A Bonfire, a Bookstore, and Whales: Our Cape Cod Adventure

Carol Shen

Carol Shen

Guest blogger Carol Shen, is a stay at home mom of two, creator of the blog, Blueberry Mom and serves on the Board of Directors of The Reading Connection. She'll be sharing her kids' learning adventures on Start with a Book inspired topics like gardening, the night sky, If I were President, and other ideas she and her kids are excited to explore.


June 19, 2015

Carol shares how she prepared for a beach trip to Cape Cod with a Summer Tip text, and discovers the fun of stopping by a local bookstore. She’s also discovering how the role of books in their lives is evolving, and making summer explorations more memorable.

One of the best things about summer is the vacations to look forward to, and often times sand and sun are involved. We recently got back from Cape Cod where we had our first beach vacation with both kids. A good friend of mine is from Cape Cod, and had her wedding there – so it was the perfect excuse for us to hang around “The Cape” as the locals call it after the wedding took place.

Before heading up to Cape Cod, I had signed up for the Summer Reading Tips to Go text messaging service. It just so happened that the very first text I got was this summer tip: Share books with your child about places you’ll visit over the summer to get them excited about your trip.

It sounded like a great idea, so I gave it a try. I first went to Start with a Book and looked for a beach or summer vacation theme. I didn’t find what I was hoping to find. So I then tried a different resource on Reading Rockets, their themed booklists, and quickly found Books for the Beach under the category Seasons. I ended up selecting Bats at the Beach to borrow from the library.


Bats at the Beach was a fun read — it definitely got my daughter excited about fun times at the beach. I have to admit though, the illustrations of the bats eating their version of a “yummy snack” over a bonfire creeped both my daughter and I out. You can see the scrawny, hairy legs sticking out of the sides of the roasted marshmallows in the photo above. It turns out those striking illustrations ended up being a preview of what was to come on our trip.

We actually did end up enjoying a bonfire just like the bats did; the after-party of my friend’s wedding was a bonfire on the beach, without the bug appetizers of course. Here’s me and the kids right before we headed out to the bonfire. I would’ve shared photos from the bonfire itself, but those all came out blurry.

Family beach bonfire

After attending the wedding, we spent the rest of our vacation exploring the beaches and many sights in Cape Cod.

Cape lighthouse

Beach toes

Taylor swimming

The Shens at Cape Cod  align=

One of the high-lights of our trip turned out to be something that I now would recommend to anyone traveling to a new destination: visit the local bookstore. My friend had recommended that we stop by The Brewster Bookstore, as she had worked there every summer growing up.

When we walked in, the kids were greeted with a wall of stickers, an immediate sign of a kid-friendly bookstore. As we walked around, both Addie and Taylor couldn’t keep their hands off all the books they saw.

Beach bookstore

The Brewster Bookstore has an amazing book selection for kids, and in addition to selling all kinds of books, also turned out to be a great store to buy gifts and memorable souvenirs. Who knew the kids would have so much fun exploring the bookstore!

Beach bookstore gifts

I had a chance to talk to Val, the manager of The Brewster Bookstore, who’s worked there for many years and is passionate about children’s books (which explains the amazing selection there). Here are her recommendations that I wanted to pass along:

Books to read with your kids before heading to the beach:

  • At the Seaside by Germano Zullo
  • Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion
  • Seashore by Alain Gree

Usborne Activity books to keep your kids busy on a trip:

  • Fashion Designer Summer Collection (Addie loved this one)
  • Pirate Activity Pack
  • The Usborne Big Dot-to-Dot Pad (these pads are great to take with you on road trips as the pages tear out easily, and are a good substitute for activity placemats at a restaurant).

There are many, many more Usborne activity books out there. You can find them on Amazon, and at the National Gallery of Art Children’s Shop and Bookstore in Washington DC. Check your local bookstore.

Val’s favorite picture books:

  • Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
  • It’s Only Stanley, written and illustrated by Jon Agee
  • Madame Martine, written and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
  • Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan

We ended our trip to Cape Cod with a once in a lifetime experience of seeing humpback whales off the coast of Provincetown, located on the northern tip of Cape Cod.

Provincetown whale statue

Provincetown whale spotting

When we got home, I decided it’d be a fun way to reminisce the trip by reading If You Want to See a Whale (this is a personal favorite of mine). As I read this book, Taylor kept pointing out things we had seen in Cape Cod: boats, lighthouses, and of course, whales.

Reading picture books about whales

Here’s what I learned on this summer exploration:

  • Subscribing to Start with a Book’s Summer Reading Tips to Go text messaging service is a super convenient way to get simple and practical ideas to try out this summer.
  • In addition to Start with a Book, Reading Rockets’ themed booklists are another great resource when you’re looking for books on a particular topic.
  • On your next trip, visit the local bookstore — you never know what treasures you’ll find!
  • Starting your summer travels with books gets your kids excited about the trip, and ending your summer travels with books gives them a chance to reflect on the trip — and with reflection comes appreciation.

Writing this blog is making me realize the rewards of being more purposeful when choosing books for my kids. I’m grateful that for our Cape Cod trip, the books we read will always trigger feelings of happiness — and will serve as an anchor of our memories of this memorable trip for many years to come.

All the very best,

Related Topics: