When I visited London for the first time, I was 23 years old and I felt as though I’d been there before.
It was all so familiar – the setting for so many books I’d read, and movies that I’d seen. What was unfamiliar was the thrill of ‘being there’.
Two years later, I was walking down Madison Avenue in New York, the sun setting, crowds pushing past me and I had just one exhilarating thought: “Nobody in the world knows where I am right now.” It should have been terrifying, but it wasn’t.
I can’t remember exactly when I decided to travel overseas, but I know that I was young and I know that I was determined. I’d read so many books, you see.
I wanted to go and see the Hudson River, as described in the Trixie Belden series. I wanted to visit Cornwall and pretend to be George from The Famous Five. I wanted to go to Paris, London, Rome and New York. I wanted to go to Narnia – but that was always going to prove difficult.
One of the greatest things about reading, for me, is that ability to travel. My body may have been lying on an unmade bed, but my mind was far, far away, enjoying grand adventures in other countries, other worlds.
When I sat down to write The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the end of the world, that sense of excitement, the joy of being ‘elsewhere’, came with me. The story was inspired by several conversations I had with my oldest son, now 10, one of which was about the earliest maps.
“How did they map the world?” he asked me.
“Well, they had to go,” I answered. “They had to get in their ships and sail off into the unknown, to find out what was there.”
Today, of course, we can ‘visit’ anywhere via the Internet, but the thrill of ‘being there’ – that’s something you can’t capture via a screen.
You have to go.
I hope that these 14 books will help inspire your kids to do just that.
Travel books for little kids
1. Where the wild things are, by Maurice Sendak
Explores the idea of the vastness of the world and the beauty of coming home.
2. Oh, the places you’ll go, by Dr Seuss
Whether you’re two or 22, this is a book about adventure and possibilities.
3. Paddington, Michael Bond
Children love the ‘bear’s eye view’ of London, thanks to Paddington, from deepest, darkest Peru.
4. Madeline in London, Ludwig Bemelmans
Generations of young girls have been inspired to visit Paris by Madeline, who attends boarding school there with 11 other girls. In this book, Madeline visits London.
5. Ruby Red Shoes goes to Paris by Kate Knapp
The delightful Ruby Red Shoes travels to Paris and keeps her very own travel journal.
6. The ‘This is’ series, by Miroslav Sasek
These graphic picture books as so stylish and beautiful, painting an evocative picture of some of the world’s greatest cities.
7. Mirror, Jeannie Baker
The two parts of this picture book are designed to be read simultaneously, one from the left, one from the right, and show two boys and their families in different parts of the world. The book shows children how different – and the same – two places can be.
Travel books for bigger kids
8. Maps, Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński
Beautiful, hand-drawn detailed illustrations that make your mouth water and your feet itch.
9. Lonely Planet ‘Not for Parents’ series
As a child, it’s easy to think that the world is for grown-ups. This series shows that there are places for children even in the biggest cities. (Kalyra is fanatical about these books. She has learned so much and her bucket list is now sooo long! – Caz)
10. Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton series
Geronomo Stilton loves his home and hates to travel – and yet he finds himself having many different adventures, via many different modes of transport, in many different countries, exploring life and customs in different places. Thea is Geronimo’s adventure-loving sister.
11. James and The Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
James longs for friends. When he steps aboard his magical peach, he finds not only adventure but a loyal band of friends.
12. The Boxcar Children, Gertrude C. Warner
A group of children who travel about and solve mysteries, seeing different parts of their country as they go.
13. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis
This book explores the possibilities of travel – step through the wardrobe, and adventure awaits.
14. The Time Travelers, Linda Buckley-Archer
While time travel isn’t available to us right now, we can visit the past by visiting historic sites and museums. Children who like history will enjoy this.
15 Leap & Hop travel books for kids
I, Caz the editor, have jumped in to add these series of books to this list. I think they are an incredible way to engage your children in the travel experience. They are filled with puzzles, quizzes and engaging information on the destination. We have the New York one for our daughter Kalyra. We have not been yet, but she’s already filling in some of the activities and is even more keen to visit now to complete the rest.
The first book in The Mapmaker Chronicles trilogy by A.L. Tait is now available, and is a grand adventure for children (9-13) about a race to map the world. You can find out more at TheMapMakerChronicles.com