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Book Nook: If Buildings Could Talk

Our “If Buildings Could Talk” Walk guides selected these books with the tour content in mind: Victor Hugo, the history of Paris, medieval art and life, and cathedral building. Like the tour itself, these recommended titles promise a diverse range of learning experiences, for young readers at all levels.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo
Michael Ford (Adapter), Penko Gelev and Sotir Gelev (Illustrators)

Victor Hugo’s original 1831 novel brought the dusty, forgotten cathedral of Notre Dame to vivid life for its readers. This graphic novel version, featuring dynamic full-color illustrations, does the same for young readers aged 9 and up. It will also introduce them to Hugo’s other memorable characters, the cathedral bellringer Quasimodo and his heroic efforts to save the gypsy Esmerelda.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo
Tim Wynne-Jones (adapter) and Bill Slavin (illustrator)

Hugo’s classic retold in a picture-book format for readers 8 years and under. We like the sensitive illustrations of Notre Dame cathedral, the real central character of Hugo’s original story.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo
Monica Kulling (adapter)

Hugo began writing Les Misérables in his former home in the Place des Vosges, where we begin tracing the author’s footsteps on our tour. This abridged version by Monica Kulling is for children aged 9 and up. The story of escaped convict Jean Valjean, who steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, may not seem particularly child-friendly, but Kulling has carefully edited the original book’s 1000+ pages to create a 100-page version that is both appropriate and accessible. Much of the story takes place in Paris between 1815 and 1833, a period of the city’s history that families learn more about on our Hugo-themed walk.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Les Misérables
Soundtrack for the Musical

The soundtrack of the musical adaptation of Les Misérables is another way for the entire family to approach Hugo's novel. We vote for the 1985 London version with Patti LuPone as the tragic Fantine character.
Learn more about the soundtrack at Amazon.com.

Adèle and Simon
by Barbara McClintock

One of the goals of our programs is to activate children’s historical imaginations, to encourage them to see, for example, how today’s Paris might differ from Victor Hugo’s Paris. It’s why we like this charming little storybook by Barbara McClintock, which recounts the adventures of a sister and brother walking home from school in 1907 Paris. Their route is traced on a city map in the back of the retro-designed book. Each of the characters’ stops, such as the Louvre and Notre Dame, are based on a real place where Adèle and Simon encounter actual historical figures, like Edgar Degas and Mary Cassat. This well-researched and delightfully illustrated story is for younger readers, aged 8 and under.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Paris
by Sarah Hoban (Author), Bob Moulder (Illustrator)

It’s not easy to find an accessible well-written history of the city for children, that covers pre-Roman Paris to the present day. We like this solid effort, although it’s definitely more of an academic book geared for readers aged 10 years and up. Although we might quibble over certain omissions, Sarah Hoban is particularly good on medieval Paris.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction
by David Macaulay

If you can find a more captivating introduction to the medieval cathedral in all of its aspects, please share it with us! This is a book for children and parents to enjoy together. Macaulay’s vividly illustrated pages tell the story of a fictional French village Chutreaux, where a cathedral is constructed in the 13th century. He provides accessible, but not “dumbed down” descriptions of the techniques, tools and talents required to build “the longest, widest, and most highest cathedral in all of France.” An 80-page volume that will make your child’s visit to Notre Dame cathedral far more meaningful.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages?
Fiona MacDonald

This interactive book focuses on the details of daily life in medieval Europe. How did lords and ladies spend their days? Why did knights go on pilgrimages? Fiona MacDonald has written several books for children about the Middle Ages, but this one is her most entertaining. Although not specifically about Paris, the material on medieval cities and castles is a fun, informative way to turn younger kids on to the rewards of learning history.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Days of Knights and Damsels: An Activity Guide
by Laurie Carlson

This guide is designed to encourage educational play for the younger set (ages 4-8) with materials they can find at home. All of the activities are based on aspects of medieval life. We think some of them, such as designing a coat of arms (from the heraldry section), making a “stained-glass” painting, and sculpting a medieval statue (in the arts and craft section), are a good, hands-on introduction—or after trip follow-up—to our “If Buildings Could Talk” walk.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Make Your Own Stained Glass Ornaments
by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We teach kids that Notre Dame cathedral is a “story book in stone.” Once inside, they also learn to read the stories in a stained-glass window. Discovering this unique art form with their Paris Muse guide is one of the highlights of our program for many families. With this kit, kids make their own stained-glass ornaments to hang on a tree or window. The designs are adapted from medieval windows in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The kit also includes a 32-page book explaining how glass was made in the Middle Ages.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Coat of Arms
by Catherine Daly-Weir (Author), Jeff Crosby (Illustrator)

At the medieval Hotel Sens in Paris, kids learn to recognize the different coats of arms belonging to the bishops who once lived there. Finding those emblems on the facade of Hotel Sens makes a wonderful introduction for their next activity—locating the coat of arms for the city of Paris! This book introduces young readers to the symbols and color of medieval heraldry, and includes a plastic stencil so kids can make their own coat of arms.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

Medieval Art
by Marilyn Stokstad

This hefty survey of medieval art is a great resource for the family library. Although designed to serve as a textbook for undergraduates, Stokstad’s clear writing is accessible enough for the advanced young readers in your family. Her chapter on the “Origins of Gothic Art,” with detailed information on building techniques and stained-glass windows, makes it an ideal primer for visiting cathedrals first-hand in France. It is lavishly illustrated, and includes maps, glossary, and suggestions for further reading. A respected educator and authority on the period, Stokstad really teaches the reader how to look at medieval art.
Learn more about this book at Amazon.com.

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Cathedral:The Story of Its Construction tells the remarkable fictional story of the building of a Gothic cathedral in France—a wonderful learning companion to our "If Buildings Could Talk" walking tour.

Paris Muse Clues for the Entire Family

“I just wanted to thank you for the most incredible time and wonderful experience exploring the Louvre with you. The children will tell anyone when asked what their favorite time in Europe was (and we were there for three weeks...between Paris, the south of France and Tuscany) and they will say the Louvre. You made the experience memorable and although it is written that "Paris Muse Clues" is for a young audience our entire family loved the experience.”

Shirley Hargrove
Woodland Hills, California

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