We share our favorite children’s books that transport you and your family to Paris even before you get here!
When I booked a family trip to Paris last fall, my girls had a million questions. They were only 5 and 8 at the time, but they really wanted to understand my love for France, and what they were going to see and do. Bookworms that they are, my first thought was to head to the public library. As we lugged home more than 15 titles, we decided we’d form our own little Paris book group. Many pages and pictures later, the girls decided that our reading club was a terrific way to get them ready for their overseas adventure. They couldn’t wait to say “Bonjour Paris!” to their new favorite town.
Here are Julia and Caroline’s carefully considered favorites:
1. The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson and Garth Williams. This Newberry Award winning book is a moving story of how a homeless family befriends an old man during the Christmas season in Paris. Armand, who thought he preferred his solitary life, finds himself drawn to this mother and her children. We read this one aloud and found it to be a lovely reminder of what’s really important in life.
2. Anatole: Mouse in France by Eve Titus and Paul Galdone. This charming tale introduces kids to the French love of cheese. Anatole is a mouse who is quite disgruntled when he realizes that people don’t really like mice, especially near their food. He wins over the owners of the Duval cheese factory by doing after-hour taste tests, leaving notes with suggestions for improvements. The pictures are charming and we just loved a book that was all about the flavors of delicious fromage.
3. The Mona Lisa Caper by Rick Jacobson and Laura Fernandez. Based on real events, this picture book tells the story of the theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece from the Louvre in 1911. The girls loved how Mona Lisa herself tells the story of how Vincenzo Perugia took her and why he thought she belonged in Italy. Captivated by the illustrations, Caroline and Julia were thrilled that they would be “meeting her soon.”
4. Adèle and Simon by Barbara McClintock. We enjoyed following these siblings as they walk home from school through 19th century Paris. Little Simon is constantly forgetting something – his books, scarf, knapsack, crayons. His forgetfulness makes this a great “look and find” activity, as each lost item is hidden in the gorgeous pictures.
5. Night of the New Magicians by Mary Pope Osborne. This is a recent addition to the outstanding “Magic Treehouse” series. Protagonists Jack and Annie are sent on a mysterious mission to Paris during the 1889 World’s Fair. The story brings this amazing time period to life, and it all unfolds under the Eiffel Tower.
6. Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari. The painter Degas accidentally takes a bag that belongs to a ballerina! She pirouettes and leaps around town asking other artists (Monet, Caillebotte, Renoir, and Mary Cassatt) where she might find Degas. Each stop along her way inspired by a different Impressionist painting. A great choice for dancers and budding art lovers. We had fun comparing the real paintings and the illustrated versions of them in the book.
7. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. Set in 19th century Paris, this Caldecott Award winner is the story of a high wire performer who loses his confidence and the little girl who helps him get it back. Caroline said she loved that “When the Great Bellini teaches Mirette, he finds his courage and becomes brave again.”
8. Henri’s Walk to Paris by Saul Bass and by Leonore Klein. This wonderful book illustrated by an iconic designer tells the story of a boy who lives in rural France and dreams of going to Paris. It’s simple and stunning, and it is our hands down favorite that we still read again and again.