Armchair Travel: Kids’ France Books
I’m not really sure which came first; my hunger for books or my wanderlust, but I relish their interplay — the reading that fuels a curiosity to see the world and opens its riches to us without ever leaving home, the traveling that in turn makes the books I’ve read come to life, the history from their pages swirling before my eyes and connecting in a multitude of sparks. I love curling up with my little ones and introducing them to another country and its culture through the armchair travel of reading; my dream is that one day they experience the delight of interplay between travel and reading for themselves. Last year we had the opportunity to take our oldest little one to France, and we read many books together beforehand. Below is a selection of our favorites for young children.
Hello World: Paris is a charming little board book for the babies that meanders through Parisian landmarks introducing shapes, while Jane Foster’s Paris will grow a baby’s simple vocabulary of the French capitol (croissant! metro! car! Ok, so “car” isn’t the most inherently French, but “croissant” sure is.)
Ah, Anatole! This French mouse hero stars in a entire series of books, and we’ve loved all of them so far! The first book finds him making his way in the world by becoming an anonymous cheese taster and critic, a whimsical introduction to the importance of cheese to the cuisine of France. Our library has a large selection of these books (it seems most of the Anatole books are not readily available to buy).
Madeline is another not-to-be-missed book series. The illustrations depicting Parisian landmarks are what make it iconically French, rather than the story lines, but the landmarks aren’t labeled, so parents may need to be deliberate about researching and pointing them out to get the full effect. They are fun to read regardless.
In Adèle & Simon a (mostly) patient older sister visits museums and sites of Paris with her little brother who scatters his belongings everywhere. The drawings are lush and detailed; my children love looking at them again and again! The landmarks are labeled and explained in an index in the back of the book, making it nice resource as well as a visual feast.
Similarly, Everybody Bonjours! is a colorful tour through much of Paris with simple text accompanying. It also has an index in the back. This is Paris likewise meanders through Paris, but has a little more text accompanying it. It’s whimsical and detailed.
Dodsworth in Paris is a short chapter book telling the adventures of a very goofy duck near Notre-Dame, Le Louvre, a bistro, and even the Tour de France. This is repeatedly requested at bedtime in my house!
Paris looms large in books about France, understandably, but there is so much more to France than just Paris! Both France ABCs and Count Your Way Through France explore the culture and country at large in a broader way. The pictures are fun for small children, but there is enough text to be educational for not-as-young children.
The Cat Who Walked Across France is notable for being one of the few stories that isn’t centered in Paris! The cat begins his journey in Rouen, and ends it in St. Tropez, and passes several key French places along the way. My one complaint is that all of the stops he makes are neither explained nor indexed; you have to look at the picture on the back cover to know where he’s going. Nonetheless a useful resource, with lovely pictures that all look as though they’ve been painted.
And lastly, I came across a slew of books that unfortunately our library doesn’t have, but they look so charming that they are now on our Christmas wish lists!
Do you have any favorite France books not on this list?
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