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Posts Tagged ‘cultures’

I live in Minneapolis. Sure, it’s not nearly the global city that London is. Yet Minnesota is one of the top states in our nation for refugee resettlement, with refugees from 25 countries arriving here in just the past year.

Minnesota is well-known for its large populations of Hmong-, Somali-, and Liberian-Americans, as well as immigrants from the world over.

That means when I move around my city I’m likely to hear a lovely variety of languages, see clothing reflecting numerous cultures, find restaurants cooking up delicious ethnic foods. It’s one of the things I love about my home.

Having raised my children for some years outside of the U.S. — in both Quebec and West Africa — I have learned to highly value a multicultural mindset. This is easier in a place like Minneapolis than it is, for example, in the small northern Minnesota town where I grew up. There are ways, though, to increase our engagement with the world wherever we are, and one of those ways is: books. (You knew I was going to say this.)

It’s more important than ever to cultivate an attitude of boundary-less love in ourselves and our children if we want to build societies that reach out to one another with peace, kindness, and warmth. We can start simply by learning about other ways of life.

I’ve always been partial to books that open a window onto another part of the world and its fascinating array of cultures. There are dozens and dozens of these titles in the Marmalade archives already.

Over the past months I’ve been searching out more gems for you that present global cultures. My goal has been to publish a world tour of sorts for you to embark on at your convenience. Perhaps with summer’s lingering days and pushed-back bedtimes, this is a good time to launch off.

On my quest, I’ve been looking for quite particular kinds of stories. Not folk tales from other lands. Not books on the wildlife of different regions. Not fantastical stories. My search has been for at-least-somewhat-realistic fiction and creative nonfiction picture books that really help us see what life looks like for children growing up elsewhere.

I have researched and read stacks and stacks of books to find the ones I’ll be sharing. Although there are some regions sadly unrepresented at this point, and some unfortunate tendencies in the narratives of other regions which I’ll point out, overall I’ve been excited to see the breadth of coverage that’s available. 

Every “elsewhere” is someone’s familiar. As we share these stories with our children, I hope we can learn to savor differences and marvel over commonalities that mark the human race. I hope by tasting far-flung cultures via picture books, we can begin to approach differences in our own cities and neighborhoods with warmth and respect.

I’ll be sprinkling in posts most weeks throughout the summer with what I’ve unearthed. They’ll be grouped by region. You might try checking out a few titles and then seeing what more you can discover about that part of the world by cooking something yummy together, visiting an ethnic neighborhood in your city, listening to ethnic music…I would absolutely love it if you would share your ideas with us in the comments so others can be inspired along the way.

To start us off, I’ve got some unique atlases and dynamic birds-eye-view-of-the-world type books!  Get your bags packed and head out to meet the kids in the global tour, coming soon!

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Several weeks ago I came across an article on the BBC highlighting a new book of photography by Steve McCurry. The theme of McCurry’s project, displayed in this stunning book, is reading. Readers, to be more precise.

I immediately requested it through my library and have thoroughly enjoyed meandering through it.

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On Reading, by Steve McCurry
published in 2016 by Phaidon Press

Even if you don’t know the name Steve McCurry, you know his photography. One of National Geographic’s most heralded photographers, McCurry’s most famous shot is probably Afghan Girl, taken in 1984.

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On Reading is the result of his personal interest in capturing the faces, postures, environments of people around the world caught up in the act of reading. For forty years as he’s globe-trotted, he’s had his eye out for these images.

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Paul Theroux, in his foreword, comments that “readers are seldom lonely or bored, because reading is a refuge and an enlightenment…It seems to me that there is always something luminous in the face of a person in the act of reading.”

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Indeed, McCurry wondrously captures the focused absorption of readers old and young, rich and poor, from widely disparate cultures in this collection. It is gorgeous, immensely satisfying, and heartening.

