Based in Clonakilty, Valerie Ballaer publishes unique travel guides for children.
‘The Travel Adventures of George and Paolo’ is an illustrated travel guide series for children that Valerie first created while studying in Florence, Italy in 2007. The first edition is about Italy, and the series continues to grow, with eight books published in the last two years, including guides about Thailand, Australia, Mexico, Hong Kong, and most recently, Ireland.
Born in Belgium, at the age of three, Valerie moved to Thailand with her parents where she spent 20 years living near the city of Bangkok and the southern island of Phuket. Having studied at an international school, she quickly learned the value of different cultures and learning from others’ life experiences. Living in Thailand was a unique experience that opened her eyes to new perspectives on life and values. She went on to study at universities in Italy, Australia and Mexico, as her thirst for travel and cultures grew.
After finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Brisbane, Australia, Valerie went on to work at a university in Phuket, Thailand for two years as an International Affairs Officer, to support international exchange students who were studying at the university. She speaks multiple languages and loves sharing her international experiences with new friends. Other than living in Thailand, Belgium, Mexico, Italy and Australia, Valerie has travelled to many places including Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Hong Kong, Germany, and New Zealand. Today, her travels have brought her to Clonakilty, and she’s fallen in love with the town and most of all the incredible beaches where you’ll find her at least a few days a week.
Valerie’s books follow the travels of George the goose and Paolo the cocker spaniel, both with a dream of seeing the world, as they set off on adventures to various exotic and beautiful destinations. Every guidebook contains illustrations of George and Paolo with post-it like checklists of the top recommended things to do in each location. The concept is for kids to have something to read and enjoy while their parents may be reading through a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide while traveling and on holidays. Valerie has also published a few special editions, which are extended versions that include coloring pages, photographs and fun facts. These books are a great way to get kids involved in learning more about the world and it’s many wonders. One of Valerie’s lifelong dreams has been to work with Lonely Planet, and she was thrilled when the second book in her series, ‘The Travel Adventures of George and Paolo: Thailand’, was featured in the February/March 2018 edition of the Lonely Planet Magazine in Thailand.
Valerie often gets asked about the process of creating these books, as she does all of the writing and illustrations herself. Once she has written the content of the book, she draws all of the illustrations by hand, then takes photographs of the illustrations, and uses the photographs with Adobe programs on her computer, including Illustrator and Photoshop, to trace and add color to them, finally combining all of the pages into a book, ready for publishing. The process is time-consuming but Valerie loves creating these books and enjoys seeing the smiles on the faces of children who laugh at the characters and try to replicate the drawings, as they are simple and child-friendly.
You’ll find Valerie’s books in the kids’ clubs of hotels in Hong Kong and Bangkok, as well as various international school libraries. Local primary schools here in Ireland have also purchased ‘The Travel Adventures of George and Paolo’ series for their libraries.
Valerie’s books are available at selected bookshops in Clonakilty, and you can also purchase them through her website (www.vvbdesign.com/books) or by contacting Valerie directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Valerie Van Ballaer is the founder of Clonakilty-based graphic and web design company vvbdesign (www.vvbdesign.com). Her company was born through her passion for design and travel, which is why she is also a published children’s travel guide author and illustrator.