Earlier this year, when our family visited Paris for the first time, we asked the kids what was on their must-see list. The only sights they could name were the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
We wanted them involved in planning the trip, so we gave them a copy of Mission Paris: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure to get them in the spirit. It’s a travel guide just for kids, written as a secret spy mission.
In the book, young readers are selected to be special agents and tasked with a number of assignments to gather intelligence in Paris. Sixteen famous museums and landmarks are featured, including the Musée d’Orsay, Luxembourg Gardens, Sainte Chappelle and Palais Royal.
Keen agents must hunt down clues and key features of various attractions. They're given points for completing each assignment, such as locating an ancient Sphinx in the Louvre, the statue of Joan of Arc at Sacré Coeur, the miniature cannon at the Palais Royal, and La Géode (a mirrored sphere) at the Cité des Enfants.
As kids complete each mission, they learn interesting facts and history about Paris. They'll discover what the Louvre was before it became a museum or the story behind the biblical kings on the outside of Notre Dame. They'll even undertake a challenge on the Paris Métro system, and get points for speaking French or trying French foods.
Mission Paris is a perfect way to engage young travellers. There's nothing boring about museums, cathedrals and monuments here—instead, the book offers a creative way to explore the city as a family and to get children excited about their travels.
As our children were older (13 and 11 at the time), they weren't as interested in a scavenger hunt. However, the book was still a wonderful introduction to the city's iconic landmarks and it helped the kids choose the sights they were most interested in.
Mission Paris is part of a series, so your special agents can gather intelligence around the globe. Other titles focus on London, Rome, Barcelona, Washington DC, New York, Amsterdam and Florence. If you're headed to one of these cities, be sure to pack a copy for your young adventurers.
One night, my daughter looked up at the starry sky.
“There’s Pleiades,” she said, pointing to a cluster of stars. “And those three make Orion’s belt. And that bright one is Betelgeuse.”
I certainly can't navigate the night sky like that. But then again, I haven’t pored over H.A. Rey’s two books on stargazing the way my daughter has.
Rey, along with his wife Margaret, is best known for writing the beloved Curious George books. What is not as well known is that he was an amateur astronomer who wrote two wonderful books to introduce kids to the wonders of stargazing.
Rey makes a complex subject simple and appealing. The book Find the Constellations starts off playfully: “At night time, when the stars are out, the sky all of a sudden becomes a huge picture book…Those pictures are made by the stars, and finding them is a wonderful game. Let us start the game with a picture you may have heard of…The Big Dipper.”
It’s a great way to entice kids to read further, and Rey's flair for writing for children shines through. And, if you’ve ever looked at a constellation and thought, “How exactly is that a bear, anyway?”, Rey will show you by literally connecting the dots and pointing out how the stars form the bear's nose or paws.
Find the Constellations also explains concepts such as magnitude, and how some stars are brighter than others. This is a useful tip that my daughter uses all the time—she picks out brighter stars first and then uses them to find other stars and constellations. As well, he includes information about the solar system, planets, and light years, as well as sky charts and fun quizzes.
For older readers, Rey wrote The Stars: A New Way to See Them. It's a great book for beginning astronomers, covering concepts in more depth, but using the same simple, plain language and engaging style. Both books are regularly updated so be sure to get the latest edition.
Two kids, two cats, and a house full of books. We share our favourite picks for young readers.