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McCurry himself was inspired by the earlier work of Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész who spent over 50 years observing and photographing readers. His work was likewise published in a book entitled On Reading, published in 1971 by Grossman Publishers. I checked that one out from my library, too!

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The compelling, black-and-white photographs in this small book span the years 1915-1970. About half of them are from the 1960’s and most were shot in New York City and Paris.

The differences in the worlds and perspectives of these two books, despite their common theme, is remarkable. The work of Kertész has a much more spur of the moment, snapshot sense, whereas McCurry’s are bold, immersive, with subjects generally much closer to us.

Venice (young man reading on canal side), September 10, 1963

Venice (young man reading on canal side), September 10, 1963

I love seeing the small dramas taking place on all these tiny stages in the world. On a particular day now long gone, an anonymous person was caught up in reading during one unscheduled moment, now frozen in time for us to contemplate.

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Esztergam, Hungary, 1915

McCurry and Kertész both saw so much in this ordinary, transportive, monumental act. I love the way photographers help me see, and particularly how these two have helped me see the magic of reading woven through time and across cultures.

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Cozying up with a mug of hot chocolate, a plate of festive cookies, and some holiday stories…that’s a recipe for happy memories. Here are five new choices for your stack of books:

The Christmas Boot, written by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
published in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers

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Award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney has richly-illustrated this magical Christmas tale. Open the book and be transported into a wintery wonderland, a heavily snow-laden forest, and an Old World mansion regally appointed for the holidays.

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Hannah Greyweather is an elderly peasant woman whose gnarled, chilblained hands bear witness to the hard life she lives out of her rustic log cabin.

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When she happens upon a large, jet-black, boot in the forest, fur trimmed, deliciously warm, her fortunes take a most surprising turn. Wishes start coming true with dizzifying amplitude!

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That boot belongs to someone else, though — a crimson-coated stranger who appears at her cabin door one cold night. Hannah is an honest and generous soul. What will happen when she has to give up the boot?

This is a lovely tale, cram full of Christmas spirit, that you will thoroughly enjoy reading again and again with children ages 3 and up.

Here’s the Amazon link: The Christmas Boot

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Walk This World at Christmastime, illustrated by Debbie Powell, written by Zanna Davidson and Mary Sebag-Montefiore
originally published in 2015; first U.S. edition 2016 by Big Picture Press, Candlewick

Christmas is a time of surprises, and this book packs oodles and oodles of surprises behind a myriad intriguing, tiny flaps.

We’re traveling around the world to see how people celebrate the season. Visit six continents, stopping in 32 countries, all vividly illustrated with so much punch, vivacity, and color. These pages are mesmerizing.

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There are doors and windows galore to open, each holding a small picture and a brief sentence telling something about the local celebrations. Peek inside one and learn that, “in Kerala, India, star lanterns are made from colorful decorative paper and hung on poles.”

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Or, in Nigeria, “the Christmas feast might include pounded yam, fried rice, jollof rice, and beef, goat, or lamb in a delicious stew.” Meet a Swedish tomte. Find out Santa’s postal code. Check out what’s for dessert in Australia.

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You can blitz through the whole book, or try parceling out the numbered flaps to use as an advent calendar. That sounds a bit tricksy to me, but…maybe you have incredibly patient children! Ages 4 and up.

Here’s the Amazon link: Walk this World at Christmastime

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Presents Through the Window, written and illustrated by Taro Gomi; English translation by Tadashi Yoshida
originally published in 1983 in Japan; first U.S. edition 2016 by Chronicle Books

Beloved Japanese illustrator Taro Gomi created this juicy treat over 30 years ago and it’s as fresh as ever! Just look at that contemporary design!

Santa has arrived in his helicopter. He’s dressed in cozy, electric pink with a darling white pompom on his cap and a bundle of goodies slung over his back. Santa zips from house to house, peeking through the windows to see who lives there so he can lob in the perfect gift. And we get to peek, too! Such fun.

Santa thinks he spies a zebra through this window…

Slight problem, though. Santa’s window-peering is not quite enough to see who really lives there. Thus his gifts are quite a jumble!

...but it's really three geese!

…but it’s really three geese!

Preschoolers funny bones will be merrily tickled by the astonishing mix-ups and everyone’s heart will be warmed by the happy solution. A delight for ages 2 and up.

Here’s the Amazon link: Presents Through the Window

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Gingerbread Christmas, written and illustrated by Jan Brett
published in 2016 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Any new Jan Brett book speaks for itself. This is the third of her gingerbread stories, all set in a picturesque Swiss mountain village. If you haven’t read the first one, Gingerbread Baby, which I reviewed here, I’d heartily recommend it.  You don’t have to read these stories in order, but I think those who have already met Matti and his mischievous gingerbread child in their first adventure will enjoy this a teensy bit more.

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As you can guess by the cover, this episode features a gingerbread band, plus some more quick-thinking on the part of that spunky Gingerbread Boy and Matti. I won’t spoil the surprise, but as with the other two books, there’s a splendid, giant, fold-out to wrap up the story. Definitely an ooh-ah moment. Soak in the detailed beauty of these illustrations with kids ages 3 and up.

Here’s the Amazon link: Gingerbread Christmas

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The Biggest, Smallest Christmas Present, written and illustrated by Harriet Muncaster
published in 2016 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Clementine is a sweet, little girl. I mean, she is a really little girl. Smallest one in the world, with a matchbox for a bed and a teacup for a tub.

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Life at this tiny size is happy enough for the most part, but sadly, Santa Claus just cannot seem to grasp how minute Clementine is, and keeps leaving her regular-sized presents. This does not work out well at all. Imagine plying a paintbrush the size of a small sapling, or wearing slippers fit for a giant.

Though Clementine thinks of many ingenuous ways to remind Santa of her diminutive stature, nothing seems to work. Until one message finally gets through. And just wait till you see what Santa thinks of! It’s the biggest, smallest Christmas present ever!

Thoroughly charming illustrations with plenty of peppermint-pink and spearmint-green set a perky, cheery tone from the sweet endpapers straight on through.  This is a Christmas dream, especially for little girls, even if they’re not quite as little as Clementine. Ages 3 and up.

Here’s the Amazon link: The Biggest, Smallest Christmas Present

And P.S. if you like all things miniature, you will love Harriet’s blog, victoriastitch.blogspot.com where you’ll find more art like this!

There are gobs more Christmas titles for your holiday reading in my Subject Index under Holidays: Christmas.

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Today’s books fairly dance with the mysterious allure of languages. Each would make a great gift for a wide age-range.

Travel around the world to hear a fascinating array of languages, plus put on your thinking caps to delve into a fantastical world with its own new mother tongue. J.R.R. Tolkien would be so very happy!

du-iz-tak-cover-imageDu Iz Tak? written and illustrated by Carson Ellis
published in 2016 by Candlewick

It’s hard to forge new territory in children’s literature. What is it that’s never been done before? Well…this.

Carson Ellis voyages into the literal-unknown with this fascinating picture book. First, her enchanting, stylized illustration work creates a small woodland world. It could be contained in just about a cubic meter. Yet it’s a busy, happening place!

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Seasons pass. Occupants arrive. Growth and change occurs. Plans are carried out. Problems are solved. Perilous adventures transpire. It’s your job to carefully observe all this commotion. That’s always the case in picture books, but it’s especially critical here because…

…the folk in this world speak an unknown language.

“Du iz tak?” one damselfly asks another. “Ma nazoot,” her companion replies. What can they be saying?

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Press in to the text and the visual storytelling, and you will eventually decipher this newly-concoted vocabulary! Such a triumphant feeling!

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Any of you linguistic-types out there will love this, whatever your age. Young children will be drawn to the illustrations, the storyline, and the unique sounds of the language. It takes patience and deductive reasoning to puzzle out the meaning of the words. Possibly some early-elementary children will help you out with that. But it’s a treat of a challenge for even college-educated persons. Highly recommended.

Here’s the Amazon link: Du Iz Tak?

the-hello-atlas-cover-imageThe Hello Atlas, written by Ben Handicott, illustrated by Kenard Pak
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

Now that you’ve got your feet wet with an utterly-foreign language, you really ought to dive headfirst into this extraordinary atlas of more than 100 world languages. Oh, Wide Eyed! How I love you!

Travel the world, visiting all seven continents, meeting folks from a multitude of climates, traditions, cultures, and above all — languages. Kenard Pak’s warm, textured, striking illustration work whisks us into the environments where these kids live.

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Architecture, clothing, weather, activities, wildlife — there’s so much to absorb in these deceptively-simple panels which carpet the pages in engaging scenes.

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Everywhere we go, children introduce themselves in their mother tongue. Find out the names of these languages, read the translation of the phrase in English, and see it written out in the Roman alphabet. But, but, but…

…the most amazing thing yet is that they’ve made a free app in which over 130 native speakers are recorded, speaking these lines!!! What a magnificent effort! It’s a beautiful, smooth, elegant app that allows you to flit around to any of the countries and languages represented.

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With one little tap, someone rattles off these words. I loved imagining just who that speaker was as I listened to all the different voices. At the end of the book, pages and pages of further phrases are listed, not illustrated, and these, too, are included on the app.

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Kids are information-magnets. They are little linguists. What a fabulous way to engage them in the wide world, to rev up enthusiasm for others and the loveliness of a worldful of languages. Ages 2 through Adult.

Here’s the Amazon link: Hello Atlas

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Hello friends! Today I’ve got a winner for the Edwardian mysteries AND I have another set of books to give away

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Our winner is Rebecca Newman. Congratulations! Please e-mail me at jillswanson61@gmail.com with your the-mystery-of-the-clockwork-sparrow-cover-imageshipping address and I’ll get those off to you.

Meanwhile, I’ll include the links again for purchasing these, as they are not available on Amazon.
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
The Mystery of the Jeweled Moth
The third title in this set — The Mystery of the Painted Dragon — is due out in the UK in early 2017. Not sure when it will be available in the U.S.

Today, courtesy of my daughter who’s a dynamite bookseller at one of our Twin Cities independent bookstores, I have another giveaway. I’ll call it the Globetrotter Giveaway! There are two parts to it.

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City Atlas, illustrated by Martin Haake, written by Georgia Cherry
published in 2015 by Wide Eyed Editions

This beautiful volume takes us on a world tour, visiting some of its most impressive cities. 30 cities in all, from Lisbon to Helsinki, Cape Town to Montreal.

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Each city is presented on a two-page spread, a travel guide of sorts. Museums, cathedrals, castles, and monuments are here. Food to try, street art to spy. Gardens and parks, waterways and harbors, pepper the pages with intrigue! There’s also always an individual saying hello in a local language, plus the country’s flag, a couple of stats, and something hidden to search for in the illustration.

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Go ice-skating in Toronto. Wander Wenceslas Square in Prague. Listen to some Mariachi bands in Mexico City. Sample a pumpkin rice cake in Seoul. It’s just the ticket to crank up your wanderlust.

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There’s no in-depth information here. Just a snapshot of what you might see visiting these places, a tantalizing look at the differences in what home might look, sound, and taste like. It leans heavily European, with 16 European cities, 5 in the U.S. and Canada, 3 from Latin America, 4 from Asia, 1 in Africa, and 1 in Australia.

Along with that, some of you may remember another spectacular volume I reviewed awhile back, Atlas of Adventures. It has a similar format, but it covers an entire country on each two-page spread.

Wide Eyed Editions is creating Activity Fun Packs to go along with these books, and I have the one for the Atlas of Adventures.

