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Posts Tagged ‘multicultural children’s books’

As we continue our way through the vast continent of Africa, I’m recommending a book that counters an unhelpful perspective, which is to discuss Africa as though it were a country.

Too often in various collections, stories are listed from, say, Japan, Brazil, Poland… and Africa. Of course, these are not equivalents.

Africa is really, really big.

Africa is huge.  Maps like this one help us get perspective on just how large it is.

And Africa is incredibly diverse. When we lived in West Africa many years ago, our home was near the Sahel. My kids grew tired of American children asking what it was like to live near lions, or in the jungle. 

Actually what it looks like where we lived. No lions. No jungle.

This massive, diverse, and misunderstood continent deserves better! One of my favorite books treats just this topic and it comes highly recommended as a starting point for this portion of our tour:

Africa is Not a Country, written by Margy Burns Knight and Mark Melnicove, illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien
published in 2000 by Millbrook Press

Take a quick hovercraft tour of the continent visiting markedly different cultures, peoples, and settings from an urban family in Eritrea to a family living among the snowy mountains in Lesotho; schoolgirls in uniforms on the busy streets of Cairo, and islanders on Cape Verde farming the steep hillsides. Tantalizing paragraphs give just a glimpse of the local culture while warm, colorful illustrations show us the look of life in each unique location.

Back pages list every country on the continent with a little tidbit of information about it. This book is nearing 20 years old so there will be some outdated facts but for the most part it is a fabulous introduction to the continent. Ages 4 and up.

Now let’s tour East Africa!

ERITREA

Trouble, written by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Durga Bernhard
published in 1997 by Harcourt Brace & Co.

Tekleh is a little boy who always seems to find trouble, from kicking up dust onto the roasting coffee beans to losing track of the family’s goats.

His father thinks a new gebeta board (you probably know this as mancala) will keep Tekleh busy and thus keep him out of trouble. But he has no idea the wild series of events that gebeta board will instigate! This delightful tale takes us through the hillsides of Eritrea introducing lovely bits of the culture there through Tekleh’s encounters. Wonderful illustrations fill in a great deal of cultural detail as well and an afterword tells more about this relatively new country. Fantastic, for ages 3 and up.

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopian Voices: Tsion’s Life, written by Stacy Bellward, photographs by Erlend Berge
published in 2008 by Amharic Kids

This photo-essay of a young girl named Tsion, age 11, might not be easy for you to find but I love it for its realism and warm portrait of family life in contemporary Ethiopia.

Tsion and her family live in Kechene, a slum in Addis Ababa. She describes her community as kind and very friendly, and tells us about her family, home, neighborhood, Ethiopian Orthodox traditions, school, food, and the special places in Ethiopia she’d love to visit. Accompanied by excellent photographs, this is a fascinating, wonderful window into her world for ages 4 and up.

The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa, written by Cristina Kessler, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
published in 2006 by Holiday House

Sitting at over 5,000 feet in the Ethiopian mountains, Lalibela is renowned for its incredible, rock-hewn churches and its honey. Wouldn’t I love to visit! Meet Almaz, a young girl who longs to be one of the Lalibela beekeepers. In fact, she wants to make the best honey of all.

But beekeeping is traditionally a man’s work and Almaz is met with scorn. A wise Orthodox priest opens the way for her to pursue her dreams, and Almaz’s tenacity and inventiveness win her success and respect in the marketplace. Fascinating story with mixed media illustrations that reveal the sun-soaked beauty of Ethiopia and her people. Ages 3 and up.

Only a Pigeon, written by Jane and Christopher Kurtz, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
published in 1997 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, a young boy named Ondu-ahlem lives with his loving family, but little else. Life is immensely enriched, though, by his pet pigeons. Ondu-ahlem cares for them diligently, guarding them from a hungry mongoose, tenderly feeding an orphaned chick, admiring the bravery and speed of his favorite bird, Chinkay. Ondu-ahlem and his friend have a game in which, at a set location,  they each release one bird, then try coaxing their own bird plus the other bird, back home. The winner gets to keep his buddy’s pigeon. When your favorite bird is at stake, it’s quite a nerve-wracking event.

Both of the authors grew up in Ethiopia and their affection for the land and people glows in this lovely story. E. B. Lewis brings it all to life with evocative, sun-dappled illustrations. An intriguing Author’s Note tells more about pigeons and the raising of them by Ethiopian boys. Ages 4 and up.

 

The Fastest Boy in the World, written by Elizabeth Laird takes place in the highlands of Ethiopia and the capital city of Addis Ababa. It’s a great little read emphasizing the adoration the Ethiopian people have for the sport of running. You can read my review here.

SOMALIA

Muktar and the Camels, written by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack
published in 2009 by Henry Holt and Company

Muktar lives in a Kenyan orphanage throughout this story, but his childhood memories are of Somalia. In those early years, before drought and war engulfed his homeland, Muktar and his family lived a nomadic life there with their camels, and oh! how he longs for that. Working with camels is what life is all about for him.

When a visiting librarian comes from Garissa, Kenya, with loads of books strapped to the backs of a train of camels, Muktar’s deep knowledge of these beasts, passed down to him from his father, ends of saving the day. In return, Muktar’s wildest dreams really do come true.

A rare glimpse of the desert north of Kenya and  Somali refugee children, beautifully illustrated, for ages 4 and up.

KENYA

Beatrice’s Dream: A Story of Kibera Slum, written by Karen Lynn Williams, photographs by Wendy Stone
published in 2011 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Millions of children live in urban slums, vast enclaves of desperate poverty in some of our largest global cities. Yet there are very few books about their lives among the multicultural titles for children.

I am so pleased to acquaint you with this title which spotlights a 13-year-old girl living in one of the largest, most infamous slums in the world, the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. The author and illustrator have used great care to portray Beatrice with dignity, with hopes, dreams, and routines to which your children can relate. It’s an immensely important window into tremendously challenging living conditions that can be shared with children ages 4 or 5 and older.

Only the Mountains Do Not Move: A Maasai Story of Culture and Conservation, written and photographed by Jan Reynolds
published in 2011 by Lee & Low Books

The Maasai are perhaps the ethnic group in Kenya who appear most often in children’s literature. Their colorful red cloaks and intriguing lives as cattle-herding nomads lend themselves well to that, I guess.

This photo essay brings us into the everyday lives of one group of Maasai in northern Kenya. Enter their community, learn about their homes, chores, and the way their lives revolve around herds of cattle and goats. Reynolds uses this story to explore, too, how deforestation and climate change impact the Maasai way of life as well as the land and wildlife in East Africa. That sounds like a lot, but it’s presented in a way easily accessible to kids ages 7 and up.

Planting the Trees of Kenya, reviewed here

and

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, reviewed here

are both beautiful accounts of the Nobel-prize winning Kenyan woman and her reforestation efforts in Kenya.

UGANDA

Beatrice’s Goat, written by Page McBrier, illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter
published in 2001 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

In the rolling hills of Uganda, in a small village called Kisinga, a little girl named Beatrice lives with her mom, brothers, and sisters.

As subsistence farmers who must carry water, hoe the fields, grind cassava flour, tend the chickens, life is a series of daily chores for Beatrice and her family which means that school — that enticing place where children learn such interesting things — is out of reach.

Until one goat changes everything. Discover life in rural Uganda and learn about the huge impact of organizations like the Heifer Project whose gift of a goat sets the economic tables in an upward spiral for Beatrice’s family and many others. Joyful, vibrant paintings accompany this upbeat, intriguing story. Ages 4 and up.

TANZANIA

Kele’s Secret, by Tololwa M. Mollel, illustrated by Catherine Stock
published in 1997 by Lodestar Books

Tololwa Mollel is an Arusha Maasai who grew up on his grandparents’ coffee farm in Tanzania. This fabulous account of a small boy named Yoanes and his search for the eggs laid by grandmother’s hens in such strange places…even frightening places…rings true in a delightful, transporting way.

Catherine Stock’s masterful watercolor work brings the countryside and marketplaces of Tanzania to vivid life. Wonderful story for ages 3 and up.

In a Cloud of Dust, written by Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Brian Deines
published in 2015 by Pajama Press

This brief, touching story is set on the hot dusty plains of rural Tanzania. Anna has a long walk to her school so she’s awestruck to see a truck full of bicycles bearing a sign — Bicycle Library — pull up in front of the school. It would be a dream to have a bicycle of her own! In a realistic, poignant twist, Anna and her friends learn to make do and share the bikes they are given.

Gorgeous paintings bring a hot glow to the Tanzanian countryside. An Author’s Note gives further information about the role of bicycles in Africa and some charities working to bring bikes to people who need them. Lovely and thought-provoking for ages 3 and up.

The Elizabeti books are sweet stories set in Tanzania. I’ve previously brought you:

Elizabeti’s Doll

Here’s a sequel to that story:

Mama Elizabeti, written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale
published in 2000 by Lee & Low Books

Mama’s had yet another baby, this time a darling sister named Flora. That means Mama’s got her hands full and it’s up to Elizabeti to care for her toddler brother, Obedi.

Elizabeti has had lots of practice taking care of her rock doll, so how hard can this be? Turns out — very hard indeed! Obedi is a busybody! He’s quite a stout load for Elizabeti to carry on her back and causes no end of trouble while she goes about her other daily chores. How on earth is a young girl supposed to manage all this?

This story warmly presents a reality for young African girls who bear extraordinary responsibilities at such tender ages. Elizabeti is a resourceful, kindhearted sister and her solution to her troubles will win your hearts. Ages 4 and up. Look for other titles in this series as well.

Our next stop is Central and Southern Africa.

Here are links to our previous destinations:
Destination: Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa

Destination: Indian Subcontinent

Destination: East Asia

Destination: Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia

A Sampler of Cultures

Buckle up for a World Tour

Musings: a world of swiss cheese

Read Full Post »

We’re heading north from Australia to reach the eastern portion of Asia this week. What a treasure trove of ancient, rich cultures mingle in this area!

I found that a significant portion of stories connected with these countries focus on folks who have come to the United States. Korean-Americans, for example. Vietnamese refugees.  Chinese immigrants. Great books, but my search is for books set in Asia itself. We are touring the world, after all! So none of those appear in my lists. 

I’m also focused on the world of today, rather than accounts of ancient civilizations or folktales. This makes the pickings quite a bit slimmer! But if you want a mostly-current window into the lives children live in East Asia, you’ll do well with these titles. 

INDONESIA

All About Indonesia: Stories, Songs and Crafts for Kids, written by Linda Hibbs
published in 2014 by Tuttle Publishing

You’ll see the name of Tuttle Publishing a lot when it comes to stories from Asia as that is their entire focus, and how glad we are for that! The All About Asia series contains lots of child-friendly information about areas that are sometimes underrepresented on our library shelves, and that includes Indonesia.

Visit Jakarta as well as small villages. Check out mountains and coasts. Learn about music, dance, and sport. Try some Indonesian words and foods. Loaded with photographs and illustrations and parceled out in sections just right for exploring a bit at a time, this is a great way to get to know this island nation.

I is for Indonesia, by Elizabeth Rush, illustrated by Eddie Hara
published in 2013 by Things Asian Press

I haven’t actually seen this book but from what I can glimpse on-line it looks like a funky, off-beat tour of Indonesia! With wild and wooly illustrations from the inventive Indonesian artist, Eddie Hara, you definitely are not in for a placid, run-of-the-mill deal here.

If I could get one from my library, I would definitely give it a whirl, especially for slightly older children, say ages 5 and up, who like their meatballs with a little sriracha sauce. 

Rice Is Life, written by Rita Golden Gelman, illustrated by Yangsook Choi
published in 2000 by Henry Holt and Company

Life in Bali revolves around rice. It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rice fields, called sawah, are the pivot point of the calendar as preparation, planting, tending, and harvesting happen year after year.

Rita Gelman captures the rhythms, the poetry, the beauty of Bali’s rice fields as well as the fascinating particulars of fishing for dragonflies, herding ducks, and making offerings to the rice goddess. Illustrations glow with the emerald rice, and convey the grace of the Balinese people. Lovely and intriguing, for ages 4 and up.

Ayu and the Perfect Moon, written and illustrated by David Cox
published in 1984 by The Bodley Head

Follow the story of a young girl named Ayu who dreams of performing in the famous Balinese Legong dance.

