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5 of the best children’s travel books

To celebrate World Book Day, we recommend 5 of the best children's travel books, old and new, that inspire world wonder and wanderlust

5 of the best children’s travel books
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Top travel books for kids 

We don’t need much of an excuse to celebrate great travel writing but with World Book Day in full swing, here’s our current five favourite reads for little people with big horizons. We couldn’t resist the latest from Oliver Jeffers, which offers up pertinent life lessons made large with his distinctively dreamy illustrations. The lure of Jules Verne loomed large, too, and it was a challenge to choose which of this prolific French writer’s classics made the list. Around The World In 80 Days came close, as did the lesser-known but just as brilliant, Mysterious Island, but we went for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, because sometimes a little fantasy helps young readers get a more eager grip on complex geographical realities. The same could be said for our recommended atlas, too — a triumph of imaginative information — while the big adventure book is a newbie well deserving its myriad literary prize accolades. And, as for Tove Jansson’s seminal The Summer Book? In deepest winter, we’re channelling some travel words to inspire warmth. Read and roam the world as you go. Enjoy!

The picture book: Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers
The creator of Lost & Found has produced what looks set to be another modern classic with these “notes for living on planet Earth”, published last year. This leftfield guide to the world could have been penned for a newly landed alien, but was in fact inspired by the birth of Jeffers’ son. Each spread examines life, from the solar system to the oceans, people to animals, much of which focuses on caring for our planet. Each is rendered in Jeffers’ characteristic deep dreamy colours and distinctively detailed illustrations that contrast with lessons of such simple genius that adults could do well to read them daily. His note on the way time can seem to move slowly or quickly: “Use your time well. It will be gone before you know it.” RRP: £14.99 (HarperCollins Publishers).

The classic: Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne
There’s often no better way to encourage young readers to explore the world than to inject some sci-fi fantasy into it. And Verne’s tale of a German professor and his nephew who descend through an Icelandic volcano into the bowels of the Earth, into a world of petrified trees and monstrous mushrooms, delivers proper old-fashioned mystery and suspense. With quite complex scientific ideas and grown-up vocabulary, this is probably one for readers who’ve reached double digits. It takes a while to get going but once it does, it’s a truly fantastical journey. RRP: £7.99 (Wordsworth Classics).
For less-willing readers, try last year’s BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation. Download here (£5). 

The illustrated atlas: Maps, by Aleksandra Mizielinska & Daniel Mizielinski
So many contenders for this one, but we’ve gone for a surprise bestseller from a few years ago, for its quirky look and celebratory tone. Travel the world without leaving your living room, with illustrated info on everything from mighty mountains to tiny insects. This 52-map tome takes in the borders, cities and rivers you’d expect along with places of unusual historical and cultural interest, notable personalities and even cultural events. Divided into eight sections (the continents plus the Arctic), not all countries are included but those that are have real local flavour. This is one to return to time and again, at bedtimes and before any foreign journey. RRP: £20 (Big Picture Press).

The adventure book: The Explorer, by Katherine Rundell
This book made a clean sweep of the children’s fiction awards recently (including the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards, Costa Book Awards and London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards), largely thanks to Rundell’s remarkable ability to conjure a real sense of place in her writing. This story plunges readers (it’s aimed at eight to 12-year-olds) deep into the Amazon after a plane crash leaves four children stranded without food, water, or many wits — at least to begin with. Led by wannabe explorer Fred, the group are soon immersed in a world of river dolphins, tarantula suppers and a mysterious map that suggests they might not be alone. This is a tale of self-discovery, ingenuity and the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of sweaty, jungly adversity. RRP: £7.99 (Bloomsbury).

The holiday book: The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
Let’s bring on those warm days with this book, and help your tween/teen graduate from Moomins to their creator’s more grown-up but almost equally as magical writings. Follow the story of a girl and her elderly grandmother as they summer together on a tiny, remote Finnish island, inspired by Jansson’s own childhood holidays. This is almost required reading for those departing on a summer adventure invoking long daylight expeditions powered by oar, foot and imagination. It’s a unique examination of love — of place and person — that’s fiercely unsentimental but utterly beautiful. RRP: £6 (Sort Of Books).

World Book Day takes place Thursday 1 March 2018.