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Marketplace: Adventure novels that promise to make travel exciting for kids

‘Cities of Adventure’ is a series of travel guides set in various destinations that aims to bring each city alive for young readers.

The next time you travel with your children, what if, instead of blah looks, eye rolls and tantrums, they were as enthusiastic as you about exploring a city? No, we aren’t talking about any magic here, just perhaps the charm of a well-written book that might cast a spell on your young one. Rishi Piparaiya, who has written humorous books about the triumphs and perils of being a frequent flyer (Aisle Be Damned) and the corporate world (Job Be Damned), and calls himself a Mentor Capitalist, has recently launched a new series for kids titled Cities of Adventure.

Meant for middle-grade readers, aged eight to 12 years, they are unique travel guides of sorts, but with all the drab facts of a city melded into an action-packed adventure. Each story incorporates the city’s spirit, attractions, and experiences. Piparaiya, dad to two kids himself, understands the need for such a book series. By making travel information entertaining, he hopes to spark curiosity about the various destinations. The aim is to help parents enthuse their kids about an upcoming trip as well as to help keep them engaged during travel by giving them a story that immerses them in the city they are visiting.

Rishi Piparaiya, author, cities of adventure
To research these books, author Rishi Piparaiya travelled 75,000 km, covered 55 cities, walked 1.7 million steps, clicked thousands of photographs, and jotted reams of notes over five months in 2019.

Already well travelled and having lived in many parts of the world as part of his corporate career, Pipraiya wanted to do complete justice to the series, to see the world with a fresh perspective. So, in 2019, he and his wife set out on a five-month journey. They travelled 75,000 km, covered 55 cities, walked 1.7 million steps, clicked thousands of photographs, and jotted reams of notes. He has personally visited almost every attraction that he is writing about. The last two years were spent putting it all together and getting a global team to help with the editing, illustrations and design for the first three books in the series, which are now available on Amazon.

Each adventure – rescuing a mythical creature in Washington DC, saving a Hollywood star in Los Angeles, or hunting for a stolen artifact in Melbourne lets kids discover the city’s landmarks, legends, language, and cuisine – all without realising that they have been learning. Next up, he’s working on similar guides to New York, Copenhagen, Istanbul, London, and Tokyo. 

Children, travel, cities of adventure
The adventures keep children engaged. They learn about a city without even realising it! Image: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio.

How the adventure began

We talked to author Rishi Piparaiya to get some deeper insights on the series. Excerpts from the interview…

1. How was the idea for this travel adventure series born?
It’s a long story. A few years ago, I went over to a friend’s house and was intrigued at what he was doing. He was Googling things to do in Paris, taking print outs and preparing a docket for his kids with facts and data about French history, Parisian attractions, etc. All in preparation for their upcoming family holiday. He was cribbing that these holidays are such a waste of time and money because no matter where he takes his kids, they eventually want to spend time in parks or beaches. “I might as well take them to Chowpatty or Hanging Gardens!” he complained. So, he was trying to put together something that would get them interested in Paris. I identified with his problem – it was the same with so many parents, including me, and I got thinking about how this could be addressed. His boring docket filled with facts and figures indeed was not the answer. But maybe writing an adventure story that incorporates all the data but is yet fun to read could be. And that’s what got me started on this project.

Rishi Piparaiya, author, cities of adventure
The author at work. Illustration: Courtesy Rishi Piparaiya/Cities of Adventure.

2. How many books have been published, and how many do you envisage for the series? How long does each book take from start to finish?
Three have been published so far, and various other books are in the pipeline. It has taken me close to five years to get to this stage, but many books are now in different stages of completion, so I am happy about where I am. It takes about six to nine months for each book because there are so many aspects – writing, research, illustrations, cover design, and my first-hand travel to the location. I envisage 12 books to start with for the series. And if it gains acceptance, I hope to cover many more destinations – there are so many Cities of Adventure for kids to explore!

3. When you visited each of the cities, how did you research them from the point of view of the book?
I essentially tried to see attractions from the perspective of a bored child! Yes, the ABC museum may be boring, but is there some exhibit that would be particularly interesting for children? And then how do I weave that in into a story? Are there some myths and legends about the city that would intrigue them? What food items might they like? So, it was no longer about what I would enjoy but what kids might find interesting. I also drew extensively on the expertise and knowledge of residents of the cities with whom I had done a lot of primary research. We had discussed ideas and how to weave them all together, so I was armed with a lot of information before my travels. It is not easy finding a balance between what children should know about a city versus what they would like to know. But that’s what I have tried to find through the medium of stories.

4. How do you put yourself in a child’s shoes? How is their view different from an adult’s, in your opinion?
I think children are a lot more observant, curious and impatient than adults. You either get their attention quickly, or you don’t. And that is why this entire endeavour is about taking information and packaging it in a form that will get their attention. I want children to see the world and its history, culture and monuments with interest and curiosity. It isn’t easy to see the world from their perspective – I hope I have done a good job. But time and the readers will tell!

5. What’s your target demographic, apart from the suggested age group?  
I honestly think that anyone interested in travel and curious about different cities and cultures will find these books interesting. They are easy reads, around 20,000 words each, and nicely illustrated. One can be transported to Melbourne or Los Angeles, or Copenhagen in a few hours. And when you are done, you will have a heightened awareness and affinity for the city from when you started.

6. Are you planning spinoffs such as merchandise and maybe even film or OTT adaptations for these stories?
I definitely daydream about all of this happening and would love to explore this with the right partners. The priority right now, though, is to get readers to discover these books and get some feedback.

7. What did your own kids have to say about these books? Are you the coolest dad now?
Well, they have read all of them and claim to have enjoyed them! But they are reaching that age where no matter what I do, they will roll their eyes and groan. So, I don’t know if they are privately preening to their friends, but for them, I am still their cheesy, somewhat eccentric Poppy!

Cities of Adventure: The journey.

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