As she watches the spectacular procession of giant puppets and masked dancers, Ayu is seized with a longing to join the other dancers to the accompaniment of the gamelan musicians. So she practices and practices until one propitious night when the moon is full, she’s decked out with magnificent clothing, crowned with gold and frangipani flowers, and dances the Legong. Gorgeous slice of Balinese life, rendered beautifully. An entrancing read for ages 2 and up.

The PHILIPPINES

All About the Philippines: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids, written by Gidget Roceles Jimenez, illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano
published in 2015 by Tuttle Publishing

Part of the series All About Asia, this book follows three Filipino cousins who come from different islands, ethnicities, and languages to showcase the diversity of this nation.

Get a taste of history, geography, language. Travel to Luzon, Cebu, and Mindanao. Learn about games and celebrations. Cook up some Filipino foods with the recipes included. There’s a lot packed in here to share with children ages 7 and up.

VIETNAM

Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam 

Life in the highlands of Vietnam, among emerald rice fields, threatening tigers, and a beloved water buffalo is recalled in this gorgeously-written memoir. Read my full review here. A fantastic read-aloud for ages 6 and up.

CAMBODIA

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh, written by Frederick Lipp, illustrated by Ronald Himler
published in 2001 by Holiday House

Ary is a little girl living among the crowded, smoky streets of Phnom Penh where she sells strings of flowers to help her family survive. She has heard about the endless green rice paddies beyond the city, lush with rainfall and sunlight, but her life has ever been hemmed in by hardness.

One day Ary takes her savings to the bird woman whose cage is filled with singing fragments of beauty. The bird woman takes her coins in exchange for the choice of one bird to set free, to soar with a wish to the heavens. Ary is elated at first,  but the bird has been trained to simply fly back to its cage, preferring food to freedom. Is there any way for Ari’s wishes to come true? A poignant story of a relatively hidden world, illustrated with tenderness and dignity. Ages 4 and up.

THAILAND

The Umbrella Queen

Head to northern Thailand and visit the markets where beautiful hand-painted umbrellas reign in this dear, beautifully illustrated story, reviewed here.


Hush: A Thai Lullaby

A handsomely illustrated story of one Thai mama trying to coax her baby to sleep. Great choice for the littlest travelers, under-two and up. My review is here

The Life of Rice: From Seedling to Supper, written and photographed by Richard Sobol
published in 2010 by Candlewick Press

Life in Thailand also centers on rice. Richard Sobol has written a fascinating account of the many festivals dedicated to rice, and the intriguing planting and harvesting traditions carried out in northeast Thailand. 

If you think the story of rice sounds dull, that’s because you have never attended the striking Royal Plowing Ceremony or met the royal white oxen, or seen the boldly painted combines used in Thailand. This is a story about the Thai people as much as about their beloved rice. Beautiful photographs by an award-winning photographer. Read it together with kids ages 6 and up.

I Am a Little Monk, written by Mi-hwa Joo, illustrated by Hwa-kyeong Gahng, English text edited by Joy Cowley
originally published in Korea; English edition published in 2015 by big & SMALL

Urt is a little boy who can’t seem to keep out of trouble. When he meets his uncle, a man who came back from his stay in the temple with such a “relaxed heart,” Urt decides that he too will devote himself to the practices of a monk for a time.

Meditation, care of the temple, going out to collect food, helping others, learning to share — these are all lessons Urt begins to learn through his time spent as a little monk. The brief story is lightly told and warmly illustrated. Much of the information will be gleaned from end pages which explain Thai greetings, nicknames, temples, festivals, and a bit more about the daily life of a monk. It’s great to see a children’s book touching on one of the most important aspects of Thai culture — Buddhism. Ages 3 and up.

All About Thailand: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids, written by Elaine Russell, illustrated by Patcharee Meesukhon and Vinit Yeesman
published in 2016 by Tuttle Publishing

Part of the All About Asia series, this colorful book leads us into four different regions of Thailand, hands us some Thai language with a link to hear these words spoken, introduces foods, arts, sports, games, celebrations, dances, music, shadow puppets and lots, lots more. These are terrific one-stop introductions to each country.

