Children’s Book Tuesday :: Books to Travel With

Children's Books to Travel With

Here’s a thing. Once upon a time, we lived among a thousand children’s books. There were piles next to the bed, next to the daybed, in the day bed, and bursting from every bookcase and box we could find. There was always a new unread book to pick up, and read for the first time. There was always a book to read, which we hadn’t read in a long time.

But then you plan to move your family to the other side of the world for a year. A thousand kids’ books can’t come with you, as nice as that would be. But how then do you choose? We like variety. We love reading something new or forgotten. How could we choose books to sustain us for a whole year?

Here’s a few ideas:

Something small, but full of goodness

There are several beautiful small books, which are long, and juicy enough to the fill bedtime reading hour, but short enough to fit in your luggage. The key is finding well written books that you can read over and over again, like:

Violet Mackerel
Beatrix Potter
Lola’s Toy Box
The Cleo Stories

Something classic

I don’t really like re-reading adult novels,  but re-reading children’s classics never gets tiring. And if you can find the classic in small print, with a paperback cover, even better.

Books we brought with us include:

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Harry Potter
Pippi Longstocking
The Wizard of Oz
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Something that satisfies more than one age group

If you have more than one kid, bringing books that kill two birds, so to speak, will weigh less in your luggage. Both our three-year-old and our six-year-old daughter love:

Pippi Longstocking
Violet Mackerel
The Cleo Stories

and all picture books. Well, any book with illustration.

Something to listen to

I have always sworn by audio books. My daughter chewed through Charlie & The Chocolate Factory several times over when I used to have to take her baby sister to sleep. Audio books are great for plane rides and long trips. I either download them through iBooks on my phone or, if I have an internet connection, put them on YouTube without the visuals.

Audio books my eldest has listened to on this trip include:

James & The Giant Peach (YouTube)
Gangster Granny (iBooks)

and I have listened to The Fault In Our Stars (iBooks) and Artemis Fowl (iBooks). (Great for running too!)

Something to borrow

Of course, you don’t have to bring every book with you, in your luggage. There are lots of free libraries around the Netherlands. Mini ones, in front of people’s houses! But also public libraries. Our friend took out a membership for us, and every week or two, we select new picture books to read at night to keep life interesting.

And Dutch friends have very generously leant Dutch books to the girls while we are here.

Something to swap

I haven’t done this yet, but I like this idea…

If you meet other families on your travels, swap books with them! I don’t think I can bring myself to re-read some of our picture books again, having read them so often on this trip. Maybe I can find a bookish family to swap some books with, when we are camping.

Something local

My kids are learning Dutch. So buying or borrowing Dutch books while we are here is a great thing to do. Not only do I get to stagger through the books, while the kids patiently listen, I get to learn a little bit of Dutch too. Also, children’s books are a great little insight into the culture of the place you visit.

Books that are very synonymous with Dutch culture are:

Jip & Janneke
Pippi Longstocking
Ronia The Robber’s Daughter

Something good

Whatever you do, choose wisely! These books will be your companion on your travels, however long that may be. So they need to be good.

Personally, I hear anything by Zanni Louise is worth lugging around the world 😉

How do you choose books to take with you when you travel? Any other ideas?

Join me for Children’s Book Tuesday here by sharing your children’s book post in the link below. Or follow along on social media #ChildrensBookTuesday.

Touching your past:: How children’s books become part of who we are

how childhood books become part of who we are

When we arrive at my dearest friend’s house on the weekend, my girls go straight to the vintage suitcases stacked in the sunroom. They are full of dress-ups, toys and books from my friend’s childhood.

The children don themselves in wigs, glasses and capes. Then, one by one, they pull out the books.

‘Read this,’ my two-year-old says, snuggling in next to me. My five-year-old tucks under my other arm. We know this seating arrangement well.

‘Read this.’

‘Read this.’

‘Read this.’

childhood books

Book by book, we excavate my friend’s childhood. Mr Magnolia, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, I Read With My Eyes Closed, Octopotamus, Something Absolutely Enormous and others.

It felt strangely intimate reading my friend’s childhood books. Turning each page was like opening a page of my friend’s history. These books would have forged her early memories, and lay the blueprint for who she is now.

