“We All Went on Safari” A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs

When my friends went to Tanzania last year, my imagination went wild as far as worrying about them. Not really sure why. From thoughts about them catching a deadly virus to losing a cell phone reception and disappearing in the middle of nowhere, or rather, in the middle of savanna, my head was full of black scenarios. Funny enough, none of these scary thoughts would even cross  my mind ten years ago, in my fearless (or clueless) twenties. Back then, adventure was the only travel guide. Have I missed my window to visit Africa? As a thirty-something parent, I have a long check list to pass before I decide on a destination and my husband’s list is even longer. In other words, it might take a while before  my family goes on safari.  But in the meantime, we can always watch “Madagascar”  and read books, can’t we?

“We All Went on Safari” is a typical counting rhyme, but instead of duckies, children get to count the wild beasts if savanna. Together with  Akeyla, Watande, Zalira and their Tanzanian friends, the readers learn 1-10 numbers as they count hippos, warthogs or elephants in the colorful pictures by Julia Cairns. The story is followed by very useful fact sheets about Tanzania, the animals featured in the rhyme, the Maasai People, Swahili names and numbers.  This engaging addition makes the book appealing even for children beyond counting read-alouds. And even parents can learn a thing or two from the story. For example, that there are more than 100 tribes in Tanzania or that Ngorongoro Crater was once a volcano, that was higher than Mount Kilimanjaro. 

The more I read, the more I want to go to this exotic land. Perhaps I can start with visiting the golden sand beaches of Zanzibar? After all, as someone wise said,  ou shouldn’t stop yourself from doing something just because you are scared of doing it.

 

“Froggy Goes to Hawaii” by Jonathan London

Unless you are an incurable workaholic in denial,  you just need a yearly vacation. City trips are my way to recharge my batteries, but you might prefer camping in the mountains or sunbathing on a beach.  Froggy and his family chose Hawaii, for example. Apparently, it’s impossible to get bored with this paradise on earth and imperative to come back. My family is going to prove it or disprove it next year, but whatever we conclude,  we’ve already got a few cool ideas how to spend our  time in the hula land.

Froggy was very excited about the family vacation. He couldn’t wait. Unfortunately, there was a lot of waiting, especially in line, at the airport. Once the family arrived in Hawaii, Froggy “went bananas”. From racing through a bamboo forest  to surfing and swimming with turtles, Froggy had no problem filling his time with plentiful local attractions. Whether it was watching whales or volcanos,  Froggy had a blast “nincompoop” way. Even forgetting his swimsuit wasn’t an issue.

Funny enough, Froggy’s family, just like mine, needed another vacation after the Hawaii vacation. I guess traveling is not as relaxing as we think. No matter where we go.

A predictably amusing read from  the London/Remkiewicz duo, that will surely excite your children about a beach get away. Not only in Hawaii.

“Olivia Goes to Venice” by Ian Falconer

I took my own advice and I took my kids (and my husband) traveling. This year we had Europe on our map. Greetings from my very own Poland, Everyone!  We are visiting the Lake District, Mazury, a land of Teutonic castles, palaces, virgin nature and deliciously fresh local food. I fully recommend this place  for an active vacation or if you’d simply like to get away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city.

But, if you don’t mind the urban landscape and traveling in time,  your choice is simple. Any of the European cities will offer an unforgettable experience.  Olivia went to Venice, for example.

And she was mesmerized by its beauty! From gondola rides along the canals, to Venice palaces, in which she wanted to live. She even  got to meet the city pigeons. It was a closer encounter than she had expected. The temperatures were  a bit too high, but there was enough gelato to cool off. Olivia was so enchanted with Venice that she wanted to take a piece of it with her.  How about a stone from the Bell Tower? It wasn’t the brightest idea, to be honest…

If your children already know Olivia, this unpredictable, talking porker, they  might like her vacation adventure as well. It could be especially useful a story if you are planning to visit Italy and Venice with your children. The collage pictures of the city are quite realistic. Unlike the story ending, though, which might be a bit confusing. I am not a big fan of the absurd finale, although I can see how some readers can find it amusing.

 

“A is for Asia” by Cynthia Chin-Lee

If there is a continent that has never ceased fascinating me, it is Asia. The country that intrigued me first was Japan. From silky kimonos and porcelain faced geishas, to cruel samurai’s and karate, from the art of sushi to the power of zen, Japanese culture and history has never failed to attract me.  Just like India with its intense flavors, colors. It was the Indian cooking that awoke my taste buds and appetite for life. Thai beaches, Chinese tea, Middle Eastern sweets and World Wonders, central steps, northern taiga. Asia has so much to offer and so much to discover. Honestly, a lot of Asia is on my bucket list. Including learning the Japanese language the understanding of which appears to be a huge challenge.

“A is for Asia” is an interesting picture dictionary of this versatile continent, a home of oldest civilizations. “D is for dragon boats…, O is for origami…, W is for water buffalo…” From A to Z, letter by letter, the reader gets introduced to twenty-six concepts representative of  selected Asian countries. That’s how I and my son learned that batik is  an Indonesian craft, or that panda loves honey and Mongolians live in yurts. Every entry is accompanied by an expressive and informative visual, a  folk art- like picture by Yumi Heo as well as a sample word written in one of the many Asian languages. 

A wonderful introduction to Asia for children and parents alike. An irresistible invitation to this continent of colors, contrasts and symbols.

1bookperday in July: Traveling

Have you been to the airport lately? Even if you haven’t, you can easily imagine what it looks like this time of the year, right? CROWDED. And thanks goodness it’s crowded! With our social life mostly  home-based and digital (i.e. texting or tweeting instead of conversing, streaming movies instead of going to the cinema, playing tennis with a remote control instead of a racket), I’m quite happy to see that at least traveling hasn’t turned into a virtual adventure.  We swapped maps for a GPS and have phone apps for basically everything, yet we still have to hop on the plane or hit the road  in order to experience the world.

And why does it matter? Why should we experience the world? Why should our children explore other cities and countries? Well, I believe that traveling is the best geography, history and life lesson a little person can get. It opens children’s eyes and minds. It exposes them to different cultures, languages, foods. Traveling can be so inspiring!

And so can be the stories that I have for you this month: inspiring to discover the world. Whether you are planning a family vacation this summer and would like to show your child what to expect during the trip, or maybe you just want to stimulate your child’s interest in traveling as such,  there are many handy, interesting and educational picture books out there.

In the next post, I will tell you about a book introducing Asia to children, but for now, please feel free to browse my archives. For example:

69. “Charlie’s Mom’s Banana Soup” – my own creation

366. “Prancing Dancing Lilly” by Marsha Diane Arnold

Enjoy reading, packing your suitcases and have a safe trip!