As far back as I can remember I have wanted to travel to Italy to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
As “cliché” a destination it may be, according to some of my the more experiences travelers among my friends and family, there has always been something about it I have wanted to see and experience in person.
I have read books on its history, and the beautiful cathedral and green space around it, learned about its foundation flaws, and then the rest of the sights of Italy. From there, I just wanted to learn more about the entire world around me, and everything in it. I still do.
I remember talking to my parents in high school about wanting to see the tower, and my mom told me “You’ve been wanting to see it ever since you saw that drawing on a placemat at that Italian restaurant before you were even three.”
That was apparently where it all began. One simple drawing of something amazing, and I wanted to see and learn more.
The new My Little Cities series by Jennifer Adams and Greg Pizzoli hopes to launch the love of travel and the world for a whole new generation of active, armchair (or high-chair) travelers in this same manner.
Adams, whose BabyLit series introducing toddlers and beginner readers to classic literature sold nearly 2 million copies, has teamed up with Geisel Medal winning illustrator Pizzoli, for the first four books in this distinctly unique cities: London, Paris, New York and San Francisco.
The books feature easy, bold words accompanied by Pizzoli’s colorful, energetic illustrations depicting both well-known attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, a “well loved” spire, Buckingham Palace where they “Change the Guard,” Chinatown to see the “Lights at Night,” and the “Moving Slow” ferry to the Statue Liberty.
In addition, there are sights and places less obvious to those wanting to delve even further in to the each city, such as San Francisco’s Cliff House, Paris’s Shakespeare and Company book store, the New York Public Library, and one of London’s newest skyline features, the 95-story Shard skyscraper.
All the books are linked the recurrence of one father and son happily making their way through the landmarks of these great cities. There’s even a shout-out to the “New York” book to be found in the Paris book.
As a parent, my favorite element of the books is a section at the end with a small description behind each image. This offers adults and older kids a chance to read the book along with a toddler, and help them discuss what they see in each image. Even the simplest images can provoke a hundred wonderful questions from a budding travel enthusiast.
Companion items available for the series include a travel matching game and a New York City Skyline Playset, for a more interactive experience.
My younger daughter, who was a toddler when she first read the BabyLit books, is now an avid reader at age eight, and said she would help me “look over” the My Little Cities series. Even she, in all her third grade expertise, discovered something new.
The mutual favorite of ours was London. She loved the image of the double-decker bus at Piccadilly Circus, and even recognized The Beatles crossing Abbey Road. One other image that caught her eye was in the San Francisco book, the only of the four destinations in the both her father and I have visited. We talked about the sites I had personally seen — yes, I really did drive down Lombard Street when I was sixteen and visit Chinatown during the Year of the Dragon — but she was very curious about the sea lions on the rocks near Pier 39.
Are they there all the time? Do they really fight for rocks like in Finding Dory? Did you get to pet them? We begin looking up videos of sea lions on the rocks, the discovered several places along the West Coast alone where we now hope to visit to see sea lions in their natural environment.
Just like the Leaning Tower caught my fancy, a simple look at sea lions started my daughter’s own quest for knowledge. If this could inspire a kid who is already well past the recommended reading age for these books, imagine what questions and discoveries await a younger reader for whom the whole world is very new.
I still haven’t been fortunate enough to visit Pisa in person, but thanks to the little spark lit by that one simple image, it will always be a part of me.
Through the My Little Cities series, Adams and Pizzoli have created plenty of opportunities for future readers — and travelers — to ignite their own sparks for a “well loved spire” or cityscapes that “light up the sky.”
Lisa received copies of the books for review purposes.