Before we visit new countries with our children, we like to discover literature that inspires travel. There are many fabulous novels about Paris or books set in France, but we’ve narrowed it down to the best books set in France your kids will want to read. Here are books we would recommend sharing with your children (or reading yourself) before you visit France. And if you’re looking for more help with your Paris trip planning, don’t miss our posts about the best things to do in Paris, the best places for families to stay in Paris, and the best playgrounds in Paris. If you’re looking for other regions, we have posts about Alsace, Provence, and the Dordogne too!
Best Children’s Books to Read Before a Visit to France
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This post originally appeared in July 2014, but was updated in January 2018.
Best France and Paris books for children (young readers and to read aloud)
Cezanne and the Apple Boy by Laurence Anholt
This beautifully illustrated children’s book is part of Anholt’s famous artists book series for kids. It recounts a wonderful adventure experienced by Paul, a little boy who is named after his father, Paul Cézanne. The elder Cézanne had been away from home for so long that the boy has difficulty recognizing his father when he joins him on a painting expedition in the mountains of southern France. They quickly become friends, and the artist takes great pleasure in painting a portrait of his apple-cheeked son. Most of his paintings, however, are landscapes of the mountain country where they are camping, although the people who live nearby often laugh at the artist’s pictures, which they think are poor. But young Paul admires his father’s work, -and he is not alone. A picture dealer from Paris happens to be in the region, and when he sees Cézanne’s paintings, he thinks they are wonderful. Before long, Cézanne becomes famous and wealthy.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
With its endearing, courageous heroine, cheerful humor, and wonderful, whimsical drawings of Paris, the Madeline stories are true classics that continue to charm readers, even after 75 years!
A Walk in Monet’s Garden by Francesca Crespi
This beautiful book gives a fold-out tour of Monet’s home and gardens includes liftable flaps, screens that unfold, pull-out buildings, and a figure of Monet at an easel, in a collection that is reminiscent of the artist’s original works.
Dodsworth in Paris by Tim Egan
Dodsworth and his (crazy) friend the duck have just arrived in Paris. It is their first time in the City of Lights, and they are ready for some adventures! Right away they see mimes, painters, and people wearing berets. They climb the Eiffel Tower, and the duck even finds some bent-over guy who rings bells for a living. It looks like it is going to turn out to be a great vacation in Paris, but trouble is never far from a misbehaving duck!
Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson
Here’s the thing of it: Paris has just been discovered by Eloise the little girl from the Plaza. Here is what Eloise does in Paris: everything. If you come to Paris with Eloise you will always be glad you did.
Anatole by Eve Titus
Anatole is a most honorable mouse. When he realizes that humans are upset by mice sampling their leftovers, he is shocked! He must provide for his family, but he is determined to find a way to earn his supper. And so he heads for the tasting room at the Duvall Cheese Factory. On each cheese, he leaves a small note–“good,” “not so good,” “needs orange peel”–and signs his name. When workers at the Duvall factory find his notes in the morning, they are perplexed, but they realize that this mysterious Anatole has an exceptional palate and take his advice. Soon Duvall is making the best cheese in all of Paris! They would like to give Anatole a reward, if only they could find him!
E is for Eiffel Tower: A France Alphabet by Helen L. Wilbur
From its achievements in architecture (Chartres Cathedral), science (Louis Pasteur), and literature (Marcel Proust), the country of France has had a profound impact on the world. E is for Eiffel Tower: A France Alphabet explores its venerable history and cultural heritage.
Best books about Paris for grade school readers
Flat Stanley transports kids to Paris with his latest adventure. Not only will kids love going on a fun adventure with Stanley, this book has fun, fascinating facts about Paris in the back of the book, and is perfect for kids who love learning about other cultures.
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Armand, an old Parisian living on the streets of Paris, relished his solitary life. He begged and did odd jobs for money to keep himself warm and fed, and he liked his carefree life. Then one day just before Christmas, a struggling mother and her three children walked into his life. Though he tried to ignore their troubles, Armand soon found himself caring for the family and sharing his unusual home under the bridge with them. It did not take Armand very long to realize that he had gotten himself ready-made family; one that he loved with all his heart, and one for whom he would have to find a better home than the bridge.
