Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Travel E-Books for Teens

 As a former teacher, I love it when there's the opportunity to use travel as a learning experience for kids. That's why I jumped at the chance to review a new set of travel e-books: "Planet Explorers: Travel Guides for Kids. Right now, author Laura Schaefer has written six guides to pique the interest of children and parents alike: Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago. Each book is designed to be viewed on an e-reader, iPad or iPhone or other smart phone, making them practical when you and your kids are on the road.


But, though they are being marketed to kids 8+ years, after reviewing the NYC and Phili guides, I believe the guides are more geared for the teenager in the house, especially given some of the vocabulary words. (I'm not sure what average eight-year-old knows the words "nautical" or "pedestal" or cares about whether a cafe offers good coffee or that a restaurant has an informal dress code.) That being said, I find that the guides I reviewed are packed with such myriad facts that they not only offer what I call the "who knew" factor that kids -- me, included -- love, but they also can be used by parents and teachers to make history and  geography come alive.

In the New York City guide, even I found things I didn't know about -- and I'm a native New Yorker, like Edgar Allen Poe's cottage in the Bronx, or that the cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden were donated by the Japanese government.

The guides are chock full of fun and useful information: New York City's Flatiron Building resembles the shape of a vintage iron; in the 19th century some 7,000 people lived in the five-storied building that's been converted into the Lower East Side Tenement Museum; the Bronx Zoo uses composting toilets to save water;  and Ellis Island was once called Oyster Island. (But who knows why?).

There are plenty of yummy food options, many that I think kids will gravitate to, including the Magnolia Bakery with its array of colorful iced cupcakes, and Peanut Butter & Company, where you can get PB topped with just about anything, from bacon to marshmallow Fluff. 

What I would've loved to have found in the NYC guide  is a section on Hudson River Park, which is perfect for biking, jogging, blading, skateboarding (they even have a skateboard park) and learning about a  host of botanicals along the landscaped route that parallels the river.

Since I'm an obvious tree hugger, I was happy to see Fairmont Park included in the Philadelphia guide. (The Schuylkill River Trail is listed as a must visit; I agree. It's perfect for the family who wants to get back to nature within the heart of a major metropolis.) Among the fun facts in this guide, I was surprised to learn that the park was owned by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence; and that the Curtis Institute of Music is more difficult to get into than Harvard University. (Who knew?) It's also lovely to find out that the Museum of Archeology has a garden growing Egyptian papyrus. This is the kind of information that goes way beyond simply viewing ancient exhibits in glass cases.

Those who visit Phili with this guide will find out that the city is home to the nation's first medical school, the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art played a prominent role in the movie "Rocky," and that Morimoto, an Iron Chef, owns a restaurant in the city-- though, with such a rarefied, sophisticated menu, it's not one suiting the tastes of most kids, that's for sure.

Overall, I think it's worth checking out these e-book guides for the wealth of information that could be incorporated into teacher's lesson plans or used by parents and teens when traveling as a way to boost the enrichment factor.



26 comments:

wandering educators said...

very cool! i love guidebooks for kids that make sense to them, and don't bore the parents. we'll be reading these - thanks!

JTravel said...

Hi wandering educators, I hope you enjoy reading them. I love all the fun factoids.

Mindy Move said...

Hey, this books sound amazing, I think I just have the perfect present for my niece who will be so happy to have them!

JTravel said...

Hi Mindy, Sounds like a great idea. Hope your niece enjoys 'em.

Sheryl said...

These sound like wonderfully informative books with great details, for any age group. Wonderful way to gets kids psyched about travel.

Susan Johnston said...

Sounds like a cool series! I wonder if they have a Boston guide in the works?

NoPotCooking said...

These guides sound great. My teens would love them - and my teens would eat at Morimoto's restaurant and would care about dress code, so they are perfectly suited.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, I love that the guides not only make travel fun but also educational.

JTravel said...

Hi Susan, Yes, I'd love to know what other city guides are in the works. Boston would be a great addition.

JTravel said...

Hi NoPotCooking, Your kids sound like they'd love these guides.

merr said...

Such a good gift idea!

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

These sound really great. Thanks for introducing us to them.

JTravel said...

Hi merr, Yes, great for birthdays or the holidays, for sure.

JTravel said...

Hi Vera Marie, Thanks. Glad you enjoyed my review.

Daina Van said...

I think that these books are pretty much interesting and I find them amazing, even I passed the teen age long long ago...

JTravel said...

Hi Daina, Yes, I'm pretty taken with them, too. I'm a real geek when it comes to fun facts.

Living Large said...

This sounds like a very cool series!

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

I think Ellis Island was called Oyster Island because its original shape resembled an oyster. I visited the museum there earlier this year, and learned that much of what we see as island there is actually landfill - the natural lumps of land are much smaller. You're going to have to take the ferry over to confirm my theory!

JTravel said...

Hi Living Large, I like the selection as well. Wondering what other cities will be included. Hoping for San Francisco and Seattle.

JTravel said...

HI Casey, I had heard it was because of the oyster beds that had long occupied the waters where Ellis Island resides.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

ebooks are so helpful when you need information on the fly--like when you're traveling. I think families would find these really helpful. Did I miss it? ARe there videos embedded with the content too?

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, Videos would be a great idea. At this point, no videos are included.

Donna Hull said...

Ebooks are so convenient. I think teens would especially find them interesting. Parents, too.

JTravel said...

Hi Donna, Yes, these ebooks seem perfect for teens, as well as younger kids who read it along with their parents.

Jane Boursaw said...

This is so cool, because of course teens would like different stuff than older people.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane, I particularly like all the yummy snack and lunch suggestions.