Book review: Elephants on Tour
Nellie the elephant famously packed her trunk before saying goodbye to the circus – but if you’ve ever wondered where an elephant would actually take its trunk on holiday, new children’s book Elephants on Tour has the answer.
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Following five adventurous elephants as they discover cities worldwide, from Amsterdam to Tokyo, Sydney, San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro (not to mention a stop-off to spy lemurs in Madagascar), the book is a cross between an activity spotting book and a mini travel guide. And I’ve got three to give away!
Although with the amount of intricate detail in Guillaume Cornet’s brightly illustrated pages, finding the five elephants on tour in each destination is only the beginning; kangaroos with balloons amble along the street in Sydney, an alien rolls through San Francisco, while there’s an octopus in a top hat in Rio.
Not only does each elephant have its own favourite interest – I’m the photographer, according to Minnie, she’s the artist (and we’re both the Explorer!) – there are also tips dotted through about particular ideas to look out for, as well as holiday-makers out of place in other cities (a kangaroo not in Sydney for example).
And for each city, a mini fact file and information on how to say hello, what to visit, do, buy and eat.
Inspired by the book, Minnie’s own elephants (Trunklette and Christy) decided they fancied a little tour of their own. Actually, there are several others in the fluffy menagerie, but I drew the line at two.
Their favourites, she decided would be San Francisco for the ice cream sandwiches and Rome for the pizza! But while she hasn’t made it to the latter (yet), it reminded us of some of our own favourite travels – the bumpy fire truck trundling across the Golden Gate Bridge was one memory which stuck from her time in San Francisco although it turns out the day on Alcatraz didn’t have such an impact.
I told tales of the time I went to Madagascar and the lemur landed on my head while we both decided we’d love to go to Tokyo – the second time for me, and a pitstop on the way to see snow monkeys for her.
And I reminded her of our visit to Amsterdam, sweltering in an unexpected heatwave, we still packed as much into our short break as you can manage in 30C sun with an almost three-year-old.
So along with the tips from the book – to check out the art museums, buy flowers at the floating flower market, hop on a bicycle and try a stroopwafel (try lots! YUM), I have a few of my own.
Take a canal cruise
The canals are the heart of Amsterdam and while wandering over the little bridges and past the gabled houses is wonderful, seeing it from the water is easier for small legs.
If you’re worried kids are going to be bored, there’s a huge variety of cruises as well – ours came with pirate-themed commentary for Minnie, others have pancakes to entertain if the sights don’t.
Explore Nemo science centre
One of the best science museums we’ve visited, it reminds me a lot of We The Curious in Bristol – everything here is designed to get hands on, to make you think, to experiment and explore the world.
Which meant that not only was my pre-schooler fascinated, there’s plenty for older kids (and adults!) to discover.
Meet the old masters
There’s no reason to avoid art galleries just because you’re travelling with kids – we decided on the Van Gogh Museum and used their own leaflets to create a mini treasure hunt. You can also take buggies in, if you fancy a more leisurely stroll and it happens to coincide with nap time!
Other Amsterdam art galleries also have audio guides and special family trails – plus you can finish by burning off some energy and climbing all over the I Amsterdam sign nearby on Museumplein.
In any city, it’s always worth finding the open space to offset the sightseeing – Amsterdam’s huge Vondelpark has play areas, green space to scamper across, a lake, shady trees for any heatwaves and cafes dotted around.
Or head to Artis Royal Zoo, set in its own leafy park space in the calmer Plantage district. Entry is free with an I Amsterdam card, so it’s a good option to spend a few hours if you don’t want to dedicate a day to the zoo (though you could!). No elephants here…
If you’re feeling inspired by the globe-trotting elephants, I’ve got three copies of Elephants on Tour to give away – scroll down to enter. And as well as special activities to celebrate the launch – check out the hashtag #ElephantsonTour – you can download colouring pages and activity sheets here. Or you can buy the book here. Don’t forget your trunk!
PIN FOR LATER: ELEPHANTS ON TOUR
Disclosure: Compiled in association with Laurence King publishers – I am being compensated for my time, but all opinions, decisions to set out on adventures with elephants and tips are my own. (Except for the elephant naming, which is entirely down to my daughter). Contains affiliate links: any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission.
Images from the book are courtesy of Laurence King publishers, all others copyright MummyTravels