Read Around the World: Highlights

It has been great to hear from those of you who have read around the world with your kids this summer!

To wrap up this summer’s Read Around the World event, I wanted to highlight the very best resources my kids and I have discovered. Here are our favorite picture books and authors as well as links to fantastic international recipes, activities, and book reviews. I hope that this post will inspire more parents and teachers to read around the world with their kids.

This post also includes great ideas for throwing an international party to conclude and celebrate your kids’ travels. This past summer, at the urging of my enthusiastic son, we threw an international party for kids in our neighborhood that included an international food potluck and international activities (e.g. Chinese tangrams, a world cup soccer quiz, and a piñata). The party was a hit.

I love that through reading around the world we have discovered wonderful books that have become incorporated into the standard fare we check out from the library. My six-year-old son loves Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco, My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa Mollel and E. B. Lewis and all of the books on the Arctic booklist. My four-year-old daughter regularly requests Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond and Allan Eitzen, I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakité and Baba Wagué Diakité, and Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch. My two-year-old son is currently infatuated with Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade.

Reading around the world has enriched our lives by expanding the selection of stories we read and foods we eat. I hope that these books will enrich your lives as well.


I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakité and Baba Wagué Diakité. The story of a young girl from the United States who loses her tooth while visiting her family in Mali. In exchange for her tooth, the girl receives two chickens from the African tooth fairy. I Lost my Tooth in Africa is one of my four-year-old daughter’s very favorite books. (Mali) Ages 3+ 

Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams and Catherine Stock. A young Malawi boy goes to great lengths to collect enough wire to make a galimoto, a toy vehicle. With industriousness and creativity, the young boy creates an impressive toy. (Malawi) Ages 4+ 

Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch.Grace is a wonderful character — creative, adventurous, and thoughtful. In Boundless Grace, Grace is invited to visit her father, who she has not seen for years, in The Gambia. Boundless Grace is a compelling story about Grace trying to make sense of her family after meeting her father’s new wife and children. It includes memorable descriptions and illustrations of an African airport, compound, marketplace and more. (The Gambia) Ages 4+ 

Check out these authors!

  • Baba Wagué Diakité The Hunterman and the Crocodile, I Lost My Tooth in Africa
  • Niki Daly Jamela’s Dress, What’s Cooking, Jamela?, Not So Fast Sonogolo



  • Make a galimoto (a toy vehicle) — Williams Writes



Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer. A humorous story about the spirited Olivia and her family taking a trip to Venice. Olivia is an entertaining guide to the major sites in Venice. Olivia Goes to Venice! is best read with gelato! (Italy) Ages 3+


Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco. An engaging tale about an old woman who witnesses two miracles while decorating eggs for an Easter festival. While not a realistic portrayal of modern Russia, Rechenka’s Eggs is a wonderful story that depicts the beauty of traditional Ukranian eggs. If you enjoy Rechenka’s Eggs, look for others by Patricia Polacco. (Russia) Ages 4+ 

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Cristina Bjork and Lena Anderson. A delightful story of a girl Linnea who visits Paris with her neighbor Mr. Bloom. Linnea and Mr. Bloom have a wonderful adventure, which includes staying in an old hotel with a view of Notre-Dame Cathedral, drawing and photographing flowers at Monet’s garden, meeting Monet’s step-great-grandson, picnicking by the River Ru, and waking up early to watch the sunrise on the Seine. Readers will learn about Monet, impressionism, and Paris, and enjoy imaging themselves traveling to Paris. (France) Ages 6+ 

Two of our favorite authors!





Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein and Bronwyn Bancroft. ”On Sunday afternoon Old Stephen nodded to the dark clouds spreading in the south. ‘Big rain coming,’ he said.” In Big Rain Coming, children and animals wait for rain to come. It seems like the rain will never come. The beautiful bold illustrations and simple plot make this book a great choice to read aloud to a group of children. (Australia) Ages 3+ 

Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas. A story about two possoms, Hush and Grandma Poss. Grandma Poss uses her magic to make Hush invisible. When Hush wants to be visible again, the two go on a trek around Australia in search of something to make Hush visible. Along the way, they eat many traditional Australian foods. (Australia) Ages 3+ 

Are We There Yet?: A Journey Around Australia by Alison Lester. Alison Lester is a fun tour guide as she describes a family trip around Australia. Are We There Yet? introduced kids to the variety of things to see and do in Australia and at the same time maintains the feel of  a story about a family vacation. In this story, eight-year-old Grace and her family visit the pinnacles at Perth, squeeze into a camper, snorkel at Turquoise Bay, entertain themselves as they drive, hike between round red domes in the Outback, stop for a picnic lunch, and have many more adventures. (Australia) Ages 5+ 

Two of our favorite authors!