Kiki & Coco in Paris by Nina Gruener
Kiki loves Coco, her cloth doll. Coco loves Kiki, her girl. The two are never apart. It’s as if they were made for each other. Together they travel to Paris and delight in the city of lights. But then Coco is separated from Kiki. Will she ever see her girl again? This sweet story about a doll and her girl, inspired by the lovely photography of Stephanie Rausser and a real hand-made doll created by doll maker Jess Brown, will charm readers of all ages.
Secret Agent Jack Stalwart: The Mystery of the Mona Lisa: France Book 3 by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
In The Mystery of the Mona Lisa, Jack is sent to the Louvre Museum in Paris to track down the theft of the world’s most beloved painting. He must match wits with a seemingly invisible mastermind in order to stop Leonardo’s masterpiece from slipping into the criminal underground forever. Can Jack’s Hypo-Disk overpower a glove that shoots laser beams from its fingertips? Jack’s adventures in the city of light demonstrate once again that when it comes to outsmarting the baddies, Jack is the go-to agent with endless tricks up his sleeve.
City Trails Paris by Lonely Planet
Here’s a book about Paris that’s seriously streetwise! Marco and Amelia, the Lonely Planet explorers, take you off the tourist trail and guide you on a journey through Paris you’ll never forget. This book is perfect for anyone who is planning a trip to Paris or is just interested in finding out more about this amazing city! Discover Paris’s best-kept secrets, amazing stories and loads of other cool stuff from the comfort of your own home, or while out and about in the city.
Night of the New Magicians, Magic Treehouse #35 by Mary Pope Osborne
Merlin sends Jack and Annie on a mysterious mission to Paris, France, over a 100 years ago. There they must find four magicians and give them an urgent message from Merlin himself. When Jack and Annie travel to Paris, they make their way to the 1889 World’s Fair. When they visit the Eiffel Tower, built especially for the fair, there are thousands of exhibits from all over the world. But how will Jack and Annie find the magicians in the crowds of people? And who are the magicians anyway? Jack and Annie are about to find out in another adventure filled with history, magic, and amazing surprises!
The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot by Alice Provensen
Winner of the Caldecott Medal, this stunningly illustrated book depicts Louis Bleriot’s historic first cross-Channel flight.
Who Was Marie Antoinette? by Dana Meachan Rau
Taking the kids to Versailles? If so, this book is a must read before any visit as it tells the story of Marie Antoinette in a way children will understand. From the palaces of Austria to the mirrored halls of Versailles, Marie Antoinette led a charmed life. She was born into royalty in 1755 and married the future king of France at age 15. By 21 she ascended to the throne and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle of masquerade balls, sky-high wigs, and extravagant food. But her taste for excess ruffled many feathers. The poor people of France blamed Marie Antoinette for their poverty. Her spending helped incite the French Revolution. And after much public outcry, in 1793 she quite literally lost her head because of it. Whether she was blameless or guilty is debatable, but Marie Antoinette remains woven into the fabric of history and popular culture.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Richard Howard
Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as The Little Prince. Richard Howard’s translation of the beloved classic beautifully reflects Saint-Exupéry’s unique and gifted style.
Thea Stilton and the Mystery in Paris by Thea Stilton
Geronimo Stilton’s Geronimo’s adventurous sister Thea narrates this fabulous adventure that’s packed with action, mystery, and friendship! In this book, the Thea Sisters travel to Paris to visit Colette’s fashion-designer friend Julie. But when Julie’s designs are suddenly stolen, the girls must search the city of Paris to catch the thief and save the fashion show. Readers will love following the clues to help the Thea Sisters solve the mystery!
Kids Books About Paris and France for Middle School
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
This classic translation of the famous French novel by Dumas will have your kids dreaming about being one of the king’s guardsmen in no time.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by his own damnation. Shaped by a profound sense of tragic irony, it is a work that gives full play to the author’s brilliant imagination.
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg
Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife to two kings, mother to two others, has been waiting in Heaven a long time — eight centuries, more or less — to be reunited with her second husband, Henry II of England. Finally, the day has come when Henry will be judged for admission. While Eleanor, never a patient woman in life or afterlife, waits, three people, each of whom was close to Eleanor during a time of her life, join her. Their reminiscences do far more than help distract Eleanor — they also paint a rich portrait of an extraordinary woman who was front and center in a remarkable period in history and whose accomplishments have had an important influence on society through the ages.
