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Around The World In 10 Kids' Books

The world is an amazing place, and kids are more aware of this than adults. As they grow, they want to know more about the world around them, which makes the right children’s books extremely important to their development and growth as budding global citizens.

So pack your bags, grab some snacks, and get ready to explore the world through these amazing multicultural books, from the comfort of your couch! 

 

1. First Stop: Indonesia

Heading straight up to our neighbours in the north, My Night In The Planetarium is about one boy’s overnight adventure in the Jakarta Planetarium. Based on the memories of author Innosanto Nagara, the story takes readers on a journey not just through one thrilling night, but through the recent history and culture of Indonesia. 

The cover of the book "My Night In The Planetarium" where a boy wearing a headdress, looks at the audience. In the background is a starry sky and a telescope.
Image Credit: Penguin Books

2. Next Stop: Taiwan & China

Continuing our north-bound direction, we now turn to a beautiful book by Taiwanese-American author Grace Lin. Based in Chinese folklore, When The Sea Turned To Silver is a daring story of rescue which celebrates the tradition of storytelling. Following Pinmei as she sets forth to bring her grandmother home, and beautifully illustrated by Grace Lin herself, you’ll want to linger on each page and at the same time keep turning pages. 

The cover of the book "When The Sea Turned To Silver" which has an intricate illustration of two young children riding a white animal that looks like horse and a dragon.

Image Credit: Little Brown and Company

3. Next Stop: Japan

Crossing the East China Sea, we now arrive in Japan. Here, second generation Japanese-Canadian author, Chieri Uegaki, shares a story about the love between a girl and her grandfather in Ojiichan’s Gift. A story of hope, of difficult decisions and the importance of family, Ojichan’s Gift explores keeping traditions alive while everything around you is changing. 

Cover of the book "Ojichan's Gift" which shows a young girl raking a stone garden. Her grandfather watches on from a nearby bench.

Image Credit: Kids Can Press 

4. Next Stop: Canada

Leaving the continent of Asia behind us for now, we land on the shores of Canada and head inland to the mountainous region of North Saskatchewan. When We Had Sled Dogs: A Story from the Trapline, is another book based on the memories of its co-author, Ida Tremblay. Ida is a First Nation Cree Elder from La Ronge, who shares what it was like when dog teams were a part of traditional life. Along with stunning illustrations by Miriam Körner (co-author), we love that this book also weaves in Indigenous language throughout too.

"When We Had Sled Dogs" illustrated cover, which shows three wolves howling at night, in front of a log cabin.

Image Credit: YNWP Publishing

5. Next Stop: Cuba

Heading South to find some warmer waters, we arrive on a mysterious island in Cuba where one girl is finding the courage to break all the rules. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by American-Cuban poet, Margarita Engle, is the inspiring true life story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers.

"Drum Dream Girl" illustrated cover which shows a young girl sitting and looking at a crescent moon with a drum in it.

Image Credit: HMH Books 

6. Next Stop: Brazil

Continuing south to the big, beautiful and diverse Brazil, we find a story about a young boy helping to reignite his uncle’s passion for making beautiful clothes, in The Best Tailor in Pinbauê. Written and illustrated by Brazilian author, Eymard Toledo, and brought to life with beautiful collages and a sprinkling of Portuguese, this is a heartwarming story about never giving up.

Cover of the book "The Best Tailor in Pinbauê" which is collaged and shows an older man and a young boy holding each end of a length of fabric. Both are using scissors to cut the material.

Image Credit: Penguin Random House

7. Next Stop: Nigeria

Crossing the South Atlantic Sea and the Gulf of Guinea, we now arrive in Nigeria, where mayhem is unfolding. Taking place on the eve before the New Yam festival, Chicken In The Kitchen is an adventure story by Nigerian-American author, Nnedi Okorafor about one girl’s determination to save the day. Beautifully illustrated by Iranian-born illustrator Mehrdokht Amini, this is a book full of laughs and surprises.

Cover of the book "A Chicken In The Kitchen" which is vibrantly illustrated and shows a girl hiding behind a wall from a enormous chicken.

Image Credit: Lerner Books

8. Next Stop: Israel

We now travel across the continent, to the north-east, until we come to Israel. Here we find a story about two neighbours learning to overcome their differences and help each other succeed. Yaffa and Fatima by author Fawzia Gilani-Williams and Italian illustrator Chiara Fedele, teaches us that differences aren’t a cause for conflict, but a strength that can help us work through any obstacle.

Cover of the book "Yaffa and Fatima" which shows an illustration of two women talking while exchanging a basket of grains. Both women are wearing head coverings.

Image Credit: Lerner Books

9. Next Stop: Kenya

It'd be remiss of us to not give our very first (and very impactful) book a mention on this list. Heading south again to the Horn of Africa, we land in Kenya, where we find a young girl taking us on a journey through her life. From the city of Eldoret, to the rural farm of her grandmother, Lillian The Tiriki Girl by Kenyan author, Lillian Shirayra Mang’ong’o, and Puerto Rican illustrator Monica Paola Rodriguez, shows what it’s really like to grow up someplace else. A bonus is that money from each book sold goes into supporting local change in Kenya.

Cover of the book "Lillian The Tiriki Girl" which is illustrated with two girls carrying water on their heads in yellow jerrycans.

Image by us 😊 

10. Last Stop: Australia 

Finally, because there’s really no place like home, and because Australia is so diverse itself, we return to our own shores and share a story from our own backyard. Finding Our Heart, A Story about the Uluru Statement for Young Australians by Thomas Mayor is a story about understanding Australia’s past so we can move toward a shared future. Thomas is a Torres Strait Islander man born on Larrakia country in Darwin, and his poignant book is brought to life by Dhungatti artist and illustrator, Blak Douglas.

The cover of the book "Finding Our Heart" which has an illustration of a man and woman making a heart shape with their hands. Behind them is Uluru and a starry night sky.

Image Credit: Hardie Grant Publishing

Further Reading

We hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of the world through books. There are some wonderful resources online (like this one) to help you find more stories from every corner of the world. Just because we can’t physically experience other places right now, doesn’t mean we can’t help our little learners explore different cultures.

Our hot tip: as you might’ve noticed from our selection, we try and find books with authors from the place the story is about. Otherwise you’ll likely end up with an outsider’s perspective, rather than the inside scoop. Happy travels!

 

 


 

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📸  Top photo by cottonbro

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