Preparing Kids for Change: Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel

During my growing up years, my dad went abroad for post-graduate studies and our whole family would follow him to support his education.

Although this meant that my sister and I had the awesome opportunity to travel, live and study in a different country, we also had to learn to adapt to a new environment and culture.

When my parents told me that we were going to move far away from my friends and extended family for a whole year, I went through a whole string of emotions. I was sad about leaving my friends and schoolmates behind, as well as my precious dog, but I was also very excited about embarking on a whole new adventure with my family.

I think my parents were quite relieved that both my sister and I chose to see this Big Move as a start of a new chapter in our lives, and I think that is partly due to the fact that we grew up on a steady diet of books and movies that encouraged exploration.

I’ve put together a list of books and movies that I think will really help kids who are preparing for a big change – from the littlest ones starting school to the big ones going off to college. So here’s

Owls Well’s Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel


1. Augustine by Melanie Watt (Recommended for Preschoolers)

Little Augustine the penguin moves with her family from the South Pole to the North Pole, and it isn’t easy saying goodbye to her grandparents, friends and her old room. Being a shy penguin, adjusting to her new school and making new friends is a challenge, but with the help of her colouring pencils, Augustine finds that she can still be herself even if her surroundings are different.

This is a very good book which definitely covers both the physical and emotional journey involved in moving to a new place. I also love the beautiful pictures in this book, most of which are inspired by famous paintings and artists – also a very good way to introduce kids to art!

2. Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World (Recommended for Preschoolers)

This was one of my favourite books when I was growing up, and it has a load of ridiculously funny stories taking place around the world. I loved seeing the various animal characters dressed up in traditional ethnic costumes and learn about great landmarks from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Spanish Steps in Rome to the Blarney Stone in Ireland.

I remember being so excited to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time, just because of the story about Pierre the Parisian Policeman chasing a robber all across the Paris and through a French restaurant, blowing his police whistle, “Breeeeet!”

3. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss (Recommended for Emerging Readers)

In this book, a little boy heads out and explores the world, encountering many new things – some of which are sad or scary or boring – but in general, the book takes a very positive view of being brave enough to step out of one’s comfort zone and embrace the adventure that is life and growing up.

It’s opener out there, in the wide open air

– Dr Seuss

4. Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” Series (Recommended for Confident Readers)

This is a wonderful series of chapter books for encouraging young readers, especially little girls who will love reading about Laura and her sisters as they grow up, moving from their Little House in the Big Woods to the Prairie and beyond.

In general, despite the fact that the Ingalls family appears to be constantly on the move and always facing new challenges, the fact remains that the concept of ‘home’ for Laura is not a physical place, but an emotional one. This is a good series for teaching kids to understand that as long as a family sticks together, they can make a home anywhere and weather any changes that life throws their way.

Everything from the little house was in the wagon except the beds and tables and chairs. They did not need to take these, because Pa could always make new ones.

– Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

5. Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, Wings (Recommended for Confident Readers)

In this hilarious book series, a group of tiny 4 inch high Nomes who have lived for generations in a departmental store find out that their home is soon to be demolished. They embark on an epic journey to find a new home, bringing with them The Thing – a  mysterious black cube which has been the Nome tribe’s totem for as long as anyone can remember.

I remember that the main struggle that the Departmental Store Nomes had was meeting other Nomes who were from different cultures and challenging long established beliefs. The way the Nomes had to deal with drastic changes in their societal structure and family values is beautifully handled by Terry Pratchett, who writes about these issues with humour and sensitivity. A very good series to help kids keep an open mind about change!

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

― Terry Pratchett

6. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” Series (Recommended for Confident Readers)

Although I have many issues with the Harry Potter series (I still think Harry Potter is rather a jerk. The underdog Neville Longbottom is my favourite guy in this series), the fact remains that this book series is often about having the gumption to seek out adventure.

Harry Potter’s life only really begins because he’s brave enough to leave behind everything that he knows and understands about the world – exchanging a life that is safe and predictable for one that is unstable, painful, and even dangerous. However, because of his willingness to embrace change, he finds faithful new friends, a new family and a welcoming home. Definitely a good one for a kid who needs encouragement to be brave and bold!

Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect

– J.K. Rowling

7. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) (Recommended for Preschoolers and above)

This is a very sweet film focussing on two sisters who have moved to a new home with their father in order to be closer to the hospital where their mother is recuperating from a chronic illness. In their new home, they make friends with all of their neighbours, including the woodland spirits from a nearby camphor tree.

I love the way the family is depicted in this film, and the sibling relationship between the sisters is well scripted. I also like the positive attitude that the two little girls have towards moving to the countryside and exploring their new surroundings.

8. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) (Recommended for Preschoolers and above)

13 year old Kiki has to complete her training as a witch by spending at least a year away from home, so she flies off on her broom with her black cat Jiji in search of a town in need of her services. She moves into the port city of Koriko and has to find a way to fit in whilst earning a living – it’s not always easy but Kiki makes it work.

What I find particularly good about this film is Kiki’s vulnerability and self-doubt which is so common to many children, especially when faced with what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. Kiki is able to learn more about herself, become more independent and take control of her own life without sacrificing her open-hearted personality or sweetness, and without anger or rebelliousness.

9. The Karate Kid (1984) (Recommended for Tweens and above)

Daniel LaRusso, a spunky teen, moves from his New Jersey home to California, and he has a very hard time fitting in until he befriends a kooky old man who teaches him the ancient art of car detailing Karate.

I mean, who doesn’t love this film? Stick with the 1984 version though.

*Mummy warning: Some swear words, juicy insults and kids beating each other up.*

Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breathe in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.

– Mr Miyagi

10. Legally Blonde (2001) (Recommended for Teens and above)

Sorority girl Elle Woods moves from California where she holds a degree in fashion merchandising to begin her postgraduate studies in Harvard Law School, in order to win back her ex-boyfriend. This very silly comedy deals mostly with a girl who appears to be out of her depth in a new environment, but manages to defy all expectations (including the expectations she had for herself).

I particularly like the way the heroine stays true to herself whilst also discovering talents that she never knew existed until she made the decision to leave her comfort zone.

*Mummy warning: Some swear words, sexual jokes and gay stereotyping.*

I’d pick the dangerous one, ’cause I’m not afraid of a challenge.

– Elle Woods

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15 thoughts on “Preparing Kids for Change: Top 10 Books and Movies about Moving and Travel

  1. Nicely compiled! This is suitable Nor only for people who are moving to another country but also shifting house, changing schools eg from primary to Sec and so on.

  2. Interesting set of books and definitely helpful for kids who might have to move. Having a sense of adventure and taking it as an exploration is a good mindset to cultivate!

  3. Beautiful list…Inside Out is also about moving to a new place and what goes in a kid’s head during this period. Karate Kid? all time favorite…

    • Oh yes, I considered “Inside Out” but eliminated I from the list because it focuses mainly on the negative impact of change where the main character becomes severely depressed and even runs away from home as a result of not adjusting well to her new surroundings. I decided to pick movies that focus on positive attitudes towards change where the characters display resilience and open mindedness.

  4. What a good list this is. Thanks for compiling. For us, before we travel we would loan travel books for the kids to go thru and discover a bit more of the country they are visiting. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I remember moving when my dad went overseas to study too but we came back before it really had an impact on my social life haha.. as an adult I had a few major moves too and still found it so so hard emotionally.. can’t really imagine how it must feel like for kids!!

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  6. Pingback: Friday Flips #79: Augustine

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