Books With International Appeal

While conducting author visits to international schools around the world, I often come across amazing books, titles that children in many countries will enjoy. Here are some of my favorites to share with students in different cultures:

GIFTS, a picture book written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated in plasticine by Barbara Reid. Published by Scholastic, ISBN-13 978-0-590-24935-5

A grandmother travels around the world, sending back gifts to her granddaughter. From Africa she sends ‘a bilboa seed and the roar of the jungle king’. While in India, the lyrical, poetic text says “What would you have me bring?” “Just something nice, like curry and rice, and a sitar’s twang and twing.” The elaborate plasticine illustration is rich with elephants, mosques and fruits.

The book takes young readers from Mexico to the Arctic, from Australia to Switzerland and places in between. A perfect ‘gift’ for those who like to travel!

For students in grades 4 and up, I highly recommend FOLLOW THE ELEPHANT, a novel by Beryl Young, published by Ronsdale Press. ISBN 978-1-55380-098-9.

The mother of thirteen-year-old Ben is concerned. Since losing his father, Ben is spending way too much time playing video games and refuses to talk about his feelings. Then Ben’s grandmother decides to take him along to India, on her quest to locate a long-lost penpal. Together they travel from Delhi to Agra, from Varanasi to Mahabalipuram and places in between, using different modes to transport. While starting off reluctantly, Ben soon learns about different cultures and religions. He finds out about elephant gods and explores caves, making friends along the route, not only discovering about the world around him but much about himself. Students who have lived in different places will identify with Ben.

I was introduced to one of my all time favorite books by a librarian in Singapore:THE LONDON JUNGLE BOOK, written and illustrated by Bhajju Shyam, published by Tara Books. ISBN 13: 9788186211878

This is a large, illustrated book and will appeal to children as much as it will to adults. A tribal artist from the Gond Community in India, Bhajju Shyam had never left the village of his birth. He was, however, invited to come to London to paint murals in an Indian restaurant. The book is his diary, in words and images of his impressions, ideas, and emotions while living in a world city, among a different culture. Using Gond idioms as they have never been used before, he turned London into a strange bestiary, bringing the signs of the forest to bear on the city. This appealing blend of nonfiction, legend, and personal narrative makes for an unforgettable read.