See, recently, we found a stash of my childhood books in Mum’s storage. The books that formed by childhood included The Jolly Postman, Geraldine’s Blanket, The Secret Garden and Clive Eats Alligators.

zannis childhood books

As I opened the pages of these books with my children that evening, I was sucked back in a vortex to a time when I read these books as a child. I could feel the carpet under my knees, and smell the atmosphere of the room as I read. I remembered clearly the imaginary games I played, which were filled with characters and images from these books. I could feel the same emotion these books provoked in me when I read them, or was read them, years and years ago.

It was like touching a memory with my fingertips. Smelling it. Feeling it all over again.

Those books I read and re-read as a child were so integral to the person I became. My life was founded on their images, words and feelings, just as my friend’s foundation was built from her childhood books. Reading her books was almost like touching her memories; if such a thing were possible.

I think of our own little sunshine house, buried, almost, in books. Some, though, are read over and over. Often, the stories and characters leave the pages, and come to life in my daughters’ games and conversations.

My oldest is particularly taken with Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and has been for a long time. She spends literally hours talking about her ‘sisters’ or sometimes ‘cousins’ Varuca and Violet. The other day, she was Mrs Salt, and I was Mrs Beauregarde, and the girls were having a sleepover. The game lasted from about 3pm in the afternoon, to about 3pm the next day.

Just as I can clearly remember my own imaginary games from that age, almost better than my actual, lived memories, my daughter will probably remember hers.

Children’s books, especially our favourites, are powerful. And totally important to who we become.

What books became part of you? Feel free to share a picture of your childhood collection here, or on Facebook #mychildhoodbooks ~ I would love to see. x

Linking with Essentially Jess

Book giving

book giving

Wrapping a little present for a close friend the other day, I learned an important lesson from my four-year-old.

“I want to wrap something for your friend too!” she cries.

“Me too!” says the littler one, always wanting to get involved in the activity.

My four-year-old starts scouring the house for the perfect present for my friend.

“It has to be a book,” she says. “A cook book.”

“OK,” I say. My friend does like cooking. I look on my recipe shelf and pull out a couple of possibilities – books I don’t use.

“No, they’re not right.” The tremor of her characteristic emotional outburst wavers at the end of her sentence.

Cripes, I think, and start looking harder. I pull out an art book I know my friend would like.

“No!” cries my daughter. “She needs the book with the cupcakes on the front. She’ll like that one best.”

I know which book she means. It’s a book I don’t use a lot, but it’s a good book. An expensive recipe book I bought when in an indulgent mood.

“No, not that one, Sweet. That’s Mummy’s good book.”

“But it’s the perfect book!”

She is right, but I insist.

“Sweetie, it’s like Mum giving your friend one of your favourite books.”

“I don’t mind that,” says my daughter. “You choose any book off my shelf, and give it to my friend. I don’t mind at all.” I pull out a couple of examples. “That’s fine!” she says. “Don’t mind at all.”

I start feeling guilty, and a little selfish. I want my daughter to be giving and unmaterialistic, yet here I am, struggling.

I look into her hopeful, kind eyes. She’s got me.

“Alright,” I say. {Honestly, she does not have me wrapped around her little finger.}

She wraps the book in brown paper she’s painted herself. I help her tape it closed and tie a knot in the string.

The idea to give a book came from the fact that I often send books to subscribers, and winners of my book giveaway. I paint a little sun on the front of the brown paper, and write the person’s address.

My daughter often decides she’s going to give a book to a friend. She chooses from her shelf, wraps it in paper and we either post it, or put it in their letter box.

It’s a good thing to do.

I am pretty lucky to be sent beautiful books regularly, and have the money to buy books for myself and my children. But lots of people don’t have that opportunity.

So I have been thinking about starting something to do with book giving and sharing. What if we all send a book to someone? And tell our friends and networks to send a book to someone…

Ideas for sending books

1. You could send to a friend you haven’t spoken to for a long time. Pick randomly from your {no longer used} address book.

2. Send a book to someone you don’t know.

3. Put a book in your neighbour’s letter box.

4. Send a book to your community library.

5. Send a book {or more} to the girls at Rafiki Mwema. How lovely would that be? Here’s the address if you would like to, and more details here. 

