Linda Urban’s Road Trip with Max and His Mom (2018) is a clever follow up to Weekends with Max and His Dad (2016). In both books a young Max adjusts to his parent’s recent divorce. Urban’s second installment pivots around a road trip to Pennsylvania that nine-year-old Max and his Mom take to celebrate his Great Great Aunt Victory’s 100th birthday.
Although Max is excited when his mom tells him about their upcoming adventure he also feels guilty. Urban writes: “Max did want to go, but he wished he didn’t have to leave Dad alone on the weekend.” The grown-up sense of responsibility Max has for his father’s feelings is subtly explored in an age-appropriate way. His mother deftly handles the situation, explaining that his Dad wants him to have the experience, even if it means he misses out on a weekend visit.
Although the trip is the primary focus of the book, Max’s obsession with Ernest Shackleton, a British polar explorer, is discussed throughout. Max delivers a class presentation about Shackleton, at one-point mispronouncing Antarctica. His desire to be an explorer like Shackleton inspires lots of giggles as Max creates hardships for himself by wearing his shoes on the wrong feet and not packing a change of clothes for his big road trip.
Urban handles Max’s complex and often conflicting emotions with wit and flair. She also paints a charming picture of a family recreating itself after divorce. This provides a much-needed representation of contemporary family life. This is a lovely book with a diverse cast of minor characters. I recommend it for children confident enough to read on their own but not quite ready for more complex plots. The limited number of characters and simple vocabulary make this a perfect early chapter book for home and school libraries.