London, in Media, for Children
July 16, 2017 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Micro McGee, 6, has a new obsession: London. I sympathize because I share this obsession, but it didn't get so intense for me until I was a teenager! Help me come up with classic children's novels/books, adult books that he could comprehend, TV shows, documentaries, and other media (websites, apps) about London that he would enjoy.

"My favorite parts of London are Great Fire of London, the double-decker buses, the subway, and the Big Ben. I'm going to move to London when I grow up!" he says. He full of information about St. Paul's dome and Christopher Wren and the Queen and Trafalgar Square and St. Edward the Confessor and he has a totally voracious mind for facts and recites them back constantly!

I am trying to remember all the children's novels (like Ballet Shoes!) that had a strong sense of place in London that could be read-alouds. He also has enjoyed a lot of documentaries we've found on Netflix and Amazon about the Tube, the Chunnel, the Tower, etc. I'd love to find a (video) history of London (or Britain) pitched at children. Fun YouTube videos. Family TV serieses set in London. We have a pretty good selection of picture books about London and he browses London on Google Maps ALL. THE. TIME. I can sucker him into watching prestige TV with me as long as it's set in London. Factual things about Britain in general he will probably enjoy; fictional things he will probably want all-London.

PG is best although I don't mind glancing past some PG-13 elements for something really good!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Paddington Bear?
posted by aniola at 4:50 PM on July 16, 2017 [7 favorites]

Cycle superhighways?
posted by aniola at 4:58 PM on July 16, 2017

Madeline in London?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's the London WikiProject.
posted by aniola at 5:16 PM on July 16, 2017

This is prime age to start a kid on Doctor Who. The New Series seasons 1-4 involve London pretty frequently.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:21 PM on July 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

Does he already play the London maps on GeoGuessr? I bet he'd like that.
posted by brainwane at 5:26 PM on July 16, 2017

In case the documentaries you've found don't include these: London Transport Museum's film collection/British Transport Films, like "The Third Sam" (more info). I like the London On The Move collection.
posted by brainwane at 5:34 PM on July 16, 2017

Response by poster: Paddington Bear and Madeline are a little young; he's reading short chapter books on his own (Captain Underpants), and likes big chapter books for his read-alouds (Harry Potter, Redwall, etc.).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:34 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you have Mirolav Sasek's This is London?
posted by thomas j wise at 5:44 PM on July 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Candidate for read-aloud: Terry Pratchett's Dodger, perhaps accompanied by Terry Pratchett Presents Dodger’s Guide to London.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:46 PM on July 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

For classic fictional books and movies--101 Dalmations and Mary Poppins are set in London. I think a lot of the Roald Dahl books are also set in London.
posted by bookmammal at 5:48 PM on July 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

For Britain more generally/historically, would he be interested in something like David Macaulay's Castle?

The original Paddington books are short-chapter books; I remember enjoying them at that age, even as I found the TV show a little babyish. Another possibility is the Wombles series, which is set in Wimbledon Common.

Mary Poppins and 101 Dalmatians -- books and movies -- are set in London (on preview: jinx!). Also, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Young Sherlock Holmes.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 5:53 PM on July 16, 2017

Not really geared to kids, but he might enjoy the Spitalfields Life blog, which aims to chronicle life in the East London neighborhood of Spitalfields. There are many historical posts, usually with loads of pictures.

As a sample, here is a post about Cockney Cats, with photos of cats around London in 1953
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:03 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

if you can get your hands on them and you seem pretty broad minded about it, but the 80s TV shows Minder and Only Fools and Horses (which carried on well into the 90s) are very much of London (and of their time it has to be said). Plus the child will become fluent in Cockney Rhyming Slang, which for me is the epitome of London.
posted by iboxifoo at 6:09 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Londonist has a Secrets of the Underground video series. Each video is a tantalising five minutes or so and is led by an engaging host. There are also maps!
posted by mdonley at 6:25 PM on July 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know if Un Lun Dun is going to be too mature for the miniMcGees.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:39 PM on July 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're prepared to tackle the period issues, A Little Princess is set in a London boarding-school.
posted by praemunire at 6:47 PM on July 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Danger Mouse made me fall in love with London at that age.
posted by slightlybewildered at 6:52 PM on July 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sherlock Holmes lived and detected in London, and I found the tales very atmospheric,

There are tons of Holmes-themed tours of London, but I didn't run across any virtual ones, though surely they must exist.
posted by jamjam at 6:59 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

With some explanation, possibly Mornington Crescent? E.g. 1, 2, 3, or 4.
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:59 PM on July 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I came to recommend the Londonist youtube channel as well. And Geoff Marshall, the host, has his own channel with more intensive transportation videos.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:05 PM on July 16, 2017

I am DELIGHTED that no one before me has brought up E.E. Nesbit! A vast majority of her books are either set in London proper or travel to London or have London somewhere in the environs thereof.
posted by corb at 7:34 PM on July 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Try "The Tube," a 2012 6-episode documentary series about the ins and outs of the London Underground and the major upgrade they went through during the course of the recording.

6-year-old me was into trains (and not in a kid way, no, but a sophisticated mature adult way, young-me would assure you), and this would've knocked my socks off.

