Books to inspire kids about the world

In travel terms, 2020 is the year of the staycation. We love exploring own country, and the UK has much to offer the staycationer (take a look at our 5 top UK staycation destinations here). We are yearning for foreign adventures though, so while our Grand Adventure has been put on hold we are satisfying ourselves with armchair travels.

My bookshelf is groaning with non-fiction books for kids and adults. I’ve created a list of books for adults to inspire wanderlust, but this list of books is designed to inspire kids about the world. I’ve included books of maps and country facts to pore over, books of voyages and discovery and books to create your own adventures. These books are well-thumbed in our house, getting pulled off the shelves time and time again. They have been incredibly useful resources on our homeschooling journey during the coronavirus crisis, providing sources of information and drawing inspiration away from a screen.

I’m not a book reviewer or even a book blogger, but I do love books and reading. I am an editor and author and, full disclosure, I’ve included two of my own children’s non-fiction books here. My love of travel and thirst to explore inspired me to write them, so I hope you’ll agree it’s appropriate to include them.

Books of maps and country facts

Unsurprisingly, Lonely Planet publish an exceptional range of children’s books for the traveller and the armchair traveller. We frequently use their kids version of The Travel Book and their Amazing World Atlas as reference material for homework or to help visualise a place or country that pops up in conversation. Suitable for ages 6+.

I have included Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps by Tim Marshall on my list of books to inspire kids about the world. This is a kids version of his authoritative Prisoners of Geography, an excellent book introducing the reader to geopolitics. The children’s version doesn’t go into too much detail to be off-putting, but explains key geopolitical concepts in a clear and concise way. The lovely illustrations make the whole publication feel very accessible. Suitable for ages 9+.

The Atlas of Adventures series, illustrated by Lucy Letherland, are perfect for poring over at home. The beautifully illustrated pages ignite thoughts of adventure. The boys love spotting places and animals they’ve seen, or adding places and events to our seemingly endless list of places to go – Machu Picchu, Rio Carnival, Monarch butterfly migration… Suitable for ages 5+.

Books of voyages and discovery

Follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest explorers in history as you leaf through Great Voyages: daring adventurers from James Cook to Gertrude Bell by Deborah Patterson (me!). I had a blast writing this, escaping from my desk on a daily basis as I endured icy conditions with Ernest Shackleton, fought my way through jungles with Maria Sibylla Merian and faced lions with David Livingstone. Reading about these extraordinary adventurers has inspired my family and I to be more adventurous as travellers, seeking to discover more about our world and the people and animals that we share it with. Suitable for ages 7+.

My research for Great Voyages led me to discover many other fantastic books of exploration for children. Some, like Shackleton’s Journey, focus on a single extraordinary voyage, but the books I’ve picked for this list inspire their readers with a selection of amazing voyages. Usborne’s See Inside Exploration and Discovery is one of their popular ‘lift-the-flap’ range, visually exciting but light on detail, perfect for younger kids age 5+. Explore: the most dangerous journeys of all time by Deborah Kespert fits its title, telling tales of derring-do for aspiring adventurers age 7+.

Books to create your own adventures

When it’s not possible to travel abroad we can travel in our imaginations. Usborne have published a number of ‘write your own’ books including Write Your Own Adventure Stories. This includes tips on how to write about summiting mountains, being trapped in the desert or being a jungle explorer. It gives advice on structuring stories and vocabulary help. Kids can set their stories in whichever real or imaginary world they like. Suitable for ages 7+.

My Book of Stories: write your own adventures by Deborah Patterson (me again!) is full of story starters drawn from some of the best adventure stories ever written. Lines from Treasure Island, illustrations from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and characters from Peter Pan inspire the invention of new companions, the creation of magical worlds or tall tales of travel on the high seas. Designed to be written in, and smaller than most gift books, it’s ideal to pack in a bag and take on your travels. Suitable for ages 7+.

You may already be familiar with Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, but did you know there was also a Maps Activity Book? Their beautiful illustrations will inspire your mini-adventurer to create drawings and doodles based on art, animals and culture from countries around the world. Suitable for ages 6+.

While you’re here please allow me to encourage you to buy books from your local bookshop. If you do buy from Amazon or one of the big chains please do write a review! It really does make a huge difference to sales. Thank you.

What are your favourite books for the young travellers in your life? Please share in the comments below. We’re always on the look out for more books about the world.

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