Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Sunday 18 November 2012

The Books We Took On Holiday - by Rachele Carnevale

On the train to Osaka!

In March this year our little family embarked on a three month trip of Japan and Europe.  Although we needed to pack as lightly as possible it was essential that we included a selection of picture books for our 16 month old son, Roman.  The prerequisites were that the books be light (therefore paperback) they must be tried and tested favourites (we had no room for duds) and there must be a couple of specific goodnight ones.

We put all of the possibilities on the floor, came up with a long list and then whittled it down to about ten titles.  These included golden oldies such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Meg and Mog, Harry the Dirty Dog, Hop on Pop, Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack and Mister Magnolia - as well as more recent titles such as Penguin by Polly Dunbar, When the World is Ready for Bed by Gillian Shields and Maisy's Bedtime.

We also purchased an iPad for our travels on which we carried our Lonely Planet guides, a few e-books for Roman (Green Eggs and Ham and Moo by Matthew Van Fleet) and some animated adaptations of the Hairy Maclary and Maisy stories.

Osaka Ryokan

The decision to take physical books, despite the additional weight to our luggage was one of the best decisions we made.  Although we sometimes got quite bored with the small selection, we always managed to keep up our regular bedtime story time routine - no matter where we were.  We had stories while on long flights, train trips, ferry voyages and in tiny hotel rooms.  This regular routine not only comforted Roman and helped him go to sleep every night in the ever changing locations, but gave us a feeling of normalcy too.

The iPad was used in different situations, when Roman would get bored or grizzly on long trips by plane, train, bus or ferry.  However, rather than the e-books he much preferred watching the animations of familiar stories and the couple of episodes of Playschool we had put on the iPad.  We were so grateful to Maisy and Hairy Maclary on some of these trips.

Shinkansen to Kyoto

We had a couple of interesting book experiences on trains - one in Finland and one in Japan.  While travelling from snowy Helsinki to snowier Tampere in Finland, we were booked onto a carriage specially designed for families with small children.  This is the best idea ever! Not only were there lots of small kids, a mini train in the carriage for them to play on and a slide, but a whole bookshelf full of picture books too!  Despite the books being in the Finnish language, we had a lovely time looking at all of the pictures and making up the stories.  It was such a novelty for us to be looking at new books rather than our own scruffy selection. 

While travelling on a local train in Osaka in March, Roman, tired and grumpy (having been on the rails for hours since leaving Nagasaki), was in urgent need of entertainment.  Luckily, I had had the foresight to pack a couple of books in our bag and whipped out The Tiger Who Came to Tea.  It worked like magic!  As I was reading it to him I noticed that he wasn’t my only audience - the other passengers on the train were also listening.  I felt like a twit but tried to focus on Roman. Afterwards, a smartly dressed Japanese businessman came and chatted to us.  He said that he and his family had lived in Scotland a number of years ago and that he had read the same book to his children and they had loved it too.  It was such a lovely connection to have made.

As we travelled we picked up some more books to spice up our story time collection and weigh down our luggage.  We found a good English language selection of children's books in the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya.  We bought some Curious George and Clifford titles there, amongst others.  We also bought books in other languages, including Japanese, Finnish, French and Italian.  Luckily, we already knew many of these stories word for word, such as Goodnight Moon (or Bonsoir Lune in French), otherwise we just made the stories up!  We always left the price stickers on the backs of the books we purchased overseas so we will always remember where we bought them.

Coming home to Roman's book collection was so exciting, there were so many choices, it felt like such a treat, and then visiting the library again and borrowing more was fantastic.  We were in book heaven after having such a small selection for such a long time. We still read our well travelled treasures regularly and they always remind us of the fun we had reading them on Roman’s great big overseas holiday.


  1. How lucky for Roman to have such an amazing travelling experience - as well as a great selection of story books!
    Maisy Mouse and Hairy Maclary were always winners for us too.

  2. What a wonderful experience for a little boy.
    Congratulations to his mum and dad for dealing in such an amazing way with the woes of traveling with a small child. What a very luck little man. He will continue to love reading and books for his entire life.

  3. What a wonderful experience for a little boy.
    Congratulations to his mum and dad for dealing with the woes of traveling with a small child in such an amazing way.
    Roman will have a love of reading and books for his entire life as all children should have.