This is a guest post by Fiona Ingram an author who writes young adult books full of mystery and exotic places. She has appeared on Misadventures with Andi before with her previous 2 books a few years back and I invited her to share her latest book along with delighting us with some of her thoughts about learning about culture through travel.
The question of why children enjoy exploring different counties and cultures via books has a very simple answer. It’s different, unique, takes the young reader to a totally new environment, with stories, food, activities, cultures, weather, geography, history (the list is endless!) that they can explore and investigate. And all you need to do is open a book! That’s actually quite a complex answer, but you get the picture. New, different, unique – that’s what attracts the young reader. Kids like to think beyond themselves and if they are introduced to a story that takes place in an environment/country totally far away and different, their interest is immediately piqued. It’s not always possible to go to a place, but reading about it, and enjoying a story set in a different environment is a very good next best thing.
Kids are curious about how other kids live. What do they eat? What do they like? What do they wear? Do they have the same tastes, or is their lifestyle completely different? In Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, it takes some convincing for my young heroes to accept that for the uncontacted tribe in the Mexican jungle, living without technology and gadgets was the way they wanted to live. The experience of living off the land, not having technology at their fingertips, and managing fine without it is a lovely learning curve for both young readers and characters. For the tribe, modern civilization was not a goal because their lifestyle was perfect for their environment, the jungle. In this way, young readers learn about different values of different societies and learn to be more appreciative of what they have, and more tolerant of what it pleases other people to have. At the end of Book 3, Justin, the older boy, has learned a lot during their jungle adventure but is very happy to finally go home.
The best way to further that interest in other countries and cultures is to help your young reader find the country or place on a world map. A visual idea of where the young reader is in physical relation to the setting or characters in a book goes a long way to creating an exciting reading experience. I love maps and I make sure I include at least two in each book. First, the map of the territory that the young heroes will be exploring and second, if necessary, a local map. In Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, my young heroes are investigating a mysterious castle, filled with secrets. They needed a local map to navigate the place.
Stories within the story are a must. This gives an added depth and introduces cultural elements that are so unusual for young readers in a modern, media-driven and technologically saturated world. Within each of my books, the young heroes are told old stories, either legends or myths, or in the case of Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, the old ghost stories surrounding the castle. What a lovely experience, with delicious shivers going up and down their spines. In Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, the young heroes hear some important stories about the ancient Aztec and Maya gods, and when their adventures are finally over, they tell the story of their adventures to the villagers seated around the campfire, perhaps creating their own legends in a way.
Books set in different countries, locations, and cultures open the windows in young readers’ imaginations, sparking a new interest in the real possibilities that lie out there. As Adam, the main young hero of the series, says, “We could have an adventure… Just a small one.” And when they went to Egypt, that’s exactly what happened.
Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle-grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone.
Summary from the Publisher:
A plane crash! Lost in the jungle! Hunted by their old enemy, will Adam, Justin, and Kim survive long enough to find the Third Stone of Power? With only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, the kids make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the lost city of stone gods, where the Stone of Power might be located. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death and maybe survive. Will they emerge alive from the jungle? Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?
What do you think? Do you encourage the children around you to explore the world through books? Do you have a childhood favorite that transported you? Do share!
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