journeys far and near…gorgeous nonfiction that takes us new places

Open these books…
…and head out on a journey.
Maybe around the world.
Maybe into outer space.
Maybe into a cathedral.
Five journeys full of wonder and fascination — for all ages — today!

Chicken Talk Around the World, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Pierr Morgan
published in 2021 by little bigfoot

One of the fun parts of learning a foreign language is learning what animals say in other parts of the world.

This vibrant book takes us to the U.S., Mexico, Kenya, Japan, India, and France, visiting grandmothers along the way and discovering what the chickens say on their farms, whether that’s ku-ku-doo-koo or qui-quiri-qui!

Colorful scenes depicting local architecture, landscapes, clothing styles, and table settings swirl us into these glad family gatherings.  Several other words common to each stop on the journey are also included such as grandmother, thank you, and eggs. It’s a brilliant, beautiful tour of the world showcasing some of the ways we differ and the many things we share in common.  Love this for ages 4 and up.

How Old Am I?: 1-100 Faces from Around the World, by JR
published in 2021 by Phaidon

Internationally-acclaimed French photographer and community artist JR has undertaken numerous projects using photos to call our attention to the beauty of humanity.  His Inside Out project involves turning black-and-white photos of ordinary people the world over into giant images which are then pasted on buildings in their local communities. The hope is that seeing these faces invites us to wonder about who these people are, what their stories are, and to begin real conversations that lead to better connections between one another.

Stemming from that project, this fabulous book chooses just one person to represent each age group from 1 to 100.  Each time we turn the page we meet a new person from somewhere around the world and are greeted in his/her language.

We learn their names, their home towns, and the answers to a few questions: What makes you happy? What is your wish for the world? What is your favorite age? What makes you, you? The responses are extremely brief, just a tantalizing introduction that makes us want to know more about this person.

Hopefully we will be inspired to ask the people we meet these same kinds of interesting questions, to learn to connect with people in kind, personal ways.

Colorful, fascinating, thought-provoking, it’s a joy to amble through with ages 5 to 100!

Journey Around the Sun: The Story of Halley’s Comet
written by James Gladstone, illustrated by Yaara Eshet
published in 2021 by Owlkids Books

Head out on another magnificent journey, this one through outer space and across millennia of time.

Halley’s comet narrates the trip, regaling us with the far off peoples and civilizations it has seen over time, introducing us to those who wondered over it and named it with fanciful appellations. The mystery and intrigue of this flaming cruiser lit the fires of imagination and superstition far and wide.

Finally Edmond Halley calculated its path and timetable and people the world over began watching and recording its appearance, a once-in-a-lifetime event for most humans.  Gorgeously illustrated, each page tantalizes us with an air of intrigue.  Additional snippets of text add to the information available to slightly older children.

Spark an interest in astronomy and maybe your kids will thank you when they see the comet’s next pass… in 2062.  Ages 3 or 4 and up.

What is a River? written and illustrated by Monka Vaicenavičienė
published in 2021 by Enchanted Lion

A gorgeous journey into the world of rivers awaits us in this phenomenal book from an award-winning Lithuanian artist.

Carried along by lyrical prose, we are led to consider the ways a river is like a thread, embroidering our world with beautiful patterns, or a home to many creatures, or a sacred meeting place, or any of the many intriguing answers to the question posed in the title.

Meanwhile each page is an artistic wonder with exquisite illustration work spilling and winding, layering and enveloping, wooing us to rest awhile in these watery worlds and peacefully consider what glories rivers are.

It’s truly one of the most beautiful nonfiction books out there, a gem for ages 6 through adult.

Saint Spotting, or How to Read a Church, written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
published in 2021 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Finally, the shortest journey of the day, the walk up the nave, through the choir, and into the apse of a grand cathedral. There are massive paintings, stained glass, and sculptures all along the way. Who are the people represented in them and why are they here?

Chris Raschka invites us along on the kinds of outings he took as a kid with his mom, translating the artwork of a cathedral into immensely kid-friendly language in this unusual and clever book. Along our walk-through we meet 38 saints, from Saint Anthony near the entryway, to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in a grouping together, to those in places of honor at the very front of the church like Mary and Elizabeth.

Raschka manages in a very few words to tell us who these folks are, and to draw our attention to the visual clues most often associated with them such as Saint Agnes’ symbolic lamb or Saint Peter’s key. Loose, colorful paintings resembling the kinds of imagery typically seen in stained glass decorate each of the tall, narrow pages of the book.

Truly in just a few minutes you and your child can gain a fascinating art history and church history lesson that’s enjoyable even if you’re not heading to a cathedral any time soon. For those planning a visit to a cathedral, it’s a fabulous pre-tour guide. Ages 4 and up.


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