Thursday, June 26, 2008

Travel books #3--travelling with children

The following books all decribe long trips abroad with fairly small children.

Hardyment, Christina. Heidi's Alp: One Family's Search for Storybook Europe. 1st ed. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988.

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Hardyment sets off from England with her four young daughters (from age 11 or so to toddler) to discover the settings for their favorite European fairy tales. This is a very cozy, fun, reassuring book, but it's a bit more than a travelogue. Hardyment relates the stories behind such tales as Heidi, Pinocchio, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, the Pied Piper of Hamlin, and most of all, the tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Hardyment reads Andersen's works, including his own accounts of his European travels, throughout her trip. She also discusses some of Bruno Bettelheim's theories about the role of fairy tales. So the book has its serious side. But mostly it's an account of travel and little adventures: visiting a waterpark in the Netherlands, biking in Denmark, a hike in the Harz mountains, visiting beaches near Venice. The countries Hardyment and family visit include: the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany (before reunification), Switzerland, Italy, and France.

Drysdale, Helena. Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe. London: Picador, 2001.

I found this book at World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, off Yonge Street. I was there in the summer of SARS, for the American & Canadian library association's annual conference. I loved that bookstore! On to the book...Drysdale is another Englishwoman traveling with her (two) daughters (one is a baby) in a camper van, through Europe. She's got a much more academic bent than Hardyment, though: she's visiting communities where the residents speak "minority" languages. I'm not sure if I would call the communities or languages "indiginous," but their roots do go back further than most Europeans.

Drysdale travels through western Europe, from Finland down to Italy. Some of the language groups I was a bit familiar with: Samis (Scandinavia), Walloons (Belgium), Basques and Catalans (Spain), Corsicans (France?). Others I was not familiar with. The other regions she visits include Aland Islands, Provence, Alsace, Friesland, Sardinia, Macedonia, South Tyrol and the Ladin, and Brittany. She discusses the history--linguistic and political--of each group. She visits with both scholars and everyday folk.

I don't know that this book was published in the United States; it can be hard to find.

Cohen, David. One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children. 1st ed. San Francisco; Berkeley, Calif: Travelers' Tales; Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2001.

I remember liking this enough that I bought it, though I don't remember much about it. This is written by the father of three children; he and his wife take their kids around the world. I vaguely remember stops in Greece and a safari in Africa, and I believe Angkor Wat in Thailand. I think they settle down in Australia for a few months before completing their journey. Writing about it makes me want to read it again.

Bodger, Joan. How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books. Toronto : M & S, 1999. (originally published in 1965.)

I didn't like this one quite as much as the other three, but it was still good. Evidently, it's very popular reading among children's librarians. The wife and her husband take their two children, a boy who's elementary-school age and a girl who's a toddler, through Great Britain in the early 1960's. Their quest is to find the settings for English children's books and tales--tales about King Arthur and Robin Hood, books by Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows). I'm not sure if it was the English setting, or that I wasn't as familiar with the books Bodger was interested in. Also, the 1999 edition has an update on the family, and things didn't turn out that great for them, so that colors my view on the book. I'd recommend reading the 1965 editions.