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There are 8 scenes and 7 maps to color, drawn in lovely clarity by Lucy Letherland and printed on really quality paper, plus a sheet of colorful round-the-world stickers and a pull out poster with an illustrated world map on one side and a chart of the world’s flags on the other.

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I’d say the coloring here is geared for a child ages 7 or 8 and up. Lots of juicy detail.

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I’m giving away these two beauties, wishing you hours of ooh-ing and ah-ing over the splendid diversity in our world.

To enter, just comment before next Wednesday, October 19, telling us what world-class city you’d love to visit next. U.S. shipping addresses only or I’ll go broke 🙂 And just a heads-up — I have a couple more giveaways for the next few weeks so please come back!

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Some of you have already begun the new school year; some are just gearing up; There are many rich ways for each of us to learn and grow, an untold variety of approaches to education spanning the centuries and regions of our world. I hope something within this smattering of titles is just the ticket for you.

school's first day of school cover imageSchool’s First Day of School, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
published in 2016, a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

Looking at the world from upside down and inside out angles is a great way to see old things anew, tickle funny bones, spark ideas. This brilliant picture book team has done just that, twisting the kaleidoscope a turn or two, making a brand-new school building into the new kid on the block.

school's first day of school interior rex and robinson

The charming, new Frederick Douglass Elementary school is feeling a bit nervous about its upcoming First Day of School. Understandable, right? Soon scads of unknown children will throng its hallways, play on its playground, sit in classrooms, eat lunches. Some may not like it. Some may make rude comments about it. Blaring fire drills might go off!

school's first day of school interior 2 rex and robinson

With the encouragement of a friendly janitor, School copes with all this newness, one step at a time, and emerges from the first day on an overall upbeat note. Besides the lovely space within this text to step back and take a look at first-day jitters from a secure vantage point, Christian Robinson’s irrepressibly cheery illustrations exude comfort and friendliness with a genius vibe that somehow combines old-fashioned simplicity with contemporary diversity. It’s basically the perfect First Day of School book for ages 4-6.

the class cover imageThe Class, Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

Ages ago, Karla Kuskin and Marc Simont teamed up to produce one of our favorite books, a survey of all the members of the Philharmonic Orchestra preparing for an evening performance.

This book happily reminds me of their approach. It’s a collection of classmates this time, twenty children from various households all around town, getting ready to become one wonderful class. Some are eager-beavers. Some are over-sleepers. Three eat pancakes for breakfast while two nibble toast. Eight get kisses at the bus stop. Two can’t seem to find their socks.

the class interior ashburn and gee

Charming, lighthearted illustrations spotlight this diverse group of kindergarteners. It’s a tremendously inviting book, great approach to the marvelous differences within commonalities that make up a group. Ages 3-7.

steamboat school cover imageSteamboat School, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Ron Husband
published in 2016 by Disney Hyperion

The encouraging depictions of diversity in the previous two titles are, of course, not a given in our society.

Based on a true story, this book bears witness to the immense struggle to be schooled experienced by African Americans. It takes place in St. Louis in 1847, just as a shameful new Missouri law forbade education to “negroes or mulattoes.”

steamboat school interior hopkinson and husband

Through the testimony of one fictional boy, Hopkinson relays the courageous, ingenious actions of Reverend John Berry Meachum whose determination resulted in a highly-unusual method of schooling these children, taking advantage of a most unexpected loophole in the law.

Striking, atmospheric illustrations ratchet up the story’s tension and emotion while bringing the period to life. Includes a lengthy Author’s Note and recommendations for exploring this history further. Ages 5 and up.

frank and lucky get schooled cover imageFrank and Lucky Get Schooled, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
published in 2016 by Greenwillow Books

I’m a firm believer in all the vivid learning that takes place outside of a formal classroom setting. It’s unusual to find a book that captures so well the spirit of a whole world out there to investigate, the one hundred ideas sparkling in a pond, the windows-upon-windows of ideas opening onto more ideas all lying in wait in the most surprising places.

In which Frank and Lucky learn about beggar's lice, burdock, and dog ticks!

In which Frank and Lucky learn about beggar’s lice, burdock, and dog ticks!

Lynne Rae Perkins dives into that sense in this remarkable look at a boy named Frank, his dog, Lucky, and the immense amount of learning and idea-sparking these two encounter in their life together. From Entomology to Art, Math to Foreign Language — careen along with these two and be amazed at how they both accumulate a vast array of knowledge. Unschoolers — this is your book. Innovative reading, for ages 6 and up.

this is my home this is my school cover imageJust a reminder here, if you are looking for the Gold Standard in picture books about the homeschooling experience, look no further than Jonathan Bean’s masterpiece, This is My Home, This is My School. I am a huge fan of Jonathan’s work, and love the fact that he has allowed millions of homeschoolers to see themselves in a book about school for the first time. Kudos to him and his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

 

school days around the world cover imageSchool Days Around the World, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Alice Feagan
published in 2015 by Kids Can Press

I love introducing children to the intriguing cultures around our globe, the clever, beautiful, enticing ways people construct their lives. School is one of the things that looks different around the world, and this cheery catalog is a great way to explore that.

Visit 13 children from a wide variety of countries and types of schools. From the South Pacific to Alaska. Homeschools, public schools, international schools. School in an orphanage. School in an old castle. Immense schools and tiny schools. Fascinating at every turn!

school days around the world interior ruurs and feagan

Colorful, happy cut-paper illustrations will make you want to travel and visit each one of these extraordinary places. Broaden your world and find out ways you can help children in places where school is less available. This one’s a delight for ages 4 and up.

For a more in-depth treatment of different kinds of schools around the world for older children, check my reviews of:
A School Like Mine
Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World
Playground

i'm new here cover image copyAnd one more reminder — some children from other cultures may well be joining your children in their classes. Anne Sibley O’Brien’s book I’m New Here, offers a superb, lovely introduction to what it’s like to be oh-so-new in America. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.

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home cover image carson ellisHome, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis
published in 2015 by Candlewick

This is one of my new favorites. I love reflections about home, and Carson Ellis has given us such a beauty.

So many kinds of home.

An old farmhouse amid peaceful fields.

A brick apartment, its windows giving glimpses onto tenants, cats, potted plants.

A palace. A space station. Perhaps a shoe — remember the old woman who lives there with all her many children?

home illustration carson ellis

Ellis has drawn quite an eclectic array of homes in her lovely, wide-ranging, imaginative, tribute. It’s a bit like leafing through a catalogue. Which home would you like, dear? I love her artwork — the earthy, calm palette with lively splashes of red, the blend of reality and fancy, her hand-lettering, the sense of being at ease. 

I was lucky enough to hear her read this book and talk about its illustrations at a visit to the Wild Rumpus here in Minneapolis recently. So, I’ll just tell you to note that mourning dove on the title page and see if you can spot him on every spread. A couple places are surprisingly tricky!

A quiet gem to share, talk about, and wonder over, with ages 2 and up.

by day by night cover imageBy Day, By Night, by Amy Gibson, illustrated by Meilo So
published in 2014 by Boyds Mill Press

Around the world, people are alike in deep ways that matter, while our cultures joyously differ.

By day, we awaken and go about our lives — dressing and eating, greeting and creating, working and singing. Our babies are cared for. Our seasons come and go. We grow, we love, we laugh and cry. By night, we sleep.

Amy Gibson’s brief, tender text describes similarities between all peoples of the earth. Such an important piece to remember.

by day by night amy gibson meilo so interior

Meanwhile, Meilo So’s gorgeous artwork displays the astounding, magnificent variations our cultures bring to these routines of life. Beautiful textiles and clothing, skin tones and hair styles, landscapes from snowbound cabins under dancing northern lights to Asian rice paddies and the hot, dusky plains in Africa. My word! Her work is stunning!

