Believe it or not the residents of Casa Eats World are not always eating… or travelling. But that doesn’t mean that our offspring aren’t thinking about exploring and tasting other lands pretty much every waking moment.
In fact, my nomadic spawn are a little too eager to hit the road and find it difficult to comprehend the logistical and economic complexities of travelling to “everywhere in the whole world ever” so we find other ways to keep them interested and excited in the world when we’re not on the road.
Much of this is done through words.
Their little library is stuffed with everything from picture books and volumes of regional myths and legends to junior guidebooks, atlases and stories of the world’s people and their struggles, as well as imaginative tales that take them to the four corners of the world (which incidentally, is an utterly stupid phrase… unless you’re a member of the Flat Earth Society) and beyond.
While the most important stories in our collection are the journals the kids are beginning to put together of their own journeys and experiences, unlike Elle “I never read anything I haven’t written myself” McPherson, the kids have plenty of non-autobiographical works on their heaving bookshelves that they’re happy to read over and over again.
Here’s are 10 of their all-time fave children’s books that inspire interest in other lands…
- Mr Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs – This is without question Sugarpuff’s favourite children’s book. Mr Chicken takes up his friend Yvette’s invitation to visit Paris. As they wander through the City of Love, learning a little of the local lingo as the go, the gentlemanly Mr Chicken is overcome by the magic of Paris oblivious that the city’s residents are overcome by the sight of a giant chook in a top hat. I always get a kick out of reading this one because it’s freakin’ hilarious.
- One World Together by Catherine Anholt – This very sweet story follows one boy as he travels to nine different countries to find a friend – and ends up becoming friends with all the different children he meets along the way. I know of a few grown-ups who could do with hearing this one at
- Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Emily Hayes & Sanjay Patel – This one takes the kids to India with a fresh and fun twist on the classic Hindu tale of Ganesha. In this pretty, pretty picture book, a little Ganesha breaks his tusk biting a jumbo jawbreaker laddoo and learns that what seems broken can prove useful. It also gives me a great excuse to bake the coconut treats for afternoon nibbles.
- Ayu and the Perfect Moon by David Cox – This is a lovely story about a little girl in Indonesia who performs a traditional Balinese Legong dance for her village. We read this one before we visited Bali to get the kids in tune with the culture of the island and it’s still a firm favourite with Sugarpuff who likes to “dance with my hands and my feet and my eyes, mama. Like Ayu… and Queen Elsa”. Is there nothing she can’t connect to frickin’ Frozen? Sigh…
- Mirror by Jeanne Baker – This wordless dual-format picture book shares snapshots from a day in the life of little two boys and their families, one living in Australia and the other living in Morocco, to reveal the simple truth that despite our cultural and economic differences we are all very much the same. The lack of text in the story encourages questions and discussion. Genius.
- The Little Refugee by Anh Do & Suzanne Do – Anh Do’s amazing tale about his family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam and his childhood in Australia moved me to tears. Here it is retold for younger children. It’s a timely tale about a family’s survival against the odds and the power of hope and human compassion. It’s simple enough for my three-year old to comprehend and should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in Australian politics… sadly though, it may not be quite simple enough for those of them afflicted with outdated xenophobic views.
- Pea Boy and Other Stories From Iran by Elizabeth Laird & Shirin Adl – Raffles loves this book packed full of enchanting local tales of fairies and demons, romantic cockroaches (yes, really) and foolish weavers that shows a side to Iran that’s far removed from the news headlines.
- Mysterious Traveller by Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham – An old guide, wise to the life of the African desert, finds treasure – a baby girl tucked away in a cave (Man, if I’d known you could get them in caves I could have saved a fortune on IVF). This gorgeous story about cranky camels, lost princesses, loyalty, family and the strength of wisdom is one of Raffles favourites.
- Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne – It’s a classic but my kids love hearing the timeless story of Phileas Fogg as he embarks on the race of a lifetime to circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days by boat, train, and even by elephant – a journey the kids claim they could do in 79, easy. Bonne chance, enfants.
- Lonely Planet’s Not-for-Parents Travel Guides –This travel guide series is the first I’ve come across that has been written for kids and they are, according to my two, awesome. Packed with intriguing stories and quirky facts, I often find Raffles flipping through his collection and sharing whacky facts, usually about Ninjas and Sumo wrestlers, with his little sister.