We’ve a week’s holiday from school coming up and will be travelling around the country visiting family, and this means we’ve several multi-hour journeys ahead of us. Journeys are my favourite time for enjoying stories and our bags always include:
Favourite audiobooks include the How to train your Dragon series, voiced by David “former Dr Who” Tennant, enriched with great music and sound effects, David Walliams reading his own stories (not surprisingly, he does really funny voices), and Tony “Baldrick” Robinson’s Theseus and Odysseus. New for our next journey will be The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell (thanks to @HawthornPressUK for the recommendation).
As we subscribe to several magazines and comics at home, reading choices for the train are made from what is available in the station newsagents so that the kids get to try something they wouldn’t have at home. Often they’ll chose a wildlife, craft or archaeology magazine. Technically these may be marketed for adults, but they are often much more engaging than those aimed at kids as they have more content, fewer adverts and less “plastic crap” on the front (a bonus from my point of view).
When looking for activity books to take on journeys my first port of call is always the online shops of museums and art galleries; generally speaking these are good sources of slightly more unusual or quirky activity books. This holiday I’ll be taking DoodleFlip Dress-Up by Hennie Haworth, Stickyscapes London by Robert Samuel Hanson, and also Stickyscapes Paris by Malika Favre.
DoodleFlip Dress-Up is a mix and match, lift the flap fashion colouring-in book. There’s lot to choose from; maybe your creation will have the legs of a ballerina, the floaty dress of a hippy, the accessories of a pirate and the helmet of an astronaut (all figures are female). Prompts suggest ideas for filling several blank flaps with your own designs.
Whilst advertised as 3+, I think the style of illustration will appeal to much older children (say 8+); the designs are quite detailed and relatively small and also look more sophisticated than many colouring-in illustrations aimed at young children.
The two Stickyscapes books are great fun. They are large concertina style fold out cityscapes of the two cities, and come with lots of reusable stickers. One side of each fold-out shows the “real and present-day” city, whilst the other side depicts an “imaginary and historical” version of the city.
There’s lots to learn and explore in both sticker books. A key to each scene is included so you can identify landmarks around the city, and the stickers (a mixture of present-day, historical and fictional people, forms of transport and items you might find on the cities’ streets) come with explanatory notes, making this much more than “just” a sticker book.
I have just one complaint about these books: The population of these cities is far more diverse than the stickers would have you believe.
In the London book, there are perhaps three non-white people represented (out of a total of 33 modern day inhabitants and visitors), or to put it another way 9% of the sticker book modern day population is probably not white. According to the 2011 census just over 40% of Londoners identified themselves as non-white. Comparable figures are not easily obtainable for the French capital, but I suspect the demographics of this city are not accurately represented by the stickers in the Paris book, which could be seen to suggest a 100% white population.
Of course these books are just a bit of fun, and some will say I’m making too much of the hard numbers. But I’d disagree. Why wouldn’t we want the illustrations of these great cities to reflect their rich, mixed populations more accurately?
Alas we won’t be visiting either London or Paris during our travels, but at least we’ll be able to travel there in our imaginations, suitably decked out in the highest of fashion as designed by my kids! What book or story resources do you pack when you’re going on a long journey?
Disclosure: I received the three activity books from the publisher.