MYANMAR

I See the Sun in Myanmar, written by Dedie King, illustrations by Judith Inglese
published in 2013 by Satya House Publications

Follow one young girl through her day in a village near Mandalay in central Myanmar. From waking up to the sound of temple bells,  to the evening gathering around the household altar, Buddhist practices permeate her life. Myanmar is also a land of bullock carts, thanaka paste, the Irawaddy River, fish curry. The gentle, matter-of-fact narration of the day includes many intriguing details, while collage illustrations bring all these unknowns to life for us.

I love that the elegant Burmese script runs simultaneously on every page.  An afterword tells more about Myanmar for older readers and adults. The book itself is suited to ages 3 and up.

M is for Myanmar, written by Elizabeth Rush, illustrated by Khin Maung Myint
published in 2011 by ThingsAsian Kids

A colorful dip into Myanmar, this book is illustrated by an artist from Yangon, Myanmar, and has text in both English and the incredibly curly Burmese script. 

Catch a glimmer of the Shwedagon Pagoda, meander the emerald patchwork of rice fields, paddle across Inle Lake, taste Mohinga Noodle Soup. Lighthearted free verse, with illustrations filling in details. Colorful and upbeat, for ages 5 and up.

CHINA

One Year in Beijing, written by Xiaohong Wang, illustrated by Grace Lin, translated by Lei Li
published in 2006 by ChinaSprout Inc.

Ling Ling is 8 years old and lives in modern day Beijing. Her mom’s a teacher. Her dad works at a computer company. Follow the three of them through a typical year in their lives and learn what Ling Ling wants most for a New Year’s present, how to celebrate Qing Ming Festival, what mountain Ling Ling climbs with her family on their summer break, where they head to see brilliant maples in fall splendor, what special food is served on her birthday…great details of life in contemporary China.

Illustrated in a child-appealing style by Grace Lin, this is a great intro for children ages 5 and up, with lots more detail in the end pages about the foods, holidays, places, and traditions mentioned briefly in the text.

All About China: Stories Songs, Crafts and More for Kids, written by Allison “Aixin” Branscombe, illustrated by Lin Wang
published in 2014 by Tuttle Publishing

Part of the All About Asia series, this book’s title made me smile. Maybe “A Little About China” would be closer? Such a vast land, extremely diverse in its topography, climates, lifestyles, and ethnic minorities, is impossible to survey in one blast. Despite that, this is a great book, simply crammed with great information about China’s diversity, history, festivals, arts, belief systems, as well as details about home styles around China, chopstick etiquette, projects, recipes…cram jam, as I say.

One of the things I especially love about this book is its emphasis on contemporary China as differentiated from the older versions of Chinese lifestyles that can predominate our children’s literature. Fantastic resource for ages 5 and up.

Good Morning, China, written and illustrated by Hu Yong Yi
published in 2007 by Roaring Brook Press

It’s seven ‘o clock in the morning. The park is full of people engaged in their morning pursuits.

Cycling, badminton, tai chi, fan dancing. Serenity, community, and culture are beautifully displayed on individual pages, then brought together in one splendid final page which unfolds to reveal the entire park. A quiet, enchanting glimpse of one small corner of China, for ages 3 and up.

Mei-Mei Loves the Morning, written by Margaret Holloway Tsubakiyama, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
published in 1999 by Albert Whitman & Company

Another morning in China, this time accompanying little Mei-Mei and her dear grandpa. Starting with rice porridge and pickled vegetables for breakfast, the two of them ride on Grandpa’s bike along busy streets, through the round moon gate, to the park. 

Their friends are waiting for them, as well as for the special companion they’ve brought along. Who and what could it be? Join these two for a sweet Chinese morning. Handsome oil paintings reveal lots more about their lives. Ages 3 and up. 

Lost and Found: Adèle and Simon in China, written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock
published in 2016 by Farrar Straus Giroux

The impeccable, delicate illustration work of Barbara McClintock captivates us on every page of this grand tour of China, dogging the footsteps of brother and sister, Adéle and Simon. These two are off on a huge adventure with Uncle Sidney, dropping in on a silk farm, canalside town, the Forbidden City, Great Wall, a Mongolian ger, desert caravan, Buddhist monastery, bamboo forest, and more.