  • Alison Lester — Are We There Yet?, The Farm
  • Bronwyn Bancroft Big Rain Coming, Why I Love Australia, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words



The Arctic

Kumak’s Fish by Michael Bania. A tall tale about a man Kumak and his family who go ice fishing, with a hilarious ending. See also Kumak’s House by Michael Bania. (Alaska, U.S.) Ages 3+ 

Berry Magic by Teri Sloat and Betty Huffmon. A magical story about how tasty salmonberries, raspberries, cranberries and blueberries came to grow on the tundra. The story ends with a recipe for akutaq (Eskimo ice cream) served each year with berries at the fall festival. (Alaska, U.S.) Ages 3+ 

Arctic Son by Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor. Written by the author of My Side of the Mountain, Arctic Son describes the adventures of a young boy growing up in an Inupiat village. Jean Craighead George has written another story of Arctic life entitled Snow Bear(Alaska, U.S.) Ages 4+ 

Check out this author and illustrator!


  • Build an igloo — The Toy Report


South America

The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan Mitchell and Connie McLelland. Introduces kids to the Amazon Rainforest via an adaptation of the son The Green Grass Grew All Around. A Rainforest Grew All Around is a cumulative rhyme that is fun to read aloud. This book contains a recipe for rainforest cookies made with ingredients that initially came from rainforests. (Brazil) Ages 3+ 

Me llamo Gabriela by Monica Brown and John Parra. A very nice introduction to Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American writer to receive the Nobel Price in Literature. Me llamo Gabriela is well written with lovely illustrations by John Parra. (Chile) Ages 4+ 

Cassio’s Day: From Dusk to Dawn in a Brazilian Village by Maria de Fatima Campos. In a straightforward manner, Cassio’s Day describes six-year-old Cassio eating breakfast, going to school, playing with friends, celebrating his father’s birthday, and going to bed. Cassio has a full day, which includes stops to watch a woman in his village make cheese and to watch a man in his village make a basket. (Brazil) Ages 5+ 

Check out this author and illustrator!

  • Monica Brown My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz, My Name is Gabriela: The Life of Gabriela Minstral, Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People
  • Beatriz Vidal The Magic Bean Tree: A Legend from Argentina, Rainbow Crow, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain





Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade. A father and daughter engage in a playful game of jut-ay (Thai hide-and-seek). This is one of my children’s favorite books; they enjoy searching for the daughter hidden on each page. Illustrator Holly Meade received a Caldecott Honor for Hush!: A Thai Lullaby, and Meade’s illustrations in Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek are equally impressive — colorful and textured, with unusual perspectives. (Thailand) Ages 2+ 

I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi. Describes the big events and celebrations that occur in a year in the life of seven-year-old Mimiko. I love the detail included in the lovely, watercolor illustrations (e.g. illustrations of Mimiko’s top ten favorite meals). (Japan) Ages 4+


Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond and Allan Eitzen. A deceptively simple, well-written story of a girl who plants a cherry tree and cares for the tree as she grows up. Cherry Tree is set in the Himalayan foothills of northern India where, according to the story, there are not many fruit trees. My children both love this book…perhaps because of the lovely illustrations, perhaps because they enjoy imagining themselves growing older. (India) Ages 4+

The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi and Ned Gannon. This story of three siblings and their family observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan conveys the excitement of children as Eid approaches. The White Nights of Ramadan includes engaging dialog and information about the customs and meaning of Ramadan. (Kuwait) Ages 5+ 

Two fantastic author/illustrators!

