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A Book Tour of Paris for Teens

ciaofornow from Toronto

I traveled to Paris with my teenagers last summer before they entered University. One is studying history, the other curatorial administration, so the museum itinerary and reading material below reflect their studies and interests.

Books marked *YA will be shelved in the Adult section of the library but are appropriate for older teens. Most books are available in paperback.

F=fiction, NF=non-fiction


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Planes, Trains & Carte Orange ~ Toronto to Paris

Postcards from France, Megan McNeill Libby, 1998
Megan Libby chronicled her year as a sixteen year old exchange student in France. She runs the gamut from aching homesickness to language debacles. NF

What's French For 'EW', Katie Maxwell, 2004
Light and hilarious reading as sixteen year old Emily journals her trip to Paris. F

Paris Metro; A Ticket To French History, Susan Plotkin, 2001
This book begins with a chapter on the history of the Paris Metro, but it really focuses on the stories behind the Metro station names and decorative styles which were chosen to commemorate everything from the Storming of the Bastille to the men and women of the French Resistance in WW2. All ages. NF

Asterix The Gaul, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
This is the first book in an intelligent, clever and funny comic book series first published in France in 1961. To the best of our knowledge Asterix never made it to Paris (not counting the theme park!) but his further adventures outlined in Asterix in Britain or Asterix & Cleopatra should help time fly. All ages. F

Medieval France

Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, La Conciergerie, Sainte-Chappelle ~ Ile de la Cité

The Red Keep, Allen French, 1997
An adventure tale of knights and robbers in the French countryside, with details on castle life, knighthood and chivalry. F

Cathedral, The Story of Its Construction, David Macaulay, 1995
How Gothic cathedrals in France were built - from the foundations to the vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses and those incredibly cool gargoyles. All ages. NF

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, E. L. Konigsburg, 2001
Eleanor of Aquitaine was queen of both France and England, mom of Richard the Lionhearted, a gutsy traveler and even a political prisoner for 15 years. Phew! This is not a conventional bio; Konigsburg adds a clever twist and a slightly irreverent Eleanor recounts her life from a cloud in heaven as she awaits her husband, Henry II of England. F

A Company of Fools, Deborah Ellis, 2002
Its 1348 and as the horrors of the Black Death plague approach an abbey in Paris, two choirboys band together as the "Company of Fools" to bring some joy to a world that's really needing a lift. Despite the ominous setting, this is a humorous tale of friendship and adventure. F

Art and Cultured Stuff

Musée de Louvre ~ 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001
Centre Pompidou ~ Place Georges Pompidou, 75004

The Annotated Mona Lisa; A Crash Course in Art History, Carol Strickland, 1992
A neat book, not about a single painting but actually a snappy layman's overview of the major western art periods from prehistory to the near present. Tons of illustrations and sidebars, busy and interesting. All ages. NF

Becoming Mona Lisa, Donald Sassoon, 2001
A biography of the world's most famous painting. The author details her creation over 500 years ago, her 'kidnapping' from the Louvre in 1911 and today's ubiquitous marketing. The lineups confirm that La Joconde (the French version of the Italian name for the Mona Lisa, La Gioconda, meaning "the playful one") still 'holds court' at the Louvre in Paris. All ages NF

The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, 2003
Okay, okay, we admit we roamed the Louvre with our heads down observing the parquet floors and looking for the Prime Meridian marker in the courtyard . then we moved on to Sainte Sulpice. Nuff said. *YA F

Royalty and Revolution

Château de Versailles ~ outskirts of Paris

To Dance With Kings, A Novel of Versailles, Rosalind Laker, 1988
A very descriptive novel set in both the village and palace at Versailles. It follows the lives of four generations of women who are involved in the art of fan making and who become swept up in the day to day life of the French court. *YA F

Orange Trees of Versailles, Annie Pietri, 2004
At Versailles, Marion Dutilleul, the gardener's daughter, makes exquisite perfumes for the courtiers of Louis XIV. Translated from French and with some neat details on the science of perfume making. F

Marie Antoinette, Antonia Fraser, 2003
We liked this hefty biography. It was well written and a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the doomed French queen. *YA NF

The Golden Hour, Maiya Williams, 2004
Thirteen-year-old Rowan and his 11-year-old sister Nina are sent to live with their eccentric aunts and discover a 'time traveler' elevator in an abandoned summer resort. They hurtle back to Paris circa 1789 and arrive during the French Revolution. F

The Lost King of France, Deborah Cadbury, 2004
The mystery surrounding the death of Marie Antoinette's young son, the Dauphin was finally solved in 2004 using DNA evidence. Some chapters bordered on the overly scientific but the personal story was compelling and made our visit to Versailles and the Conciergerie all the more poignant. *YA NF

War and Strife

Les Invalides ~ Esplanade des Invalides, 75007
Commissioned by Louis XIV as a home for injured soldiers, this site also houses the Musée de l'Armee dedicated to the military campaigns of Napoleon and the French War Museum chronicling The Great War and WW2.

