Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Travel

posted in: Tania McCartney | 16

fantastic_fiction_button Today’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids post comes from Tania McCartney. Tania is an Australian freelance writer, editor, blogger and author of both adult non-fiction and children’s picture books. After four years in China, she currently lives in Canberra with her husband and two children. As well as books, Tania loves kids, travel and mangoes! To find out more about Tania and her books please do pay a visit to her website,

Tania’s topic for today’s post is something very dear to her heart – not kids, not even mangoes, but Travel, so if you’re ready for a journey or two around there world let’s see what Tania picked for us to enjoy…

One of my favourite Australian travel books for kids is by prolific author/illustrator Roland Harvey. To the Top End: Our Trip Across Australia is a glorious romp from Tasmania to the Northern Territory, taking in the splendour and natural wonder of this enormous land. Kids experience the highlands of New South Wales, the hot red centre and the cooling waters of the Great Barrier Reef before plunging into limpid water of the Top End. With a fun storyline and fantastical illustrations that make your eyes water with the beauty, this is really gorgeous stuff.
Are we there yet? A Journey Around Australia by famed author/illustrator Alison Lester is a family adventure on the circumnavigation of Australia – by caravan. Told diary-style through the eyes of eight-year-old Grace, the book is rich with detail and humour endemic to children and how they see the world. Mini maps of Australia show the journey’s progress along the way, and the plethora of activities the family undertakes make this book a pleasure to view over and over again.
He may be long gone, but M. Sasek’s inimitable collection of travel books for children live on. Currently going through a spate of re-release, the first book in this lengthy series – This is Paris – was published in 1958. The latest re-release occurred September 2009 with This is the Way to the Moon (formerly This is Cape Canaveral, then This is Cape Kennedy) and currently there are many titles available including favourites London, San Francisco, New York and Rome. Timeless, utterly retro and filled with Sasek’s iconic illustrations, this is a collection we are hopelessly addicted to in our family. Packed with information, anything outdated is refreshed on the last pages of each book (the glass pyramid on the Louvre, for example).
For older readers (teens), the S.A.S.S. (Students Across the Seven Seas) series for girls, follows the travels of students travelling abroad to study. Written by several different authors, the travels include Getting the Boot (Italy) by Peggy Guthart Strauss, Westminster Abby [sic] (England) by Micol Ostow and Pardon by French (France) by Cathy Hapka. Fun for adult readers keen to retrace their girlhood, too!
Not strictly a travel book, unless you include time travel, The History Puzzle by Cherry Denman is a truly mind-boggling journey into both the past and to the times and places of the world so steeped in the history that has created our world today. I wanted to include this book not only for its astounding timeline flooded with child-enrapturing illustrations à la Where’s Wally, but also because it does indeed send the reader on a travelling journey – really like no other.

Similarly, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, deserves a mention, not only because it’s one of my favourite (and my children’s favourite) books of all time, but the ethos behind the storyline is all about the need to move, to seek, to find, to experience, to expand ourselves and… to return home once again. That’s what travel is all about, really.
Relatively new on the scene, the Spying on the Past: Battle Boy chapter books by author Charlie Carter, combine travel with adventure in the most astounding tales, devised to foster a love of history. The hero – Battle Boy 005 (Napoleon to you) – travels to famous battles in history in an attempt to infiltrate the DNA of several world renowned war captains, from the Red Baron to Sir Francis Drake. Utilising high-tech time travelling equipment, what I love about these books is how they are aimed at boys who struggle with reading. With large type and super cool graphics throughout, young boys will be travelling into history (and literacy) in no time.

Not fiction, but still fantastic:

In my mind, there is nothing like armchair-travelling the world through the pages of an atlas. We love the Usborne Children’s Picture Atlas in our house. Not only is the information totally child-relevant and fascinating (with information on grasslands, forest, deserts, cities, people and more), the pictures are drenched in colour and comical beauty. My kids can pore for hours over this hardcover book and the myriad of wonder splashed across its countries.
Travelling from site to site is all good and well, but it’s nothing without the colour and culture of other lands. Lands and People by Phillip Steele and illustrated by John James is an extraordinary, encyclopaedic account of many of the world’s countries and its constituents, from people to trade. The book covers languages, housing, infrastructure, climate, clothing, food, currency, traditions and a plethora of information any travel-hungry adventurer would be keen to devour. The book is out of print, so can be found second-hand online.

I (Zoe) think it is clear from this enthusiastic selection of books that Tania loves to travel! In fact, a deep love of travel and belief that all children should experience travel is the reason she wrote her first children’s book.

Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing is a unique travelogue picture book for young children that incorporates gorgeous black and white photos of Beijing with cute illustrations, graphics and photographs of a real life toy plane. It follows the journey of this little aviator as he scours Beijing in search of the elusive sleeping dragon of China. The second book, Riley and the Dancing Lion: A journey around Hong Kong sees Riley searching for the traditional dancing lion of Chinese new year, and both books incorporate adventurous, cultural and traditional aspects that make the travel element even more exciting. Book three, based in Sydney, will be out November 2010.

