Going Places, by twin brothers Peter and Paul Reynolds, is a wonderful read aloud for children in the early elementary age range. As children grow, we tend to focus on following the rules, listening to instructions, and falling in line. But we still value “thinking outside the box” and a children’s creativity. It’s a difficult balance, and it’s one that we see a great example of in this book.
Rafael and his neighbor Maya are classmates, and their teacher gives each student an identical go-cart building kit for a race — the Going Places contest. Rafael and Maya take very different approaches to building their vehicles. He is quick, focused, and follows the directions to the letter; she looks for inspiration in nature and builds an entirely unexpected contraption. When curiosity gets the better of Rafael, he looks at what Maya has built for the race and is critical of her design. She replies that the rules never said you have to build a g0-cart. The two decide to combine their designs and take on the competition.
When they arrive at the starting line, they find many identical go-carts at the starting line. Theirs is the only one that’s different. It’s so different, in fact, that a boy laughs at it and says they are going to lose the race. How the story ends is not really a surprise, but the way the kids get to the finish line is significant.
Going Places shows what happens when children harness their creative spirit and work as a team to accomplish a goal. The Reynolds brothers have created an engaging story with lovely illustrations to teach a lesson. They reference science and art in showing the value of originality and invention. And it is particularly worth noting that this book features characters of color. It’s a struggle to find books that children of all ethnic groups and races can see themselves in, but this one does so beautifully.
It is rare that you find a simple, read aloud story book that is relevant and interesting to kids up to 10 years old, but Going Places is just that.