Book Review: Le Voyage De Polo

I love reading to my kids, and part of what keeps it fun for me (especially after the 200th reading) is finding books that I think are interesting and engaging too. I often buy children's books that are either about travel itself or about a different place or lifestyle that I want to expose the kids to, and I thought it would be fun to start sharing some of those book choices here.

This is a book from my personal collection. From time to time, I might choose to review a book that a publisher has offered me, but I will always let you know when that happens. Frankly, I have an embarrassingly large collection of travel related books for kids, so I can keep this feature going for a long time without reviewing anything I don't already own (and then there's the library). That means that when I do accept a review copy, you can expect that it caught my interest in some way.

When we took 6 month old E to Paris for the first time, I became obsessed with French children's books. I was blown away by the variety and by the beautiful illustrations, but what really worked for me (as a non-French speaker) was the large number of wordless book choices. The Adventures of Polo, by Regis Faller was one of those books, and even though it was for a much older child, I secreted it away in my suitcase. (Today the book is available in English from Amazon).

The Adventures of Polo is illustrated using a comic book format, and "readers" follow Polo on a wild adventure that begins at his treehouse in the middle of the ocean, and winds its way through the clouds, a meeting with the "Queen of Sea," a trip into outer space, and finally back home again where he sits quietly reading his journal and remembering all the friends he made on the way.

What I love about this book (besides the unadulterated spirit of adventure) is the ingenuity and creativity with which Polo handles every unexpected situation. Submarine crashed into a glacier? Head to the surface and chisel a new boat out of another glacier. Stuck on a strange planet? Find a rocket shaped mushroom and add a door and a window to turn it into a real rocket. Stuck on a volcanic island next to a lava flow? It must be time to roast hot dogs!

The Adventures of Polo is a complex story with lots of action, and it manages to be dramatic without resorting to violence (the "scariest" moment in the book is a five-frame sequence where a Polar Bear chases Polo and slips on some ice, splashing into the ocean). Still, I kept this book in storage for a long time, waiting until the day E seemed old enough to enjoy it. When I finally took it out a few months ago, it became a fast favorite with both kids. E learned pretty quickly how to follow along and re-tell the story in his own way (one of the joys of wordless books for a pre-reader) and D is absolutely fascinated by the story. This is the only book we have that I'm careful not to leave lying around... she literally cannot pass it by without asking for someone to read it to her (which is great in theory, but inconvenient when we are on our way out the door).

What do you think? Should I keep the book reviews coming? Let me know in comments.

Related Links
Amazon: The Adventures of Polo, by Regis Faller

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  1. jamie on August 14, 2008 at 7:18 a.m.

    Hi Debbie: Yes, great idea!

    Have you read my favorite children's book ever? It's called The Snail and the Whale--it's a travel book too. An added bonus: I can't get through it without crying (as I demonstrated for the billionth time when I read it to my son's kindergarten class in June).

    Check it out, and definitely keep this feature...

  2. Debbie on August 14, 2008 at 9:20 a.m.

    I haven't, and it's on my wishlist now.

    This is the second children's book I've added in as many days... I can see that this is going to be an expensive feature for me to keep... in a good way ;)

  3. robin on August 14, 2008 at 3:16 p.m.

    We have The Snail and the Whale- it is really sweet.
    I just ordered Polo for George- he adores it thanks to you!

  4. Amanda @ on August 14, 2008 at 8:58 p.m.

    Ooh, I love books in comic-book format. Our first children's book was "Supercat," a board book in comic frames and I've wished for another kids' book this way ever since. I'll have to check this out!

    That said, I also love that it's foreign. One of my favorite books is a Czech book that my mother picked up for Josie. It's called the Adventures of Doggie and Pussycat (thought I can't recall the author--it's some odd Czech name--I can say that, being born into a weird Czech name myself), and it's fascinating to peek into the culture. There's a part where Pussycat scrubs the floor with Doggie, then Doggie dries it with Pussycat, then they wash themselves and hang each other up on the clothesline by their claws. Just bizarre, but so fun!

  5. Debbie on August 15, 2008 at 1:28 a.m.

    This is getting expensive quickly... in a good way!

  6. Marcie on August 15, 2008 at 6:19 p.m.

    Amanda, while not boardbooks, there are some other good comic frame style books for a bit older children. My girls (2 & 4) really like The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard by Gregory Rogers. It's a story in pictures about a boy who befriends a bear and their adventures as they save the Baron and avoid the Bard. It's great for any London fans, though it does have some of the violence of the Elizabethan time that I skip over. I also like David Wiesner's wordless but amazing books Flotsam and Freefall that play with perspective.

    And Debbie, a good picturebook about travel is The Year I Didn't Go to School by Giselle Potter. I love her illustrations and the book is based on her childhood trip to Italy with her parents to perform in their theater show. My 4yo requests this one often.

  7. Debbie on August 15, 2008 at 6:43 p.m.


    Thank you helping fuel my amazon addition ;)

    A couple of other great wordless books:
    Tuesday by David Wiesner is a wonderful story about a Tuesday night when frogs suddenly are able to fly. The pictures are detailed and funny, and this book has been in and out of our regular rotation since my son was about 18 months old.

    The Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman is another great wordless book (I mentioned it in my post about Santa Fe) where a young boy magically shrinks down and steps inside one maze after another on a museum trip. My son is fascinated by this one.

  8. Jackie Clark Mancuso on December 22, 2014 at 4:56 p.m.

    Paris-Chien: Adventures of an Ex-Pat Dog (La Librairie Parisienne)
    Amazon Link: