A children’s guide from Melbourne-based travel book publisher Lonely Planet was directly responsible for saving the lives of three Australian boys stuck in the Queensland mud flats during a family camping trip in January. Written by Joel Levy, Not-for-Parents: How to Be a World Explorer: Your All-Terrain Manual provides tips on such topics as how to navigate by the stars, start a fire, fight a bear, tame a camel, and escape from quicksand. Fortuitously, that last bit of info was fresh in the memory of one of the youngsters, nine-year-old Vasco Gonsalves, who received a copy of the October 2012 release as a Christmas gift.
“I got out because of the book,” Gonsalves told his local paper, the Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette, recalling what happened after he found himself waist-deep in mud, while his two companions, ages six and 11, were buried up to their chins in the mud. “The book said to lean back and lift my legs and bring them up, roll over and swim back,” he recalled. “And I got out and ran to tell my mum and the other mums and dads.” Thanks to his quick thinking and acting, his two friends were also rescued.
Lonely Planet has published 11 Not-for-Parents titles, in 23 languages, since the fall 2011 debut of this series aimed at readers ages eight to 11. Some of the books are locale-specific guides (to Paris, London, Rome, New York, and other cities), while others, including The Travel Book and Extreme Planet, are more general in scope. The publisher expects to release another six Not-for-Parents books next fall. In 2014, Lonely Planet plans to continue to grow this series as well as publish titles for younger readers.
“We launched the series because we saw a gap in the market,” says Piers Pickard, Lonely Planet’s publishing director of trade, reference, and language, who manages the company’s children’s publishing program from its London office. “There are lots of great kids’ books on history, science, and the natural world, but there aren’t many about the world today and its peoples, cultures, sports, foods, and customs. The Not-for-Parents books aren’t travel books per se. They are books for curious-minded kids that show them the planet from a point of view they can relate to.”
The diverse information collected in How to Be a World Explorer was gleaned from far-reaching sources, Pickard explains. “At Lonely Planet, we have an incredible body of knowledge about the world to draw on. We have 200-plus writers who are constantly traveling the far reaches of the planet, so coming up with the structure for the book was easy.”
Pickard considers author Levy, a science and history writer, the ideal person to have pulled the information together. “He has a great talent for explaining complex how-to content in an accessible way, especially when paired with lots of illustrations. Then the whole book was checked by a professional expedition leader during the editing stage to check that it rang true.”
When Pickard was asked if he was gratified to learn that How to Be a World Explorer had a life-saving impact on a young reader, he answered, “It made my day, it made my week, it made my month. The purpose of books is to spread a bit of happiness, and our books especially are supposed to help people, often in tight situations. But to have saved the lives of three kids? That is amazing. It is so gratifying – it makes me grin every time I think about it.”
Not-for-Parents: How to Be a World Explorer: Your All-Terrain Manual by Joel Levy. Lonely Planet, $17.99 Oct. 2012 ISBN 978-1-74321-425-1