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Sandra Gulland, 1999
Written in journal format, this novel opens on a plantation in Martinique and follows the fascinating life of the complex woman who would become Josephine Bonaparte. First of a trilogy. *YA F

Private Peaceful, Michael Morpugo, 2001
The compelling story of two underage teens who sign up to fight in WW1. The book details 24 hours in war torn France with flashbacks to Private Thomas Peaceful's former life in England. F

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks, 1997
For young adults, a realistic evocation of France during the First World War. *YA F

The Pied Piper, Nevil Shute, 1942
A classic. During the summer of 1940, an elderly Englishman on holiday agrees to ferry two young children out of France. As the war closes in, more children join the trek to the coast and hoped for safety. F

The Forger, Paul Watkins, 2000
On the eve of WW 2, a talented young painter is convinced to duplicate the master paintings housed in the museums of Paris before the German army invades the city. *YA F

Life In The French Foreign Legion, Evan McGorman, 2000
Everything you ever wanted to know about the French Foreign Legion. Author McGorman chronicles his less then glamorous tenure with some astonishing detail and wit. *YA NF

Tomorrow To Be Brave; Memoir of The Only Woman To Serve In The French Foreign Legion, Susan Travers, 2001
The amazing adventure story of an Englishwoman (she grew up in France) who joined the FFL during WW2. Travers was awarded the Croix de Guerre and died in 2003 at age 94. *YA NF

The Last Life, Claire Messud, 1999
Sagesse LaBasse, a French -Algerian teenager narrates this novel that shifts between the south of France and Algeria in the 1960's. She examines her family's expatriate life after a tragic event shatters her world. *YA F


Musée d'Orsay ~ 1 rue de Bellechasse, 75007
Musée Marmottan Monet ~ 2 rue Louis-Boilly, 75016

Lydia Cassett Reading Her Morning Paper, Harriett Chessman, 2002
Set in Paris during the age of the Impressionists, this novel offers a glimpse into world of artist Mary Cassett. Lydia Cassett was her older sister and frequent model even throughout her devastating illness. Interspersed with color photos of Cassett's paintings. *YA NF

Strapless, John Singer Sargent and The Fall of Madame X, Deborah Davis, 2003
Artist Singer Sargent's burgeoning career almost ended after the 1884 Paris exhibit of his "scandalous" painting of society belle, Madame Gautreau. He dutifully repainted in the strap of her dress and today the painting resides peacefully in the New York Metropolitan Art Museum. *YA NF

Linnea in Monet's Garden, Christina Bjork, 1985
A creative scrapbook format full of photos and paintings that document young Linnea's travels to Paris and and Monet's Giverny. All ages!

Belle Epoch

Musée Jacquemart-Andre ~ 158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008
Tour Eiffel ~ Champ de Mars, 75007

The Tallest Tower, Eiffel & The Belle Epoch, Joseph Harris, 2001
Despite vigorous nay saying, the Tour Eiffel was easily the star of the 1889 Paris Exposition which incidentally was organized to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. Neat historical photographs. All ages NF

Gigi, Colette, 1945
The debonair Gaston discovers that he is in love with a young Parisian girl who is being groomed for a career as a grande cocotte. Colette was the pen name of the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (January 28, 1873 - August 3, 1954). The Jacquemart-Andre mansion was the stand-in for Gaston's estate in the widely popular film version. *YA F

My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle, Marcel Pagnol, 1986
A memoir of a Provencal boyhood in turn-of-the century France. Narrated by 10 year old Marcel who grew up to become a film director in the 1930's. A classic. NF

Fashion and Style

Musée Galliera ~ 10 avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 75116
Musée de la mode et le costume

A Guide To Elegance; For Every woman Who Wants To Be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions, Madame Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, 1964 reissue 2003
This little gem seems old fashioned to us today but was a fantastic "history" lesson before we visited the costume museum! *YA NF

Coco Chanel, Her Style and Her Life, Janet Wallach, 1998
We were going to Paris after all. Fashion icon Chanel constantly changed her 'look' and persona as revealed in the BW photos. Her boutique at No. 31 rue Cambon, near the Ritz hotel has sold couture since 1921. *YA NF


Picnic ~ Jardin du Luxembourg ~ 15 rue de Vaugirard, 75006

Cooking For Kings: The Life Of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef, Ian Kelly, 2004
Careme survived the French Revolution to become the world's highest paid cook, famous for his extravagant excess (and inventing the chef's hat!). One dinner menu was made up of over 100 dishes, with 80 soups, 40 entrees and 16 desserts! He even created Napoleon's wedding cake. *YA NF

Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen, Kate Taylor, 2003
This novel skillfully weaves the lives of three women and spans the 20th century; Madame Jeanne Proust, mother of Marcel, Sarah, a young Parisian refugee who is sent to Canada in 1942 and Marie who is translating a trove of documents that contain Jeanne Proust's turn of the century diaries. *YA F


Slow Travel Italy - A Book Tour of Italy for Kids: An annotated book tour of Italy, by region, for children, by Ciaofornow.

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