I'm a big believer in preparing my kids for travel, and educating them about the world, by reading about destinations as well as planes, trains and automobiles. Reading stories set in different countries and cities is one way to do it. Another way is to simply read stories from a certain part of the world, such as fairy-tales and myths, and get to know another country's culture better.
Here are some kids' books from all over the world that can help spark your children's interest in the wide world around them.
Vancouver, Canada - Mister Got To Go: The Cat That Wouldn't Leave
This story is set right in downtown Vancouver, and features one of the city's landmarks: The Sylvia Hotel near the beach in English Bay.
Stockholm, Sweden - Karlson on the Roof
Reading Astrid Lindgren's books is a great way to get a feel for Swedish culture and traditions. Her books are hugely popular in Sweden. The stories about Karlson (a very obnoxious little man who can fly and lives on a roof-top), take place in Stockholm, and could be a nice way to prepare for a trip to that city.
Paris, France - Madeline
This classic book for kids is just delightful and features many of the most famous spots in Paris. I'd bring it along on the trip if I took my kids there!
Native American, USA - Grandfather Buffalo
This is a beautiful tale about family and different generations helping each other, set in the North American prairies.
Mumbai, India - The Road to Mumbai
This is an entertaining tale of a girl names Shoba, and her monkey Fuzzy, who are traveling to a wedding in Mumbai. Gorgeous illustrations throughout.
Africa - Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales
This collection of tales features stories from all over the African continent, all chosen by Nelson Mandela himself.
Cornwall, UK - The Dark Is Rising: The Complete Sequence
For kids who are a little bit older, tweens and teens, this series of fantasy books by Susan Cooper is a great read. The books weave in bits of Celtic folklore throughout, and also strands of the King Arthur legend. They are all set in modern day (or rather 1970s) Britain, and feature many real places and towns there.
Italy - Strega Nona
This is such a fantastic picture book, and even includes some Italian words and phrases. A great book to read aloud.
Japan - My Neighbor Totoro Picture Book
Based on the classic kids' movie "My Neighbor Totoro", directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this picture book tells the same story of two sisters, and their adventures with the magical creature Totoro. It all takes place in rural Japan, and it's one of my kids' favourite stories.
China - Monkey King
The stories about the Monkey King and his exploits and adventures are very famous in China, and there are many books about this old-time "super hero". This book is beautifully illustrated by award-winning illustrator Ed Young.