Along the way, Simon keeps losing his belongings, giving us one more thing to spy in these detailed double-page spreads. Immensely engaging, with extra pages telling about each site visited by the trio. An absolute gem for ages 5 and up.

A New Year’s Reunion

This story raises our awareness of more than 100 million Chinese migrant workers who return home to China to celebrate New Year’s Day if at all possible. Fabulous glimpse of a difficult reality. Reviewed here.

Long Long’s New Year

Celebrate the grand festival with red lanterns, tang hulus, dragons parading through the street and one lucky little boy. My review is here

Happy New Year! written and illustrated by Demi
published in 1997 by Crown Publishers

This is a much more informative book about Chinese New Year rather than a story like the previous two titles.

Demi explains the cycle of New Year celebrations, animal zodiac, correlation with spring planting, household preparations, good luck wishes, the meanings of many foods in the New Year feast, the meanings of trees and flowers given as gifts, and lots more about the spiritual aspects of this celebration.

All of this is done quite lightly and briefly and illustrated with Demi’s charming touch. An unusual array of lore for ages 6 and up. ( This book was republished in 2003 by Knopf under the title Happy Happy Chinese New Year. Maybe that will be easier to find.)

Anno’s China, by Mitsumasa Anno
originally published in 2009; published in 2016 by Beautiful Feet Books

If you don’t know Anno’s beautiful, intriguing journeys in his numerous books taking us from Spain to Britain to the U.S., you should start with this one and move on from here.

This time he models his illustrations after a famous Chinese scroll painting. As we move along the river in Anno’s story, we drift in and out of villages, along rice fields, past markets and shipbuilders, elementary schools and funeral processions. In some of Anno’s books we have to spy all the cultural details and references without help. In this volume, each scene has commentary in the back of the book so we can first observe for ourselves all the details he’s packed in and then read about the scenes in Anno’s informative comments. Serene, gorgeous, fascinating, for ages 3 to adult.

Who Wants Candied Hawberries? written by Dongni Bao, illustrated by Di Wu, translated by Adam Lanphier
English edition published in 2016 by Candied Plums

Help yourself to this charming little fantasy featuring an elderly Chinese hawberry peddler and some mysterious customers of his.

I won’t say too much for fear of spoiling the delight of discovering just who visits the peddler and buys his wares, so much so that he has enough money to buy medicine for his wife. Set in snowy Beijing, with a very different feel to the environs than any other of the books on China, this one’s a curious treat for ages 3 and up.

TIBET

Our Journey from Tibet: Based on a True Story, written by Laurie Dolphin, photographs by Nancy Jo Johnson
published in 1997 by Dutton Children’s Books

This poignant story reveals the experience of many young Tibetan children who illegally escape the restrictive regulations of the Chinese government in favor of a life in India. 

It’s based on interviews with a 9-year-old girl named Sonam who made the incredibly arduous journey over the Himalayas, leaving behind parents and home, facing fear, battered feet, swollen rivers, scarce food, snow blindness, soldiers, and so much more with amazing bravery.

Sonam and the others in her group joined thousands of other Tibetan children being cared for in children’s villages in India where they receive education and care while they await the day that Tibet is declared free and they can return home. Beautifully written and photographed, this is an eye opener for children ages 6 and up.

MONGOLIA

My Little Round House

I love this story by a Mongolian author/artist who introduces us to her homeland via one little baby and his first year of life. Full review is here.

Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia, written and illustrated by Ted and Betsy Lewin
published in 2008 by Lee & Low Books

The Naadam is an annual summer festival held in Mongolia with races showcasing the Mongolians’ incredible horsemanship. One of the races sees young boys and girls — child jockeys — racing across the steppe on half-wild horses!

Ted and Betsy Lewin traveled to Mongolia to see the Naadam traditions for themselves. This is their fascinating travelogue, focusing on one child jockey, 9-year-old Tamir. Striking illustration work brings the scenes vividly to life in this breathtakingly reckless contest! More intriguing facts about gers and life in Mongolia are included. Amazing, for ages 6 and up.

