A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
AUGUST 25:

  • Happy birthday Virginia Euwer Wolff (Make Lemonade), Charles Ghigna (Mice Are Nice), Ian Falconer (Olivia), and Lane Smith (It’s a Book; The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales).
  • It’s the birth date of Bret Harte (1836-1902), The Queen of the Pirate Isle, and Walt Kelly (1913-1973), Pogo.
  • In 1835 the New York Sun newspaper perpetrates the Great Moon Hoax. Read The Great Moon Hoax by Stephan Krensky, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon.
  • Best birthday wishes to the United States National Park Service, created in 1916. Read M is for Majestic by David Domeniconi, illustrated by Pam Carroll.
  • Other books to read in honor of the 1944 liberation of Paris from the Nazis by the Allies include Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight, and Dodsworth in Paris by Tim Egan.
  • It’s Kiss and Make Up Day. Read Counting Kisses by Karen Katz, and Funny You Should Ask: How to Make Up Jokes and Riddles with Wordplay by Marvin Terban, illustrated by John O’Brien.

At dawn on August 25, 1944, the Second French Armored Division entered Paris, ending the German occupation. Charles de Galle led a parade that day down the Champs Elysees. Although Hitler had ordered the destruction of the city, the occupying German officer ignored that decree and surrendered instead.

The book of the day, This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek, focuses on none of these amazing historic events. What it presents, in full glorious color, is a tribute to the City of Lights. But certainly the author had been a witness to many of the events in Europe during World War II and immediately afterward.

After the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, Sasek left his homeland and studied first in Paris before eventually settling in Munich. While he worked for Radio Free Europe, he noticed that tourists were often ill-prepared for sightseeing. So he wrote his first travel guide for families in 1959, This is Paris. Because of the book’s success, Sasek created a series with thirteen addition titles, on places such as London, Rome, and New York.

Sasek renders the buildings of Paris in images pleasing to the eye, but he also focuses on the people of the city. He incorporates stamps, currency, flags, costumes, and customs. He had a penchant for white space and bold color. Although adults can enjoy everything about this large, oversized book, Sasek focused on details of interest to children. This is Paris begins by introducing readers to the cats of the city and then shows street artists, the bird market, and the cemetery for dogs. In sixty pages he presents the highlights of Paris, providing just enough information to send readers off to other sources. Simply looking at this book makes me want to contact a travel agent, immediately.

But like all nonfiction, Sasek’s titles became inaccurate over time. After forty years This Was Paris would have been a better title for our book of the day. Hence by the time I published Children’s Books and Their Creators in 1995 I had to say, sadly, that these gems were out of print. Fortunately, the art book publisher Rizzo brought This is Paris back into print in 2004. They retained the large size of the book, captured the color and quality of the artwork, and printed the images on a beautiful cream paper. The resulting book sets higher standards for production than the original American edition. Using an asterisk to indicate facts that have changed, the publisher provides an updated “This is Paris…Today” section on current facts.

Now “it’s your turn to see Paris with your own eyes,” Sasek writes at the end of his book. For anyone traveling to the city, or anyone who wants to provide lessons in culture and geography, no finer book exists than this one. I’m so happy the children of this generation have a chance to look at this incredible example of graphic design and information brought together.

But why am I still writing? Get me on a plane to the City of Lights!

Here’s a page from This is Paris:

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Originally posted August 25, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Geography, History, Paris
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for This is Paris
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COMMENTS

  1. We love these books in our house! We spent the summer in Italy, and my kids pored over This is Rome and This is Venice before we left. Now they love revisiting the places in those books. So wonderful!

  2. Mary D says:

    The one we have is This Is Ireland, because we’re of Irish heritage. A little out of date, yes, but what we want most to remember is included. and the illustrations are really charming. There is a droll humor as well. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near sixty pages. Maybe he knew Paris better.

  3. In the January of 1961, when I was 8, my family moved to Europe, first to Paris for 6 months and then to London for four years. In preparation for the trip, I remember pouring over two books repeatedly. The first was “This is Paris” and the second was “Eloise in Paris.” When I arrived there was a familiarity to everything new. Needless to say, when the family decided to move to London, I spent a lot of time with “This is London.” Anita, thanks for the memories.

  4. Anita says:

    Peter: I never realized you spent some time in Europe as a child. Thanks for sharing your journey with these books.

  5. G.Perry says:

    These look fantastic. I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

    Thanks Anita!

  6. Many many years ago I weeded this title from a library I worked in because it was so dated–and I’ve felt guilty ever since, because the books are so beautiful. Glad they’ve been reissued! The whole series is terrific.

  7. J. Conlon says:

    Just last week I was weeding out some very old country books in our school library. I came across one of the “This Is” books. I set it on the weeding cart. Then I came across more of the books and decided, “No, I think I’ll keep them.” Off the weeding cart and back on the shelf went the book! Because I saw an article about your website in the newspaper, I checked out the Children’s Book Almanac. There were the books I tried to weed! How cool is that?!

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