm for a day of adventure and discovery at the airport. Airplane fans will get an up-close look at the terminal, the control tower, the runway, and more! Featuring over 70 labeled words. There is never a dull moment in the world of Richard Scarry and this book is no exception.
The Little Airplane by Lois Lenski (1938)
For ages 2-5
Written in 1938, this little gem is part of Lois Lenski’s classic Mr. Small series, inspired by “watching her young son Stephen and his friends play with toy trucks, airplanes and other vehicles and realizing that the children tended to see themselves as the operators of the vehicles”.
In this book, pilot Small goes up in his little red propeller plane for a joy ride through the skies. The plane goes up, and he watches the town below, than soars up into the clouds. A great preschool book for your little plane lover. If your child loves this book, be sure to look for other Mr. Small books by Lenski including Little Auto, Little Sailboat, Little Fire Engine and Little Train. Available in board book format
I Fly by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Annette Cable (1997)
For ages 3 and up
The focus of this book is to reassure a child who is traveling alone. This would be a great book for TCKs who may return to the US alone to visit family. Narrated by the child, the book gives a step by step description of what to expect, especially while aboard the plane. A happy reunion with his cousins at the end of the trip helps kids see they can overcome their fears to enjoy time with family and friends when they reached their destination.
Other titles you might consider as well:
Caillou rides on A Plane by Roger Harvey (for ages 3 and up). Caillou series was originally published in French (Caillou Prend l’avion) and is now translated into English. If you live in a French speaking country, look for this series in French.
Flying in a Airplane by Alex Mason, illustrated by Liz Callen – an early reader by Houghton Mifflin
National Geographic (Windows on Literacy series) The Flying Doctor by Alan Horsfield, illustrated by Kevin Burgemeestre. This book describes the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia, which uses planes to reach sick or injured people who live in the Australian outback. This is a content-based fiction book, that is full of interesting information about flying, medical rescues and Australia.