Arts & Culture

Armchair Travel: 8 Children’s Books That Take Readers to Far Away Places

A family vacation isn't the only way to show your kids the world
BY Barbara Danza TIMESeptember 28, 2015 PRINT

Family travel is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable things parents can do for their children. It allows the entire family to centrally focus on something together and tightens family bonds, provides the best form of education available, and opens a young one’s mind to greater possibilities.

That said, most of us can’t always be traveling.

It’s a good thing we’ve got books.

As novelist Lloyd Alexander once said, “Keep reading. It’s one of the most marvelous adventures that anyone can have.”

Surround your kids with books and adventure will always be within arm’s reach. Here are 8 children’s books that will really take them away.

“Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans and “Madeline and the Cats of Rome” by John Bemelmans Marciano

Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers
Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

The children’s classic, “Madeline,” introduces us to the high-spirited and precocious young girl, one of 12 little girls, who lives in a “vine-covered house in Paris.” Bemelmans’ humorous portrayal is not only a fun story but a child’s postcard to Paris.

Bemelmans went on to write other Madeline books and his grandson has now carried on his grandfather’s legacy with titles such as “Madeline and the Cats of Rome.” Every Madeline story begins with the same two lines: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” Young girls, especially, will enjoy traveling the globe with the irrepressible Madeline.

“In Lucia’s Neighborhood” by Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek 

Courtesy of Kids Can Press
Courtesy of Kids Can Press

A different spin on “armchair travel,” Shewchuk and Colek take us to Lucia’s neighborhood. Inspired by the words of urban activist Jane Jacobs, Lucia details her appreciation for her neighborhood and the different people, customs, and aesthetics inherent there. A delightful tour, readers will surely find new appreciation for the characteristics that make their own neighborhood unique as well as those of other neighborhoods they may encounter.

“A Day with Bonefish Joe” by Elizabeth Howard, illustrated by Diana Wege

Courtesy of David R. Godine, Publisher
Courtesy of David R. Godine, Publisher

In her first children’s book, author Elizabeth Howard depicts the story of Bonefish Joe of the Bahamas with whom she spent a memorable time with. In the story, Howard brings to life the young Bahamian native, Flossie, and her fascination with the fisherman visitors flocked to see: Bonefish Joe. An endearing tale and a lovely depiction of Harbour Island in the Bahamas, “A Day with Bonefish Joe” may just have parents calling their travel agents.

“Big Red Kangaroo” by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne

Courtesy of Candlewick Press
Courtesy of Candlewick Press

This educational look at Australia’s red kangaroo takes the reader straight into the heart of the dry inland of Australia. With a nod to the other native creatures and a peek at the behaviors of the world’s largest kangaroo, it’s as if one was swept away on an Australian safari to observe this animal in its unique habitat.

“Heidi” by Johanna Spyri

Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers
Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

A must-read for every child, “Heidi” written in the late 19th century by Johanna Spyri takes readers up into the mountain in the Swiss Alps where the young orphan comes to live with her grandfather. Inspirational and endearing, “Heidi” is like breathing fresh mountain air and a book to share with the whole family.

“River of Dreams, The Story of the Hudson River” by Hudson Talbott

Courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons
Courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Talbott’s portrayal of the history of the great River that bears his name is thorough and awe-inspiring. Readers will close this book with a deep appreciation for the importance of the Hudson and the impact of history on any given place.

“Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss

Courtesy of Random House
Courtesy of Random House

While not centrally focused on any one location, Dr. Seuss’s ode to travel and exploration and, metaphorically, personal ambition, is too good to omit. A call to action, Seuss exclaims, “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so … Get on your way!”

Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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