Getting to school is an adventure for all children. No matter where you live, being a student requires special planning, packing and travel to arrive on time for a day of learning. And yet, no two journeys from home to classroom are entirely the same.
Each of our three girls attends a different school and travels to her class in a different way: my oldest by bus, my middle by bike and my youngest by stroller. Here are our wheels. It’s a wonder our van fits in the garage…
We’re blessed that Elsa gets picked up from our home. That kicks off the day. Next, I jog behind our middle’s bike to supervise her journey. Once she’s lined up on the playground, I continue looping the neighborhood with the jogger stroller and deliver our youngest to preschool. By the time I’m home, I’m ready for a nap. But coffee does nicely.
Our morning adventure feels a bit like “trains, planes and automobiles.” But in reality, all three schools are extremely close, and our routine looks a lot like that of our neighbors and many other kids across America.
In this globe-spanning picture book, readers experience the unique school journeys of 13 children from 13 different countries. ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL takes us into imagined moments in very real places, providing a window into the lives of children around the world.
Our family explored ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL with a globe beside us, so we could pinpoint each country featured as we read. But this title is so much more than a geographic jaunt. It’s a portal into the paths of others, which allows us to understand the sacrifices made by children and families across the planet in order to get what many of us claim with ease: an education.
Here are 5 reasons why I think ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL is a must-read book:
Authors Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul draw us close to distant lands through 13 diary-style stories, written from the viewpoints of children. The accounts are rich in detail and focus on the things that matter most to kids: When they rise, what they eat, who they’re with, and where they land - school.
Alongside the book’s storytellers, we sip tea and eat porridge. We cross pathways without shoes. We squeeze into rickshaws. We descend ladders on cliffs. We travel for hours (and in some cases days) until finally we reach school, ready to play and learn.
It’s immediately clear that for many children, getting to school is not easy. In fact, in some cases it’s downright dangerous. Baptiste and Miranda’s emotive passages brilliantly balance honestly portraying hardships with conveying a positive, inspiring story.
Picture book readers expect that with each turn of the page, something new will be revealed. While ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL doesn’t have a traditional story arc, the page turns are suspenseful. That’s because each story shared is so different from the last.
The accounts truly span the globe: Panama, US/Canada, Ethiopia, Nepal, Ukraine, Japan, Bolivia, Pakistan, China, Kenya, Bhutan, Cameroon and El Salvador.
Alongside each first-person tale, readers find a sidebar that provides facts about the country presented: its flag, history, topography, animals, climate, city life, and family norms and traditions. The result is a dimensional, textural portrait of each country that pops off the page and plants itself in the mind and heart.
Illustrations by Isabel Muñoz are active, vivid and magnetic. Rich reds, earthy browns, expansive blues and touches of gold unite countries in palette, yet each land is still honored as special and distinct. Muñoz’s illustrations provide a variety of vantage points, including a bird’s eye view of Meru and Samburu, Kenya, where children cross over elephant tracks on their path to school.
Another exciting illustration is a motorcycle ride to school in Bamenda, Northwestern Cameroon. (Below you’ll find a preliminary sketch, followed by final art. Thanks for sharing, Isabel!) Four children hold tight to their uncle as dust flies. When a tire goes flat, the journey requires a stop at the mechanics shop…
Author Miranda Paul shared that as a result of the current political situation in Cameroon, many kids started school late this year, or are still not attending. Here’s a story with more. Atrocities aren’t distant or ignorable when you feel kinship with those who live in harm’s way. Which brings me to my next must-read reason…
Everything that our family read in ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL was new to us. Everything. While we hope to travel outside the country as a family in the not-too-distant future, we have yet to journey outside the Midwest at this point.
But… books take us there instantly. Since reading ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL, we’ve begun thinking of our library card as a passport that provides immediate access to places far from our home.
Message of Hope
The stories featured in ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL echo a universal truth: Education is worth it. Travel in darkness. Walking for hours. Crossing war zones.
Because education is hope.
While the idea of taking risks for education, as a pathway to a better life, may seem unimaginable to many Americans, it shouldn’t. Each of us has ancestors who did the very same things for us. Whether one generation ago, or 200 years in the past, it is something we all have in common.
I’m so grateful to have taken this literary adventure with my girls. Our passports are up-to-date and ready for stamping. (For great resources that extend the ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL experience, click HERE!)
ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL is available at or through your local bookstore, or via the online bookseller of your choice. Baptiste Paul (@baptistepaul) is the author of The Field and I Am Farmer (written with Miranda Paul, coming in 2019). Miranda Paul (@Miranda_Paul) is the author of many books for children, including Are We Pears Yet, One Plastic Bag, Blobfish Throws a Party and the soon-to-release Mia Moves Out (October 2018). Isabel Muñoz (@isabelmgart) is an illustrator represented by The Bright Agency.
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