Rafiki Mwema
PO Box 4298
Kenya East Africa

6. You could send books to The Pyjama Foundation, which sends volunteers to foster children to read aloud with them.

7. You could organise A Great Book Swap for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. {Indigenous literacy is worth supporting. Their website states: “Between 40% and 60% of Indigenous children in very remote locations across WA, SA and NT are achieving below minimum standard in Reading in Year 3.”}

8. You can find some other cute ideas at International Book Giving Day.

As I learned from my daughter, giving feels good, and giving a book you love feels even better. Do you want to share in the love too? If you like, tag photos of your wrapped books #bookgiving, and we can inspire each other.

And if you are the creative type, my talented friend Naomi Bulger may inspire you with the  beautiful book parcels she creates to send around the world.

Naomi Bulger Snail Mail

Receiving a parcel is so nice, especially when it’s a surprise. And receiving books is so nice, especially when it comes with excited cuddles and on-lap reading. {#connection.}

book giving Will you join me and send a book too? I would love that.

For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, which is full of sunny goodness. There’s also a book giveaway happening here right now, so don’t miss out on that one. 

Linking with Essentially Jess.

Book review: How to Catch a Star, Oliver Jeffers

For Elka’s birthday, we were given this beautiful book:


I’d never heard of Oliver Jeffers before. This was published in 2004, so I’ve obviously had my head under a carpet, or else too busy reading Winnie the Pooh.

It’s a beautiful book. I was curious, so counted the words. 360. A whole story, which moved me nearly to tears in 360 words. Simple, moving illustrations too.

The sign of a good picture book – it moves you, it stays with you, it captures your imagination – you being the adult and the child – all in a few hundred words.

I think this is the book made me want to write children’s books.

We were in a bookshop on Wednesday, and bought this:


It’s been adapted into a movie. I can see why. Elka was reading it with her daddy, and told me about a boat in the cupboard. I thought it was her funny little mind. It was from the book.

And just because I can, I thought I would read some of the books I review here, and put them up on YouTube. Yes, I was once an aspiring actress. Now I just love reading to my kids. Hope you like.

Also, next Thursday is Valentine’s Day. Usually, I wait around all day anticipating a bunch of roses. They never come. Last year, we had a fight about my expectations, and the fact that I don’t buy Valentine’s Day presents either. The ghost of my teenage years haunts me still…I will never have a Valentine. 

This year, I decided that it’s time for equal rights and taking action. So, I am doing my bit and hosting a special linky party here, next Thursday, Valentine’s Day, Lover of the Year Award. Nominate your man, or woman, by sharing what you love about them, why you are grateful for them etc. I know they’re not perfect, but neither are we.

Will you join me? This place, next Thursday? Hope so.

Zanni x

Heart Mama_Lover of The Year

{Linking with Grace for FYBF & Twinkle because it’s Friday}

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My first love

This was my first love.

Mum. With my second baby Eve the day she was born.

Mum. With my second baby Eve the day she was born.

This was a close second.


My baby blanket. Blanky. Stitched with love by my god mother. A patchwork of satin and cotton scraps, patched and re-patched when it was love-worn. I would move it around, while in bed, trying to find the cold bit. The corner that hadn’t been clutched. When that part was warm, and I would circulate blanky to find a corner still to be loved.

That was my first memory, though I am still sure Mum was my first love.

My thumb was a close third. My orthodontist didn’t call this love. Nor did my parents, when they saw the bill for squillions of dollars.

Soon after those early loves came this:


and this


and this.



These books, among others, gave my little thoughts words and my little ideas pictures. I would take these little words and little ideas and weave magical worlds, where things happened, and people talked. These stories kept me company down the bottom of the paddock, and tucked up in bed with blanky and thumb.

Later, these stories found their way into a typewriter. I can’t quite remember, but can imagine six-year-old me sitting straight-backed at Dad’s typewriter, giving form to my stories. The paper fed out the bottom of the grey machine. The letters clunked heavily under small but conscientious fingers.

When I was six, I published this:







There were others stories. On finding this anthology last week, I was sucked back to the mind of that girl, sitting at her dad’s grey typewriter. This is the closest I get to feeling what she felt and thinking what she thought. An imprint. A trace. An icon from six-year-old me, carefully filed away in a green plastic ring binder.

Those were my loves. That was me, clinging onto a blanky, sucking my thumb, thinking stories. Loving my mum.

{Linking with Josefa for Conversations With My First Love and Grace for FYBF}

{Disclaimer: Although my mum was my first love, I am sure Dad, rather than blanky, was a close second. Maybe even equal first. But then that would be a different story.}

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