Getting Started

For teachers, librarians, and parents interested in adding diversity to their reading repertoire, here are 17 books set in countries around the world with big kid appeal. 

I compiled this booklist for Share a Story Shape a Future, an annual blog tour for literacy. Today’s theme is Reading: A Passport to Other Worlds. Stop by Share a Story’s website for links to more articles on this topic and others.

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+

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+

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+

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+

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+

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 AroundA 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+  

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+

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+

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra. A story inspired by the Colombian teacher and librarian Luis Soriano Bohórquez who created a traveling library by bringing books to people in rural Colombian villages on his donkey. Waiting for the Biblioburro is a well-written story with lovely illustrations by John Parra. Consider pairing with Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter. (Colombia) 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+  

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+ 

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+


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+

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+

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+

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+

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+

Read Around the World Booklists:

Additional Resources:

Read Around the World: Highlights — My favorite books and authors as well as links to international recipes, activities, and book reviews.

For Parents and Teachers — A collection of excellent 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 — Suggestions for librarians interested in sharing stories set in countries around the world with patrons.

3 Responses to Getting Started

  1. Amy, I love your booklists! You always suggest many books that I have yet to read. From this list, Waiting for the Biblioburro and Galimoto caught my eye! Thanks for the recommendations.

    This is the first post I have visited from Day 2 of Share a Story, Shape a Future and it has really set the tone for the rest of my evening reading.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is such a wonderful resource for readers who want to read widely and don’t know where to start … or who want to know they’re starting with the best!

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