Looks like it's entirely online at Dailymotion (search link), but here's episode 1, so you can dip your toes in. It starts with a public urination and an announcement above vomit, and my inner 6-year-old is covering his mouth to try to control the uncontrollable snickering.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:53 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

The London Eye Mystery
posted by Daily Alice at 8:12 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also if he hasn't started Narnia yet, the chronologically first book in the series, The Magician's Nephew, takes place partly in London.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:13 PM on July 16, 2017

NB in The Tube there is definitely an episode that involves deaths on the underground so viewer discretion is advised.

I don't have any brilliant suggestions but if he'd like a cool postcard from London please memail me and I'd be delighted to send him one.
posted by teststrip at 10:46 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Wombles books, and, later The Borribles books (a sort of darker, urban fantasy parody of The Wombles, with homeless children/elves fighting intelligent giant rats and running from the police).

(These books show my age and lack of my own children)
posted by BinaryApe at 10:51 PM on July 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

How about a real map? The Future Mapping Company makes gorgeous maps of London. Also, maybe a book about the history of black cabs? Reading even might be a bit advanced but could be a fun bedtime story to read together?
posted by stillmoving at 11:05 PM on July 16, 2017

Nthing the Wombles books. Not just set in Wimbledon Common, but featuring trips made by characters to fancy London places like Fortnum & Mason. And in the 1970s, the Wombles became a musical phenomenon, sort of.
posted by thetarium at 11:07 PM on July 16, 2017

Danger Mouse (the original is way better than the remake).
posted by pompomtom at 12:02 AM on July 17, 2017

If he hasn't seen it already, I'm sure he'd enjoy the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics:

And also the animals that are hiding in the Underground map:
posted by matthew.alexander at 12:22 AM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he plays Minecraft, then this map of the city in 1666 (as the fire takes hold) will be perfect for him.

If not, try this recreation of seventeenth century London.
posted by greycap at 1:24 AM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Great Mouse Detective - oft-overlooked minor Disney. It has a climactic fight set within the clockwork of Big Ben. It's based on the Basil of Baker Street books by Eve Titus, which I have not read - basically 'if Sherlock Holmes was a mouse'.

The movie is unusual for Disney in that it has some frightening elements and a very suggestive song sequence. The latter went over my head when I was the same age as mini mcGee, but the scary bits did scare me.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:44 AM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Apologies if this has already been recommended, but for younger readers the Paddington Bear books are a great set of stories which feature London landmarks.
posted by Faintdreams at 2:17 AM on July 17, 2017

It sounds like he's not interested in picture books, but See Inside London has a lot of wonderful detail, and I suspect he'll love it if he gives it a chance.

As for chapter books:

Megan Rix has a series of children's novels about British dogs in various historical periods, many of which are set in London. I haven't read them but my kids really enjoyed them. My sense is that each book is entirely standalone, so your son could start with Great Fire Dogs if that's his particular area of interest.

Tim: Defender of the Earth is a big, fun adventure in which lots of London landmarks get smashed by a giant monster.

Just to echo what The Return of the Thin White Sock said, the original Paddington books are definitely not too young for a kid who is reading Captain Underpants. But figuring out which edition to buy can be confusing, because there are a million different versions of the story, including many that have been abridged or otherwise had their reading age lowered. I believe the one you want is A Bear Called Paddington, which is the original novel. Also, the 2014 live-action Paddington movie is fast-paced, smart, and funny, and it presents London in a lovely light.

Finally, I'm always nervous about self-promotion on the green, but my own recent children's book Hyacinth & The Secrets Beneath is very London-centric. It's about an American girl in London who stumbles on an ancient magical conspiracy that links the Great Fire, the construction of the Victorian sewers, and a many other bits of the city's history. It is roughly the same reading level as Harry Potter, so it might be something for you to read out loud to him. I've made a Google map with the real-life locations featured in the story-- but it does have some spoilers, so you might want to wait to look at it until after you've read the book.
posted by yankeefog at 3:05 AM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, and in terms of other media: there are countless songs about London, but for sheer thoroughness, you can't beat The Every Tube Station Song.
posted by yankeefog at 3:16 AM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The BBC's documentary on the making of Crossrail is possible viewing for technology fixated father and son pairs. It is VERY boring!
posted by rongorongo at 3:48 AM on July 17, 2017

I was very attached to my copy of the Usborne Book of London when I was small and obsessed with London (and now I live here yay). I still remember bits of it!
posted by corvine at 4:32 AM on July 17, 2017

I know it's not fiction but he might enjoy playing with Google Earth. Its level of detail for London is incredible, including 3D buildings and trees, and at any point you can hop down to street view. It can feel a bit like a magic carpet ride (for me it does, as a grown-up who lives here). He would be able to find many of the places he knows from fiction.
posted by snarfois at 6:16 AM on July 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Horrible Histories
posted by brujita at 8:11 AM on July 17, 2017

I just finished reading The Lost Property Office to my soon-to-be-7-year-old. It's a bit more intense than Harry Potter on the PG scale, but parts that I thought would scare my kid didn't scare him. It heavily involves the Great Fire of London.

This City Trails: London really drew my kid in.

We just watched Night at the Museum 3, which is set mainly in the British Museum. Again, some parts that could be a little scary depending on the kid (and some parts that led to some Deep Parenting Questions like "mommy, what does divorce mean?")

We're going to London next month, and I've been overloading him on England/London media, this question is a treasure trove for me!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:08 AM on July 17, 2017

Here's a diy pop-up of London: Pop-Up London Looks like a lot of fun and informational on a close level.
posted by MovableBookLady at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2017

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