Our “Notre Dame: Stories in Stone” guides selected these books with the tour content in mind: the history of Paris, medieval art and life, and cathedral building. Like the tour itself, these recommended titles promise a diverse range of learning experiences, for young readers at all levels.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo, Michael Ford (Adapter), Penko Gelev and Sotir Gelev (Illustrators)
Victor Hugo’s original 1831 novel brought the dusty, forgotten cathedral of Notre Dame to vivid life for its readers. This graphic novel version, featuring dynamic full-color illustrations, does the same for young readers aged 9 and up. It will also introduce them to Hugo’s other memorable characters, the cathedral bellringer Quasimodo and his heroic efforts to save the gypsy Esmerelda.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo, Tim Wynne-Jones (adapter) and Bill Slavin (illustrator)
Hugo’s classic retold in a picture-book format for readers 8 years and under. We like the sensitive illustrations of Notre Dame cathedral, the real central character of Hugo’s original story.
Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Paris
by Sarah Hoban (Author), Bob Moulder (Illustrator)
It’s not easy to find an accessible well-written history of the city for children, that covers pre-Roman Paris to the present day. We like this solid effort, although it’s definitely more of an academic book geared for readers aged 10 years and up. Although we might quibble over certain omissions, Sarah Hoban is particularly good on medieval Paris.
Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction
by David Macaulay
If you can find a more captivating introduction to the medieval cathedral in all of its aspects, please share it with us! This is a book for children and parents to enjoy together. Macaulay’s vividly illustrated pages tell the story of a fictional French village Chutreaux, where a cathedral is constructed in the 13th century. He provides accessible, but not “dumbed down” descriptions of the techniques, tools and talents required to build “the longest, widest, and most highest cathedral in all of France.” An 80-page volume that will make your child’s visit to Notre Dame cathedral far more meaningful.
How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages?
This interactive book focuses on the details of daily life in medieval Europe. How did lords and ladies spend their days? Why did knights go on pilgrimages? Fiona MacDonald has written several books for children about the Middle Ages, but this one is her most entertaining. Although not specifically about Paris, the material on medieval cities and castles is a fun, informative way to turn younger kids on to the rewards of learning history.
Days of Knights and Damsels: An Activity Guide
by Laurie Carlson
This guide is designed to encourage educational play for the younger set (ages 4-8) with materials they can find at home. All of the activities are based on aspects of medieval life. We think some of them, such as designing a coat of arms (from the heraldry section), making a “stained-glass” painting, and sculpting a medieval statue (in the arts and craft section), are a good, hands-on introduction—or after trip follow-up—to our “If Buildings Could Talk” walk.
Make Your Own Stained Glass Ornaments
by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
We teach kids that Notre Dame cathedral is a “story book in stone.” Once inside, they also learn to read the stories in a stained-glass window. Discovering this unique art form with their Paris Muse guide is one of the highlights of our program for many families. With this kit, kids make their own stained-glass ornaments to hang on a tree or window. The designs are adapted from medieval windows in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The kit also includes a 32-page book explaining how glass was made in the Middle Ages.
Coat of Arms
by Catherine Daly-Weir (Author), Jeff Crosby (Illustrator)
At the medieval Hotel Sens in Paris, kids learn to recognize the different coats of arms belonging to the bishops who once lived there. Finding those emblems on the facade of Hotel Sens makes a wonderful introduction for their next activity—locating the coat of arms for the city of Paris! This book introduces young readers to the symbols and color of medieval heraldry, and includes a plastic stencil so kids can make their own coat of arms.
by Marilyn Stokstad
This hefty survey of medieval art is a great resource for the family library. Although designed to serve as a textbook for undergraduates, Stokstad’s clear writing is accessible enough for the advanced young readers in your family. Her chapter on the “Origins of Gothic Art,” with detailed information on building techniques and stained-glass windows, makes it an ideal primer for visiting cathedrals first-hand in France. It is lavishly illustrated, and includes maps, glossary, and suggestions for further reading. A respected educator and authority on the period, Stokstad really teaches the reader how to look at medieval art.