Music to enjoy alongside these books could include:

  • Long ways to travel by Woody Guthrie
  • The Travel the World Song by Travel the World with Eric and Grant
  • Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes by Jimmy Buffett
  • I’ve been everywhere by Johnny Cash
  • The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles
  • Leaving on a jet plane sung by Peter Paul and Mary

  • If you’ve a trip to New York planned, apart from taking me with you, you could also check out this page – a collection of music featuring New York. There are also links to other songs featuring London and Copenhagen (and I’d be happy to go to either of this cities too!)

    Travel-related projects that could be fun to go with this wonderful and varied selection of books include:

  • Creating an envelope that when opened shows the recipient where the letter was sent from
  • The growing myriad of projects from The Crafty Crow who this month is focussing on Crafts from around the World
  • Making and packing a suitcase to take with you on your travels from No Time for Flashcards
  • This visual packing list from House on Hill Road – great if you’re planning a trip with kids and want them to help get ready.

  • So that’s today’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids post wrapped up. Tania made a great selection of books – Thank you Tania! – do drop by one of her blogs and say hi to her! And if you’ve a trip planned this year, let us know where you’re going and whether you’ve got any great kids’ books to read on your journey 🙂

    16 Responses

    1. Natalie

      Great wrap-up of travel books. We read our first book by Alison Lester (“Imagine”), and we are in love. I will definitely look for “Are We There Yet” when we get to Australia on our journey around the Earth.

    2. Tania McCartney

      My girlfriend Cate JUST mentioned The Magic Beach to me last night!! PS: your link to the review is broken. 🙁 [Zoe adds: I’ve mended the link now!]

    3. Catherine

      I’m really going to have to try and get my hands on those top 2 books To the Top End and Are We There Yet?. I love the songlist too.
      I think it is a great idea to get some books about travelling and the place you are going to when you go away.

    4. Tania McCartney

      Hi Zoe! Yes, I have great kids books on Japan and Italy.

      First, for Japan I recommend…

      Japanese Traditions: Rice Cakes, Cherry Blossoms and Matsuri: A Year of Seasonal Japanese Festivities by Setsu Broderick

      Japan for Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Parents and Their Children by Diane Wiltshire

      Japan (A to Z) by Jeff Reynolds

      My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe

      I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi

      …and my personal favourite…

      Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns and Stars! by Betty Reynolds


      For Italy, I recommend the following books…

      Italy ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Italy by Katz Cooper, Sharon, Eitzen and Allan

      C Is for Ciao: An Italy Alphabet by Elissa D. Grodin, Mario M. Cuomo and Marco Ventura

      Elissa D. Grodin, Mario M. Cuomo, and Marco Ventura

      Marco Polo Was Here! A Kid’s Guide To Venice, Italy Marco Polo Was Here! by Penelope Dyan and John D. Weigand

      Find Out About Italy: Learn Italian Words and Phrases and About Life in Italy (Find Out About Books) by Patricia Borlenghi

      Pick Your Brains About Italy (Pick Your Brains – Cadogan) by Jez Mathews

      Now, I just have to go to the bookstore and start stocking up…

    5. vanessa@silly eagle books

      Tania, wow! This is such an amazing post! I recently read about M. Sasek’s books and am on the lookout for This is Venice. We just returned from a trip to Italy and I am in need of great books about Italy–thanks so much for adding your favorites in the comment section! I’m searching our library catalog right now!

      Zoe, awesome as usual! Thanks for the suggestions you left on my post–I’m looking for them as well.

    6. Choxbox

      Lovely compilation Zoe!

      There is this series called A for Africa, B for Brazil, C for China,.. and so on. Each is a pictorial journey through the particular country in question (though Africa is strictly speaking not a country) – one picture per letter for the alphabet.
      Here’s a link:

      Then there is the Sasha series, here’s the link –

      • Zoe

        Thanks for these suggestions Choxbox – can you suggest any picture books that are set in or written by someone from Bangalore?

    7. Choxbox

      There is a lovely book i have come across recently – it is calle Handmade in india – will do a review soon at Saffron Tree.

      Other than this one, there is I for India, and Preeta Goes to India. There are many other books incl. Sasha goes to Mumbai. My children were given a couple of books by our relocation company, they have been produced in-house and are quite good.

      One thing though – many of these books tend to highlight only the traditional/stereotypical image of India perhaps because this is the part that is unique to the place. However if you have ever been here you’ll know how the traditional is almost always juxtaposed with the most modern. Have not yet found a children’s picture book that captures both.

    8. Choxbox

      And oh you could pick up any Tulika/Pratham book, often reviewed at ST – it will show you one or the other aspect of the country. To get a hang of the entire country in one shot – maybe this audiobook called Karadi Rhymes will come nearest.

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