Favourite Family Reads Before Traveling to Paris

Anyone who has travelled with me knows I like to pack a whole lot of sightseeing into a short amount of time.

Paris, when I visited several years ago, was no different and I was able to see in a day what most people see in a week. I have been told that is likely why Paris wasn’t my favourite part of France: to really experience the city, one needs to spend an entire week there – or maybe longer.

So while I have always said I didn’t need to go back to the City of Lights, three books – one children’s, one young adult and one adult – have changed my mind. So if you are planning a trip to Paris with kids in tow, enjoy these three entirely different takes on this new, favourite city.

An Armadillo in a red sports car driving off the front cover of this picture book.

An Armadillo in Paris is a picture book that shows you some of Paris’ most wonderful sites.

An Armadillo in Paris

When Arlo, an armadillo from Brazil, gets the twitch in his left paw to go on an adventure, he receives a journal from his travelling grandfather Augustin. Augustin has travelled to Paris a number of times and always visits the Iron Lady. He sets Arlo and readers of this picture book on a trip around Paris, stopping to see many of the Iron Lady’s friends including the Arc de Triomphe and the shops along Champs-Elysee. Along with Arlo, we learn about things you should do in Paris including browse through a book store, have your picture painted by artists along the Seine and enjoy food straight from the market.

We eventually learn who the Iron Lady is along with facts about what makes her Paris’ most interesting celebrity.

An Armadillo in Paris is by Julie Kraulis ($19.99, Tundra Books).

Stylized Paris landmarks on top of a multi-coloured backgroun.

Paris – and food – comes alive in Jennifer Gold’s On the Spectrum.

On the Spectrum

Paris pops off the page in colours, sights, and taste in Jennifer Gold’s On the Spectrum ($13.95, Second Story Press). In this young adult book, Clara escapes New York City to live with her estranged father, stepmother and six-year-old brother Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum, in Paris. Clara, who has orthorexia, an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating, befriends a baker’s apprentice, Michel, who shows her some of the beautiful places within Paris as well as attempts to help her overcome her illness by helping her experience the joy of eating real food.

While everything about this book is beautiful, including the characters and the setting, it’s the descriptions of the food that makes me want to be in Paris, shopping the market for the best cheeses, bread and vegetables and then having a picnic in a park.

“…The still-warm bread melting the soft cheese ever-so-slightly, the apple, ripe and sweet-smelling…I chewed thoughtfully, taking in an assortment of tastes and textures. The bread was crusty and the apple juicy, but the cheese had an unpleasant tang to it.”

In this book, you can taste flakiness of the croissant and imagine enjoying the journey rather than just rushing from place to place.

“We walked together in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, and I realized that I’d barely been out at night,” thinks Clara. “Clearly I had been missing out. Paris had an energy at night that had to be observed to be fully understood. The streets were busting with as many people as during the daytime, but the atmosphere was more relaxed. It seemed very different from New York, where everyone moved with purpose, in a hurry to get wherever they were going. In Paris, people strolled. The walk, one sensed, was the destination, and the goal was to enjoy it rather than hurry along.”

A letter sits over top a scene from Paris, overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

Explore France on this floating book store.

The Little Paris Bookshop

I may want to go to Paris just so I can visit the Literary Apothecary, a floating bookstore on the Seine owned by Monsieur Perdu in Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop ($20.14, Penguin Random House).

Not only does the idea of a bookstore on water appeal to me, but Perdu himself is also a fabulous character, who is able to read his customers and provide the perfect book to soothe their souls. (“Read this,” says Mr. Perdu. “Three pages every morning before breakfast lying down. It has to be the first thing you take in. In a few weeks, you won’t feel quite so sore – it’ll be as though you no longer have to atone for your success with writer’s block.”)

Unfortunately for Mr. Perdu, he isn’t able to find a book that will help him heal the pain of his true love disappearing without saying goodbye more than 20 years before.

When Mr. Perdu finally opens the letter he received from his lost love, he detaches the book barge from the banks of the Seine and goes on a journey through France to find peace.

While Mr. Perdu and the Literary Apothecary don’t actually exist, Paris is home to a floating bookstore that sells travel and botany books:

So take a trip to Paris through these books and enjoy the sight of the sparkling Seine, hear the noise of the city, see the world-famous Louvre and taste the flavour of a real tomato. And if you are lucky enough to see the city, Mr. Perdu suggests after July 14 “when the Parisians set off to claim the coastline and the mountains for the duration of the summer holidays.”

A copy of these books was provided by Second Story Press and Tundra Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

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