As you’re reading The Paris Secret by Karen Swan in bed (or in your favorite armchair), feel free to share these picture books with your children.
For every “mommy book” read, I’ll suggest a “me book” for your children with a similar theme. It is my hope that this “Mommy and Me” book club is a fun activity for you and your children.
10 Picture Books About Paris
1. Madeline (1967) | Ludwig Bemelmans
The titular character is a fearless young girl, not shying away from the tiger at the zoo (even pooh-poohing the creature), mice in the kitchen, or the headmistress at the boarding school, Miss Clavel. Madeline is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis and bravely faces an appendectomy. This Caldecott Honor book introduces readers to some of Paris’s most famous sites: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Opera House, Point Neuf, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Luxembourg Gardens – a great first look at the City of Lights. (Age Range: 3-7 years)
2. This Is Paris (2004) | Miroslav Sasek
This classic book, which is part of a series, really brings the city to life for little kids. The vivid drawings capture the rhythms of everyday life. This book’s exceptionally detailed illustrations cover it all – from the banks of the Seine to the Louvre galleries all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. (Age Range: 7 years and up)
3. Adèle & Simon (2006) | Barbara McClintock
Set in early twentieth century Paris, the darling story tracks Adèle and her little brother as they take a roundabout path on their walk home from school. Despite his sister’s warnings, Simon loses most of his things. The most engaging part of the book is finding Simon’s belongings amid the lovely pen and ink drawings of Parisian sites like Notre Dame, the Jardin du Luxembourg, and the Louvre. (Age Range: 4-8 years)
4. Everybody Bonjours (2015) | Leslie Kimmelman
Readers follow a little girl and her family as they navigate Paris, visiting a patisserie, a soccer game, and the Eiffel Tower. It’s helpful for teaching children (and adults!) that every interaction in France should begin with a friendly “bonjour!” This book convinces readers, if they even need convincing, that Paris is very much the city to see. (Age Range: 3-7 years)
5. The Cat Who Walked Across France (2004) | Kate Banks
What’s more Parisian than a cat? After the cat owner’s death up North, the bereaved cat travels the country to make his way back to his old home in the South of France. This book beautifully shows readers the sweeping rural and urban landscapes of France. (Age Range: 4-7 years)
6. Babar Loses His Crown (1967) | Laurent de Brunhoff
Our favorite elephant king Babar goes with his family on a trip to Paris and loses his crown in a luggage mixup. How can Babar possibly be seen in public at the Opera with no crown? The readers join Babar and his family in touring Paris as they search the city for Babar’s lost crown. (Age Range: 5-6 years)
7. A Walk in Paris (2001) | Salvatore Rubbino
The charming text and magnificent illustrations of Paris delight and dazzle locals and newcomers alike. There’s small print with facts about the city, which is great for grownups or older kids. This book provides a tour of Paris’s noteworthy landmarks, but with a girl’s grandfather as a guide – so sweet! (Age Range: N/A)
8. Madame Martine (2014) | Sarah S. Brannen
An elderly woman, who is very set in her ways, lives beside the Eiffel Tower but refuses to visit because it’s too touristy and a waste of her time. She makes a new friend (a dog named Max) who reluctantly takes her up the tower, and Madame Martine is entranced by the magical views of her city. This book, along with followup Madame Martine Breaks the Rules, encourages readers to stay open to new experiences. (Age Range: 4-8 years)
9. Anatole (2010 reprint edition) | Eve Titus
This Caldecott Honor book tells the story of “…a most honorable mouse” who wants to make a living, earn food for his family, in an honest way. He sneaks into a cheese factory and evaluates the cheese by leaving little notes such as “good”, “not so good”, etc. This book celebrates cheese and a mousy little cheese connoisseur. (Age Range: 5-8 years)
10. A Lion in Paris (2014) | Beatrice Alemagna
A lion saunters around Paris, but none of the residents give him a second glance. It’s a fantastic book for starting a conversation about how it feels to be the new guy in town. This book, with its stunning illustrations of Paris, gives readers insight into what it’s like being an outsider in a new, foreign city. (Age Range: 4-8 years)
A Final Thought – From the Pillow
France is known for its literature, film, and cuisine.
So make it a stay-in-bed family day! Eat French food. Read picture books about Paris. Watch the Pixar film Ratatouille (2007), one of my favorites. And once your little Francophiles are in bed, drink wine – lots of it!
What other picture books would you add the list?