Travel literature review: Little Princes

Little Princes – One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Reviewed by Kate Morgan

I was sceptical about this book from the outset. It appeared to be a clichéd story about how one short volunteering stint in a children’s home (in between a year of travelling for fun) changes a young American guy’s life forever.

The back cover blurb went out of its way to convince me this was more than just a do-gooder tale and around ten pages in it became apparent this might actually be true. My scepticism eased when our protagonist's honesty about his motives is delivered straight up. The three month volunteering stint in Nepal was his way of balancing his desire to travel with the guilt that accompanies the indulgence of a year off. It will also help to impress friends, family and - he believes - win him big points when it comes to the ladies.  So in the name of travel and adventure, Conor quits his job and sets off, with Nepal being the first port of call.

We’re taken through his arrival at the Little Princes Children’s Home in Godavari and his anxiety and apprehension disappearing once the kids jump all over him and use him as a new piece of play equipment. It doesn’t take long for Conor to get into a groove with the kids and a real bond begins to form. Towards the end of his three months he decides he’d rather not be one of those volunteers who breezes in and sets off again to laze on a beach drinking cocktails, satisfied with ‘having done their bit’. He’s committed now and promises the children he will be back in one year once his travel adventure has been achieved. The story whips the reader through Conor’s trip - cycling through most of Southeast Asia and ending back in New York. Within just a couple of weeks of being home he buys a plane ticket and, staying true to his promise, returns to Nepal.

Back at the children’s home, Conor learns they are not orphans as he first thought, but trafficked children, and he begins a new mission and an ambition and drive takes over him. The majority of the book focusses on Conor’s mission to reconnect the children from the Little Princes Home with their parents. We are given an insight into his commitment when we’re taken through tales of hiking treacherous terrain, icy weather, injuries, a nasty bout of food poisoning and serious threats to his life all in the name of the children. It’s here where the story is at its best.

While this book won’t teach you too much about the problems of child trafficking, it is a thoroughly engaging read, well written and endearing with the obligatory love story weaved in. This book not only shows how people can surprise themselves in what they can overcome and achieve; they can also actually make a difference. And it all starts with the decision to get out there and travel.

Kate Morgan is the commissioning editor for the Indian Subcontinent titles at Lonely Planet’s Melbourne office.

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