KOREA

Bee Bim Bop, written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
published in 2005 by Clarion Books

Have you eaten bee-bim bop? It’s a very popular dish in Korea and appears on menus in restaurants here in the U.S.

Dance along with the enthusiasm of one little girl who simply cannot wait to dig into some of her mom’s bee-bim bop in this cheerful story perfect for toddlers. Then go ahead and try some of your own using the recipe included in the book. Warm illustrations portray a contemporary Korean family.

New Clothes for New Year’s Day

A lovely, quiet story about the grand holiday of New Year’s. Click the title for my full review.

 

Goodbye 382 Shin Dang Dong

A view of Korean culture through the eyes of someone who is moving far away. Click the title for my full review.

 

JAPAN

Take Me Out to the Yakyu

Fabulous, fun, side-by-side comparison of baseball in the Japan and the U.S. Click on the link for my full review.

I Live in Tokyo, written and illustrated by Mari Takabayashi
published in 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Books

Travel to modern day Japan and take in dozens of colorful vignettes by Japanese artist Mari Takabayashi as she guides us through one calendar year in Tokyo.

Celebrate the New Year and Valentine’s Day, Tokyo-style. Go to school, take in a tea ceremony, and attend a wedding. It’s a joyful catalog of Japanese life, sure to pique the interest of children ages 4 and up. A glossary of words and numbers at the end will let you practice your Japanese, too!

My Awesome Japan Adventure: A Diary About the Best 4 Months Ever, written and illustrated by Rebecca Otowa
published in 2013 by Tuttle Publishing

This is a great middle-grade read. It’s the diary of a 5th grade boy who is off to spend some months with a pen pal near Kyoto. Written in a casual, 11-year-old boy voice — as you can tell from the title! — Dan describes Japan through the eyes of a first-time visitor. Breakfast, school, helping out with a rice harvest, Athletic Day, bowing, a tea ceremony, a visit to a Ninja Village and lots more are all packed in here in brief entries.

Contemporary, youthful Japan — that’s what you get here, beautifully illustrated and served up with this age group in mind. Ages 9 and up.

Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers, written by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
published in 2008 by Sleeping Bear Press

I know. I’m supposed to be focusing on the present, but this dream of a tale was simply irresistible. 

Based on the 17th century practice of the provincial governors’ annual trek between Kyoto and Tokyo, this story narrates the journey from the viewpoint of the governor’s young daughter, Yuki. Travel along with her aboard a palanquin for 300 miles of extraordinary sights, sounds, tastes.

The long train of 1000 carriers moves through all sorts of terrain, weather, lodging, as Yuki wrestles with changing homes and composes a little haiku each day. Gorgeous, inspired illustration work and fascinating detail about this long ago time and beautiful land for ages 4 and up.

Many more fantastic titles, including chapter books and middle-grade novels about East Asia that just didn’t quite fit in our tour are in my archives. They’re easy to find in my Subject Index.

Have another awesome title to recommend? Please do, in the comments.

Our next destination will be the Indian Subcontinent so stock up on your curry and naan. 

If you’ve missed the earlier stops on our tour, here are links:

Tour of the World: Destination Australia, New Zealand, and Micronesia

Tour of the World: A Sampler of Cultures to Start

Buckle Up for a Tour of the World

 Enjoying the ride? Tell a friend about the tour!

Read Full Post »

hot-cocoa

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

the-christmas-boot-cover-image

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.

the-christmas-boot-title-page-jerry-pinkney

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.

the-christmas-boot-illustration-detail-jerry-pinkney

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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our grandparents a global album cover imageOur Grandparents: A Global Album, by Maya Ajmera, Sheila Kinkade, and Cynthia Pon
published in 2010 by Charlesbridge

What’s more dear than the connection between a grandparent and grandchild?

This photoessay carries us around the world, letting us peek in on these special bonds from…

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Tibet…

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…to Chile…

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…as well as in many cultures within the U.S.

It’s a great collection to browse through, to entice children toward a big view of the world and its peoples who are so different, yet in many ways just the same.

Dozens of colorful photos and extremely brief text — essentially just photo captions — make this feel mostly like a global scrapbook album, accessible to children about 18 months and older.

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