I've been a fan of fantasy books ever since I was a child. Now when I'm a mom, it seems my kids have inherited that love, and I'm very happy about that.
I firmly believe that reading fantasy books has fuelled my life-long interest in travel. And the reason for that is that some of the best travel books I have ever read were not about traveling to real places in the real world, but about travel in imaginary places in imaginary worlds.
Just like in the best classic fairy-tales, many of the best fantasy stories are tales where the protagonists go on long, adventurous trips and return home at the end with a lot of experience and maybe a treasure or two. I loved these kinds of stories when I was a child, and I can see my children enjoying them today.
Here are some of my family's favorite fantasy travel-books about going away, and coming back home at the end.
JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit is one of the original works of fantasy literature, and it's still one of the best. This year you will hear a lot about the book since it's being turned into a movie by director Peter Jackson (it's being released in theaters this December). The Hobbit's secondary title is "There and Back Again", which is a pretty tremendous title for any travel-book. If you're looking for a fantasy book for yourself or for your children, this is a great pick. Dwarves, trolls, magic swords, a greedy dragon, wolves, elves, scary spiders... This book has all that and more.
The Lord of the Rings
My dad read The Hobbit and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, to my sister and I when we were young. Both of us grew up to love these books and the fantasy genre as a whole. The Lord of the Rings is not to everyone's taste, but I love it and it is without a doubt my favorite book ever. Just like in The Hobbit, this is a tale about going away and returning home.
The Wizard of Oz
This is my 9-year old son's favorite story. It's been his favorite for many years already. He loves the book and he loves the movie. If you've only watched the movie-version, it's interesting to read the book: so many little difference (Dorothy's shoes are silver in the book for example).
The Chronicles of Narnia
A whole lot of traveling takes place in the Narnia books. The children from our world travel to Narnia (and back), and often travel within Narnia as well. My 5-year old daughter is especially fond of The Magician's Nephew, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Where the Wild Things Are
This classic picture book by Maurice Sendak, about Max' journey to the place where the wild things live (and how he returns home again), is a terrific children's book. Both the story and the illustrations are beautiful and evocative. Toddlers, preschoolers, and kids older than that can all enjoy this book.
This book by the wonderful author Alan Garner is a fantastic fantasy book. Four children travel through a portal into a different world, go through some rather dark and harrowing adventures, and then return to our world where their battle against the dark forces continues. I highly recommend this book if you have kids that are about 12 and up.