  • Minfong Ho Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek, Hush!: A Thai Lullaby
  • Rukhsana Khan Silly Chicken, Big Red Lollipop, King of the Skies




Children Around the World

One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley. Celebrates the variety of ways children around the world eat breakfast, travel to school, and engage in other everyday activities. The highlight of One World, One Day is the wonderful images of children from around the world. Barbary Kerley’s photography is phenomenal! Ages 2+

Nine O’Clock Lullaby by Marilyn Singer and Frane Lessac. Describes scenes from around the world happening at the same time that the child narrator is going to bed. “9 P.M. in Brooklyn, New York, is…10 P.M. in Puerto Rico…” the story begins. Nine O’Clock Lullaby describe scenes in the mid-Atlantic, England, and Zaire, among other places. My kids were fascinated to learn that the time of day changes as you travel around the globe. Ages 4+

Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie. The first in a series of adorable books about two best friends: Puddle the homebody and Toot the world traveler. In Toot and Puddle, Toot travels the world and sends postcards home to Puddle sharing his adventures. Ages 4+


Mapping Penny’s World by Loreen Leedy. In this introduction to maps, a girl named Lisa makes maps of various places her dog Penny hangs out, from her bedroom, to her neighborhood, to a park. This book concludes with a map of the world, with all of the places Lisa and Penny plan to visit. Mapping Penny’s World has been one of my son’s favorite books for the past year. He enjoys the little jokes about Penny as well as the information about maps. Ages 4+

Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney. Me on the Map is useful for explaining to kids how big the world is. The narrator begins by showing kids how she draws a map of her room. She then pans out to draw maps of progressively larger areas — her house, her street, her town, etc. Near the end of the book, there is a map of the world, with drawings of kids from different countries on the map. The narrator explains “…in rooms, in houses, on streets, in towns, in countries all over the world, everybody has their own special place on the map.” Ages 4+

Read Around the World Booklists:

Additional Resources:

Read Around the World — The Read Around the World booklists available in one place.

For Parents and Teachers — A collection of great educational resources for teaching kids about other countries, including a pretend passport template, the best source for free printable flags, a kids’ multicultural cookbook and much more.

For Librarians — A resource for librarians interested in sharing stories set in countries around the world with patrons.

This entry was posted in Ages 3+, Ages 4+, Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+ and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Read Around the World: Highlights

  1. Rachel says:

    I JUST realized I was linked from this post! Thank you so much. This post is wonderful and incredibly enriching. I am honored to have my art lessons mentioned!

  2. Allison says:

    I agree with everyone else: What a wonderful resource! I’ve been trying to diversify my own reading of children’s books and so will be checking your list for ideas. How neat that you even included craft and food ideas. I did miss seeing books however from my own country: Canada. :-) Also, the teacher side in me wonders: What about books from around the states?

  3. Wow… incredible list of books! When the world is such a cool, fascinating place teaching world cultures and geography really becomes a piece of cake. I love the idea of making food from each culture as well.

  4. Angie says:

    We love Galimoto! I look forward to reading some of your other suggestions.

  5. Hi Amy,
    Awe-inspiring resource you’ve created. I am going to come back to this post again and again.
    We’re from India and hence we do lots of our country related art/craft/reading. But, we have this ongoing around-the-world project as part of which we take up one country each time. Currently, we are focusing on South Africa – also because of the fact that we visited SA recently.

    Thank you for inviting on Twitter to share an international project. I am sharing the links here. May be you can add where it’s appropriate.

    Drama in the wilderness in South Africa:
    Drama in the Wilderness. How Photos Can Help the Child Write Script & Dialogues!

    Making Dharma Chakra to Understand the meaning behind India’s Flag:

    Life-size Self Portrait

  6. jama says:

    Love this fabulous roundup. Thank you!

  7. Wow. This is a great round up! Thanks for sharing it with us all!

  8. Katie says:

    Wow, so much great stuff here! I’m definitely going to bookmark your post. Thanks.

  9. PragmaticMom says:

    This is such a great post! Love it!

  10. Zoe says:

    An astonishingly rich post Amy! One I know I’ll be returning to :-)

  11. Wow, what an amazing amazing resource you got here! Definitely bookmark-worthy! I’m glad to see you have a lot of resources from Paper Tigers – they also have a Read Around the World Challenge that we joined for 2011 – did you join that challenge? Thanks for putting this all together – must have taken you forever to draft it. ;-)

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