Best Travel Books for Kids

Giving a book as a gift can educate and inspire kids. Giving a travel book can broaden their awareness about the world and other cultures, nurture their imagination, and inspire a sense of wonder.

Lonely Planet has a new book out that may do all this: Not-for-Parents Travel Book: Cool Stuff to Know About Every Country in the World. “In this book are the epic events, amazing animals, hideous histories, funky foods, and crazy facts…”. I just ordered a copy for our 3 year old friend, Max, for Christmas. What a terrific book. Each page is a colorful collage of photos, a map, and curious details about the country. Max and his parents love books and as children’s author, Emilie Buchwald says, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents”… and perhaps travelers as well.

Lonely Planet has also published its first series for children, Not For Parents books on Paris, New York, London, and Rome. The $15 paperbacks offer curious kids cartoons, photos and drawings packed with tidbits on local history, geography, the arts and pop culture. “Not For Parents: Paris, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know,” for example, mentions everything from crepes and the origins of plaster of Paris to a look at Deyrolle, a bizarre showcase for taxidermied animals.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into… are wordless stories that takes readers on a great balloon chase. You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum tells the tale of a little girl who leaves her prized yellow balloon tied to a railing outside the Metropolitan Museum. Its string becomes untied, and the balloon embarks on an uproarious journey through New York City. With a cast of wacky urban characters in tow, the balloon soars past a host of landmarks and 18 famous paintings and sculptures. This escapade is repeated in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Delightful, wordless books that explore the magical relationship between art and life. Suggested ages: 5 and up. (My 3 year old friend, Max, enjoys this book with his mom. Just depends how much adult involvement there is.)

Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock takes us back a full century to Paris in its glory, when the Impressionists were still alive and the streets teemed with activity and fun-loving kids could meander for hours. Adèle meets her younger brother after school, and cautions him not to lose anything on the way home. The children take a leisurely route, visiting friends, a street market, a park, and two museums. Predictably, Simon leaves an item (his drawing, hat, knapsack, glove) behind at each location. How they’re returned to Simon will delight young readers as will McClintock’s detailed and intricate pen-and-ink with watercolor illustrations.

Books open up the world to children and encourage them to experience life. At Seattle’s TEDxRainier 2011 Conference, Rick Steves said “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.” Let’s make sure the next generation is out and about, learning how much in common we all have, and what an amazing place this planet is.