I adore this book. Plus, the author has dedicated her proceeds to The Global Orphan Project, one way to give a hand to the millions of children “who find themselves alone, whatever the cause.” A treat for ages 2 and up.

at the same moment around the world cover imageAt the Same Moment Around the World, written and illustrated by Clotilde Perrin
published originally in France; first published in the U.S. in 2014 by Chronicle Books

Freeze-frame one moment in time, and look at what is happening at that moment, all around the world.

What a spectacular lot of different places and people to check in on!

It’s 6 A.M. in Dakar, Senegal when we stop the clock. Keita is counting fish with his fisherman father, the colorful pirogues lining the beach behind them.

At that same moment, it’s 7 o’clock in Paris. Benedict is sipping some hot chocolate before school. And it’s 11 in the morning in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where a brother and sister return from market on their trusty donkey.

Travel steadily eastward all around the world, stopping in 24 locations, to see what’s happening at that one, very same moment.

at the same moment around the world interior clotilde perrin

Each stop gets just one sentence of text telling us where we are and naming the people we’re peeking in on. The rest is up to these beautiful illustrations. The tall, thin format of the book, splendid artwork, and wonderful cultural detail, make this a book to pore over, enjoying the intriguing differences in our world.

In the end, there’s a big, colorful world map to unfold, showing us all the places we’ve traveled. Now if only we could actually arrange this trip! A fascinating, beautiful choice for ages 4 and up.

what a wonderful world cover imageWhat a Wonderful World, based on the song by Bob Thiele & George David Weiss and sung by Louis Armstrong, illustrated by Tim Hopgood
published in 2014 by Henry Holt and Company

I see trees of green
Red roses too.
I see them bloom
for me and you.
And I think to myself…
What a wonderful world.

You can hear Louis singing that in your head, can’t you? Ahhhhhhh…that gravelly-mellow voice. Nothing like it.

Armstrong first recorded that in 1967, and it’s still one of the best songs ever made, in my book.

what a wonderful world illustration tim hopgood

Tim Hopgood conveys all the joy, hope, and goodness bottled up in that music with his illustrations bursting with color and happiness, green meadows and sunshine, birdsong and blue skies.

This book will make you happy, even on a bad day. Sing it to your kids, chase the blues away, and plant a little kindness in your hearts towards the people that make up this wonderful world.

maps cover imageMaps, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
first published in Poland; published in the U.S. in 2013 by Big Picture Press

This award-winning, oversize book of illustrated maps will certainly smite you with the travel bug if by any chance you’ve avoided it thus far today.

Created by a Warsaw-based husband-and-wife — a dynamic artistic team — this is not an exhaustive world atlas. It’s a sampling of countries from every continent. Each gets one spread of pages whether it’s mongo-Russia or little-Fiji. So that’s the first pleasing aspect of the book.

Here is the map of Poland, as found in the original work in Polish. Never fear -- it has all been translated!

Here is the map of Poland, as found in the original work in Polish. Never fear — it has all been translated!

Dozens of items distinctive to a nation spread across its map — foods, sports, wildlife, famous buildings and people. Here’s a Moroccan woman making Argan oil; there’s a group of Croatians doing a Kolo folk dance. Oceans and seas swim with marine life. And a great view of the Arctic regions lets us gaze straight down at the Pole and see the lands fanning out from it. 

So, that’s the intriguing aspect of the book. So much to learn. So many places to investigate, people to know, food to try cooking. These are maps that spark more curiosity about a world brimming with interest. 

A detail of the map of Peru.

A detail of the map of Peru.

The beauty of the book comes from the lavish hand-drawn, hand-lettered artwork, and the handsome, subdued color palette — awash in warm earth tones and aquatic blue-greens, sprinkled with small, colorful figures. A visual stunner.

It’s an outstanding book for map lovers of any age, and a brilliant gateway to learning more about all these people and places…and more beyond.

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