I first came across this book series by Isabelle Demenge & Emilie Sarnel sometime last year whilst researching the family vacations trips I promote. I was instantly impressed by the look and design of the book. When I saw a few pages displayed on their website (www.leapandhop.com), the copious amount of time, effort, thought process and passion gone into the making of the book was evident.
The books are intended to take along when you travel with kids to Rajasthan, Sri Lanka, Bali, Cambodia, Paris or Hong Kong. Myanmar and Singapore will be added soon. But after going through the books, I think they can be handy even before you travel to the country / city to introduce the kids to the destination and get them excited about the holiday. The book is very attractive and colourful, hence kids will be instantly drawn to it, as it has a story / activity book feel to it. The brilliant illustrations and pictures make even the adults go ‘wow’!
However, that is not why this book is a good buy. The first half of the book is like a guidebook to the destination with interesting facts on the geographical, political and cultural aspects of the place, of course, in a very easy ‘kid friendly’ script. Isabelle is a mother of 3 boys and like I keep taunting my daughter ‘mother knows best’! Beginning with the pictures before the journey at the airport, the comparisons of home currency (bills & coins) versus the visiting place. She has very creatively included bits of creative thinking interspersed with history and knowledge on the place and the people of the country. Some really fun bits include “If you had your own imaginary country, what would your national flag look like”?
What I especially find ingenious is the time-line page where historical events of the country explained are easy to comprehend. Something I wouldn’t have thought of explaining, thinking it would be too much to absorb for the little minds. There are plenty of puzzle solving games, such as find the hidden cities (word hunt game), spot the differences, maze puzzles all involving the places or monuments. There are pages where the kids can finish or learn how to draw a statue or picture with a neat grid and instructions to help them.
The book can come in really handy to keep the kids engaged at religious or historical monuments. It has activities like finding a particular statue or carving or finding Moonstones in Kandy, Sri Lanka and identifying which period do they belong. With these kinds of activities the kids are surely going to absorb much more rather than just listening to the guide. Also this book is for keeps sake for a lifetime! I see it more like doing a school project on a place, albeit in a very cool and fun manner and actually visiting all the sights.
They have covered almost all the topics one can think of; from geographical coordinates, map of the place, modes of transport, different languages spoken and religions practiced, money, dance and music. Kids can make a comparison of prices of everyday things like a scoop of ice cream between the place they are visiting and how much it costs at home to comparison of seasons. The cuisine tasted while travelling, drawing and writing the names of the dishes and making a note of what they liked or hated most.
The sightseeing places have been written after a thorough research, for example, the book on Sri Lanka has a page explaining Buddha’s hand language, graphically showing what each mudra means or in the Rajasthan book there is a page differentiating the various techniques used to decorate the Taj Mahal. These are things, which the entire family can use as a reference point. I know this book would’ve been very helpful to us when my daughter was thoroughly bored in Agra, as we could not find a kid friendly guide and after a while we were busy playing tag at Fatehpur Sikri, while my husband absorbed boring history lessons from the guide. The last pages have a fun quiz, where the kids ask questions to parents and recollect facts and information gained on the trip.
The book is priced at HK$ 170 per book (approximately Rs. 1400) and is available on Amazon. As I mentioned, the book is made with a lot of passion and hard work, hence is almost flawless. I feel it lacks is a few empty pages in the end, to make notes of funny anecdotes or incidents experienced on the trip or to just paste some interesting pictures, to give it a more personal touch. Isabelle, maybe in your future books you should consider having a few blank pages.