The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles by Kathryn Lasky
To forge an incredibly powerful political alliance, thirteen-year-old Marie Antoinette of Austria is betrothed to Dauphin Louis Auguste, who will one day be the king of France. To prepare her for this awesome responsibility, she must be trained to write, read, speak French, dress, act . . . even breathe. Things become more difficult for her when she is separated from her family and sent to the court of Versailles to meet her future husband. Opinionated and headstrong Marie Antoinette must find a way to fit in at the royal court, and get along with her fiancé. The future of Austria and France falls upon her shoulders. But as she lives a luxurious life inside the palace gates, out on the streets the people of France face hunger and poverty. Through the pages of her diary, Marie captures the isolation, the lavish parties and gowns, her struggle to find her place, and the years leading up her ascendance to the throne . . . and a revolution.
The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins, A World War II Soldier by Walter Dean Myers
A historical novel presents the thoughts of a young soldier during war while capturing the feelings of being in battle through the sights, sounds, and struggles he experiences at the battle of Normandy during World War II.
Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
Best French Novels to read before a trip
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
A heart-wrenching, gripping novel about two sisters in Belle Époque Paris and the young woman forever immortalized as muse for Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin
In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France–a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear. Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family’s business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of its buyer’s private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat‘s every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
Set in the lush countryside of Provence, Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern is an atmospheric modern gothic tale of love, suspicion, and murder, in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Drawn to a wealthy older man, Eve embarks on a whirlwind romance that soon offers a new life and a new home—Les Genévriers, a charming hamlet amid the fragrant lavender fields of Provence. But Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house. The more reluctant Dom is to tell her about his past, the more she is drawn to it—and to the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful ex-wife. An evocative tale of romantic and psychological suspense, The Lantern masterfully melds past and present, secrets and lies, appearances and disappearances—along with our age-old fear of the dark.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January’s frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. A Year in Provence is a novel about France that transports us into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.
Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
Moving back and forth in time, the story unfolds through intimate and thrilling tales of self-discovery, divided loyalty, and long-kept secrets. As various characters come of age, seek their fortunes, and fall in and out of love, the novel follows nobles who claim descent from the hero of the celebrated poem The Song of Roland; a humble family that embodies the ideals of the French Revolution; a pair of brothers from the slums behind Montmartre, one of whom works on the Eiffel Tower as the other joins the underworld near the Moulin Rouge; and merchants who lose everything during the reign of Louis XV, rise again in the age of Napoleon, and help establish Paris as the great center of art and culture that it is today. With Rutherfurd’s unrivaled blend of impeccable research and narrative verve, this bold novel brings the sights, scents, and tastes of the City of Light to brilliant life.
The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers
There is something very special about Agnès Morel. A quiet presence in the small French town of Chartres, she can usually be found cleaning the famed medieval cathedral or doing odd jobs for the townspeople. No one knows where she came from or why. Not diffident Abbé Paul, nor lonely Professor Jones, nor even Alain Fleury, whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes. She has transformed all their lives in her own subtle way, yet no one suspects the dark secret Agnès is hiding. Then an accidental encounter dredges up the specter of her past, and the nasty meddling of town gossips forces Agnès to confront her tragic history and the violent act that haunts it.
Captive Queen by Alison Weir
Nearing her thirtieth birthday, Eleanor of Aquitaine has spent the past dozen frustrating years as wife to the pious King Louis VII of France. But when Henry of Anjou, the young and dynamic future king of England, arrives at the French court, he and the seductive Eleanor experience a mutual passion powerful enough to ignite the world. Indeed, after the annulment of Eleanor’s marriage to Louis and her remarriage to Henry, the union of this royal couple creates a vast empire that stretches from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees—and marks the beginning of the celebrated Plantagenet dynasty. But Henry and Eleanor’s marriage, charged with physical heat, begins a fiery downward spiral marred by power struggles and bitter betrayals. Amid the rivalries and infidelities, the couple’s rebellious sons grow impatient for power, and the scene is set for a vicious and tragic conflict that will threaten to engulf them all.