Travel book: Lonely Planet guides for children

By Tristram Clayton

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Lonely Planet's Extreme Planet. Photo / Supplied
Lonely Planet's Extreme Planet. Photo / Supplied

No one does travel books like Lonely Planet. And very few have taken a good idea and exploited it quite as comprehensively as Lonely Planet.

From the 96-page, hand-stapled "Across Asia on the Cheap" guide in 1973, the company now prints 500 titles in eight languages - which is a lot really considering there are fewer than 200 countries in the entire world.

So when I was asked to review six Lonely Planet guides for children, I was sceptical. Does our not-so-lonely planet really need another six guides?

And guides for children - what the hell? Heaven help me, and my travel budget, if the kids got to choose where we'd be staying, eating and drinking.

But of course Lonely Planet knows what they're doing and I needn't have worried.

Rather than long lists of hotels and restaurants, the guides are full of "cool stuff" - in adult speak, that means unusual, weird and very often gross facts. So forget about being told where the highest mountain in the world is and get ready to learn which country has banned plastic bags and cigarettes.

Or what the world's stinkiest fruit is.

Or where you can find the world's most poisonous snake.

The books are subtitled "not for parents" but on that point, I beg to disagree.

All are so stuffed full of the mad and interesting that anyone with the smallest amount of wanderlust will find them hard to put down.

Sharp, colourful graphics and pictures and high production quality complete these classy books.

In the end, the only thing missing was what I'd originally most feared: reviews and travel advice.

As the books really only deal in country-wide "cool stuff", there's little about actual places.

So for child travellers who actually pack the guides as they set off around the world, it would be hard to read about the specific city, region or attraction they are visiting.

A small number of the world's larger cities do get their own guide, but for the rest of the planet don't expect to use the guides as, well, guides.

So what were our favourite discoveries?

My youngest son went for the skewered guinea pigs - a popular snack in Peru apparently.

The older son was intrigued by the villages in the Philippines where people recreate the Crucifixion by nailing themselves to crosses.

As for me, well I kind of liked the goliath bird-eater - a 28cm spider that kids in the Amazon fry up for a tasty afternoon treat.

Yep, fried insects - a winning kids' book formula since well before 1973.

- NZ Herald

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