Contrary to appearances I am not accustomed to international travel. I have no frequent flyer miles set up. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if someone asked me to convert a Euro. Yet in spite of all this, I seem to be on a plane today bound for bright and sunny Spain. Some of you may recall how, two years ago, I combined my trip to the Bologna Book Fair with an additional trip to Barcelona. Well now family reasons compel me to return, this time with a 2-year-old in tow.
How does one prepare one’s offspring for flight and foreign countries? Well, if you’re me, you go to the books.
Step One: Get child comfortable with the notion of flight.
Not too difficult since she flew to the Midwest last Christmastime, but flights overseas are longer, duller, and more confining. Best to make the whole process familiar in some way. So! On to the airport books. The kiddo likes these the most right now:
Everything Goes: In the Air by Brian Biggs – Her #1 favorite, no question. The love of Biggs runs strong in the sprog. Whether it’s his illustrations on Cynthia Rylant’s “Brownie and Pearl” series or the work he’s done here (whether the books or the board books), Biggs knows how to give vehicles of every stripe and flavor their due. In In the Air Biggs walks you through the airline process. My kiddo, naturally, is most intoxicated by the shuttle bus at the beginning and the missing babies you’re encouraged to locate throughout the rest of the story. Still, she understands a lot of the airline process thanks to Mr. Biggs and also thanks to . . .
Flight 1, 2, 3 by Maria van Lieshout – This book is not only recent (note the 2013 publication date) but it has a unique take. On the outside it might look like it’s just a walk through the airport process using numbers along the way (counting books are very big in the Bird household right now too). On closer inspection, Ms. van Lieshout tips her hat to the airport and in-flight signs that have become universal symbols. In this book she writes, “Without these signs – mostly designed by AIGA artists Seymour Chwast, Roger Cook, and Don Shanosky – we wouldn’t arrive on time or at the right destination.” Didn’t Seymour Chwast write a picture book or two of his own? Small world. In any case, the book is itself is lovely and quite up-to-date when it comes to airport screenings and all that jazz.
Airport by Byron Barton – Circa 1982, no less. You might think that most older airport books are about as dated as Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. And to a certain extent you’d be right. Certainly anytime we whip out a Richard Scarry book it’s an exercise in what no longer exists. But the Barton book is super simple and there’s much to be said for that. It’s hard to top Barton, anyway.
Step Two: Introduce the concept of Spain.
This is a bit more difficult. Spain makes as much sense to a toddler as the moon. Less, actually, since they can see the moon and if you told them they’d be taking a trip there they’d completely buy it. But Spain? Here is the kiddo’s #1 association with that country.
My First Songs by Tomie dePaola – Specifically “Rain Rain, Go Away”. If you’ll recall there is a line in there called “Rain rain, go to Spain / Never show your face again”. Admittedly, if we were more superstitious people we might question the wisdom of sending inclement weather to our vacation destination. As it stands, we’ll risk it.
As for Barcelona itself, there really aren’t that many children’s books that include it. However, if you think a bit outside the box, there are always options. So it was that I remembered:
Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez, illustrated by Julie Paschkis – A too little remembered but really quite good picture book biography of the man responsible for a great number of buildings in Barcelona. The illustrations of Ms. Paschkis are luminous and do a darned good job at bringing the man’s work to life. I had the vague notion of bringing the book along with me to Spain (my 6-year-old niece will be joining us, and I figured she might get a kick out of it), but my hold didn’t arrive on time. Alas for me, but useful for anyone else who might be traveling to that neck of the world.
And so I go. Fear not, I’ll be posting interim posts during my absence. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have a plane to catch.