Updated: Jul 25, 2020
When I posted a list of our favorite world fairy and folk tales, I promised to also post a list of our other favorite picture books from our Homeschool World Trip. These 26 picture books span 6 continents and 14 countries. I have found picture books to be a wonderful way to engage my children in learning about other countries and cultures.
Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship is a sweet tale about a friendship between an elderly giant tortoise and an orphaned baby hippopotamus. My children loved reading about this unusual pair. The Circle of Life: Wildlife on the African Savannah is a large, full color photography book filled with amazing photos. My children pored over this book, soaking in all of the details.
The Dove is a story of a grandmother and granddaughter who are struggling to get by after a flood. My children loved hearing about the ingenuity of the granddaughter and how it was able to put food on the table.
Madeline has been an adored character for both of my children since they were toddlers. While we were "visiting" France, they loved re-hearing these classic stories of Madeline's life at a French orphanage ad her escapades in Madeline and the Gypsies.
The Story of Babar tells of an orphaned elephant who runs away to live in Paris. My children giggled along as Babar decked himself out on clothes and learned how to fit into Paris society.
My children enjoyed seeing the sites of London in The Inside-Outside Book of London. It includes many of the popular sites, such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, as well as everyday places such as an umbrella shop and a bus. Madeline in London continues the tale of Madeline and her friend Pepito, the son of the Spanish ambassador. My children enjoyed this Madeline book just as much as the others, and it included sites of London that they were able to pick out as we read. Out and About is one of my favorite children's books to read aloud. It includes short poems about everyday life in England, taking us through the seasons and showing many ways that kids can play outdoors. We especially love the illustrations in this book.
The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle is a fascinating book that tells of how a mangrove seed floating in the ocean can create a habitat. This book was an excellent addition to our World Trip that showcased some of the Caribbean flora and fauna.
The Great Kapok Tree is a great book for discussing care of the environment with children. Both of my kids liked hearing the perspectives of the different creatures who relied on the kapok tree, and this book was a good addition to our study of Brazil. Rainforest is a large book of full-color photographs of rain forest flora and fauna. This photos in this book are breathtaking, and many of them offer up-close details that are amazing to look at. My children and I loved looking at this book.
Corn is Maize is a book that weaves together both science and culture. This book details how corn grows as well as its uses by native peoples in the Americas. This book gave my children a better understanding of this important food source while we studied Central America.
My children were fascinated by Family Pictures and In My Family. These two books show snippets of traditional Mexican life, ranging from birthdays to wedding celebrations to everyday family activities. The text is printed in both Spanish and English.
Caribou Song is a book with striking illustrations that tells of a family and their experience with a herd of caribou. My children waited with bated breath to see if the children would be injured by the caribou, only to breathe a sigh of relief and joy as the magic unfolded. Scaredy Squirrel is a germa-phobic, meticulous animal who tries to control all the risks in his world. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and had my kids begging me to read it over and over again. The other books in the series have proven to be just as entertaining.
Are We There Yet? tells of a family's long road trip around Australia. My children liked learning about the different sites in Australia and had fun watching the family as they adjusted to life on-the-road.
The Perfect Sword tells of a master swordsmith and his apprentice, and their search for the right owner for the perfect sword they have created. This book served as a good character study for my children. Kamishibai Man is the story of a man who performed paper theater for children, yet he was slowly made obsolete by up-and-coming technology. In the end, the Kamishibai Man is once again telling a story, and this time there is a crowd ready to watch. This story was a nice reminder of the simple, beautiful life of the past. The illustrations in this book (as well as others by Allen Say) are gorgeous. Tea with Milk tells of the author's mother, May, who lived in San Francisco as a young girl but then moved to her parent's native Japan. Back in Japan, May felt out of place and homesick, caught between two cultures. This interesting narrative captured the interest of my children as they watched to see what would happen to May and how she would finally find home.
The Littlest Matryoshka tells of a set of nesting dolls, created by a craftsman in Russia and eventually sold in the United States. The littlest nesting doll becomes lost and separated from the others, and my kids were so happy when she was finally reunited with the rest of her doll sisters.
The Empty Pot reads like a folktale of ancient China, weaving the story of Ping, a little boy who loves flowers. When the emperor sets a challenge in order to select the next emperor, Ping is not able to make his plant grow, and yet his courage and honesty show the emperor that Ping is the only one worthy of being the next emperor. Daisy Comes Home is the story of Mei Mei and her six happy hens. The illustrations in Jan Brett's books are always a delight, and her entertaining stories are always a hit with my children. In this book, Daisy the hen is lost, and Mei Mei finally finds her and brings her back home. Both of my children love any books featuring chickens, since we have our own flock, and this book set in China was an interesting twist on the theme.
Same, Same But Different is a cute story, telling of penpals who learn about the many differences between life in India and life in the United States. The penpals find that, although their lives seem very different, they are also similar in many ways.
Finders Keepers? A True Story of India tells of the author's journey in India, wherein his lost wallet was returned to him by a young boy. The boy adamantly refused to accept any reward for returning the wallet, as the idea of accepting a reward for just being honest made no sense to him. I could see the gears turning in my children's heads while I read this book, as they thought about the deep lesson of doing right just because it was the right thing to do.
I hope this list of picture books is helpful in finding good resources to teach children about different places and cultures. Do you have any favorite world picture books?
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