The world is an amazing place, and kids are more aware of this than adults. As they grow, they want to know more about the world around them, which makes the right children’s books extremely important to their development and growth as budding global citizens.
So pack your bags, grab some snacks, and get ready to explore the world through these amazing multicultural books, from the comfort of your couch!
1. First Stop: Indonesia
Heading straight up to our neighbours in the north, My Night In The Planetarium is about one boy’s overnight adventure in the Jakarta Planetarium. Based on the memories of author Innosanto Nagara, the story takes readers on a journey not just through one thrilling night, but through the recent history and culture of Indonesia.
Image Credit: Penguin Books
2. Next Stop: Taiwan & China
Continuing our north-bound direction, we now turn to a beautiful book by Taiwanese-American author Grace Lin. Based in Chinese folklore, When The Sea Turned To Silver is a daring story of rescue which celebrates the tradition of storytelling. Following Pinmei as she sets forth to bring her grandmother home, and beautifully illustrated by Grace Lin herself, you’ll want to linger on each page and at the same time keep turning pages.
Image Credit: Little Brown and Company
3. Next Stop: Japan
Crossing the East China Sea, we now arrive in Japan. Here, second generation Japanese-Canadian author, Chieri Uegaki, shares a story about the love between a girl and her grandfather in Ojiichan’s Gift. A story of hope, of difficult decisions and the importance of family, Ojichan’s Gift explores keeping traditions alive while everything around you is changing.
Image Credit: Kids Can Press
4. Next Stop: Canada
Leaving the continent of Asia behind us for now, we land on the shores of Canada and head inland to the mountainous region of North Saskatchewan. When We Had Sled Dogs: A Story from the Trapline, is another book based on the memories of its co-author, Ida Tremblay. Ida is a First Nation Cree Elder from La Ronge, who shares what it was like when dog teams were a part of traditional life. Along with stunning illustrations by Miriam Körner (co-author), we love that this book also weaves in Indigenous language throughout too.
Image Credit: YNWP Publishing
5. Next Stop: Cuba
Heading South to find some warmer waters, we arrive on a mysterious island in Cuba where one girl is finding the courage to break all the rules. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by American-Cuban poet, Margarita Engle, is the inspiring true life story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers.
Image Credit: HMH Books
6. Next Stop: Brazil
Continuing south to the big, beautiful and diverse Brazil, we find a story about a young boy helping to reignite his uncle’s passion for making beautiful clothes, in The Best Tailor in Pinbauê. Written and illustrated by Brazilian author, Eymard Toledo, and brought to life with beautiful collages and a sprinkling of Portuguese, this is a heartwarming story about never giving up.
Image Credit: Penguin Random House
7. Next Stop: Nigeria
Crossing the South Atlantic Sea and the Gulf of Guinea, we now arrive in Nigeria, where mayhem is unfolding. Taking place on the eve before the New Yam festival, Chicken In The Kitchen is an adventure story by Nigerian-American author, Nnedi Okorafor about one girl’s determination to save the day. Beautifully illustrated by Iranian-born illustrator Mehrdokht Amini, this is a book full of laughs and surprises.
Image Credit: Lerner Books
8. Next Stop: Israel
We now travel across the continent, to the north-east, until we come to Israel. Here we find a story about two neighbours learning to overcome their differences and help each other succeed. Yaffa and Fatima by author Fawzia Gilani-Williams and Italian illustrator Chiara Fedele, teaches us that differences aren’t a cause for conflict, but a strength that can help us work through any obstacle.
Image Credit: Lerner Books
9. Next Stop: Kenya
It'd be remiss of us to not give our very first (and very impactful) book a mention on this list. Heading south again to the Horn of Africa, we land in Kenya, where we find a young girl taking us on a journey through her life. From the city of Eldoret, to the rural farm of her grandmother, Lillian The Tiriki Girl by Kenyan author, Lillian Shirayra Mang’ong’o, and Puerto Rican illustrator Monica Paola Rodriguez, shows what it’s really like to grow up someplace else. A bonus is that money from each book sold goes into supporting local change in Kenya.
Image by us 😊
10. Last Stop: Australia
Finally, because there’s really no place like home, and because Australia is so diverse itself, we return to our own shores and share a story from our own backyard. Finding Our Heart, A Story about the Uluru Statement for Young Australians by Thomas Mayor is a story about understanding Australia’s past so we can move toward a shared future. Thomas is a Torres Strait Islander man born on Larrakia country in Darwin, and his poignant book is brought to life by Dhungatti artist and illustrator, Blak Douglas.
Image Credit: Hardie Grant Publishing
We hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of the world through books. There are some wonderful resources online (like this one) to help you find more stories from every corner of the world. Just because we can’t physically experience other places right now, doesn’t mean we can’t help our little learners explore different cultures.
Our hot tip: as you might’ve noticed from our selection, we try and find books with authors from the place the story is about. Otherwise you’ll likely end up with an outsider’s perspective, rather than the inside scoop. Happy travels!
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📸 Top photo by cottonbro