Family Traveller editor, Jane Anderson, reviews six of the best children’s travel books around
In this trying time of social distancing and kids being home from school, books are your friends more than ever before. Pair your kids’ imaginations with these top children’s travel books, and you’ll have the key to unlocking many adventures of the mind whilst you’re grounded.
Our choice is based on the six titles shortlisted in the recent Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards which took place last month at the London Transport Museum. All these fiction and non-fiction titles for young readers were selected as they inspire a love of travel, exploration and adventure. Our very own Family Traveller Editor, Jane Anderson, was one of the judges and you can read her interview with winning author Chloe Daykin here (link to interview)
Fire Girl, Forest Boy, by Chloe Daykin (Faber Children’s) 9780571349432
Chloe Davkin’s Peruvian rainforest adventure has all the elements of the best kind of children’s novel and travelogue rolled into one. It’s both a physical quest and journey of self-discovery. It covers huge topics of friendship, loss, family ties, betrayal and loyalty, alongside the very current climate crisis. It’s pacey nature, reflects the urgency of how we should be reacting to deforestation and the unrepresented plight of the Peruvian rain forest. But most of all it brings magic and the supernatural to the real world. This funny, moving and inventive book is a glorious read for today’s children, transporting them from their home to South America.
1 | The Lost Book of Adventure: From the Notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer, by The Unknown Adventurer, edited by Teddy Keen (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) 9781786032966
The charming and clever premise of this book presents the scribblings of an ‘unknown adventurer’, and is packed full of incredibly detailed practical advice for young explorers from how to build a fire to pooing in the wild – all of it damn useful, some of it really funny. The ‘How to make a survival tin’ pages are a good example of the care and attention that has been poured into this book with hand-drawn illustrations that really engage young readers. It also makes the great point that you don’t have to go far to have an adventure!
2 | Prisoners of Geography, by Tim Marshall (Elliott & Thomson) 9781783964130
This adaptation of Marshall’s adult book into a kids version aims to demonstrate to youngsters how geography (physical landscape, climate and natural resources) affects international relations and therefore history – even in today's world of internet and flying. If you can get kids engaged in this book, it’s a brilliant teaching tool. It tackles incredibly complex issues and presents them in bite-sized pieces with useful and entertaining illustrations. It certainly has the ‘oooh’ factor, showing, for example, the true physical size of Africa by placing other country masses inside a map of Africa – ie the whole of the USA, China, India and some of Europe.
3 | Incredible Journeys, by Levison Wood, illustrated by Sam Brewster (Hachette Children’s) 9781526360434
Adventurer Levison Wood takes children on a journey through time looking at great explorers and pioneers of the past. With Levison as your guide, there’s an engaging tone to this book as he imagines himself making these journeys all those years ago and thinking about how he would feel. It’s also great that some of the explorers are people children probably won’t have heard of such as Zheng He and the female adventurers in the Middle East.
4 | Together, by Isabel Otter and Clover Robin (Little Tiger Group / Caterpillar) 9781848578661
This picture book for younger children takes a simple idea of following the crane’s migratory route and turns it into a sage tale of how animals work together. Could this be any more prescient than now - this message to humans to work together with the natural world. It also introduces children to the delights of Haiku poetry accompanied by beautiful illustrations and cut-outs in the page that magically allow little ones to see the birds in flight.
5 | Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery, by Jake Williams (Pavilion Children’s Books) 9781843654148
This accomplished and detailed look at the life, adventures and findings of Charles Darwin and how he came to write The Origin of the Species is great for children obsessed with the natural world. It’s also a fun study aid for when they cover it in school.