Growing Reader

Read Around the World with These 9 Great Kids’ Books

by Dena McMurdie

Photo credit: Tanya Constantine, Blend Images/Getty Images

You won’t need a passport for this trip around the globe, but you will need a library card. Reading stories from other parts of the world is fun and helps kids appreciate other cultures.

So take your kids to the library, find some great books, and go on a virtual vacation! If you don’t know where to start, I’ve made a list of some of my favorites.

  • Señorita Mariposa

    by Ben Gundersheimer, illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero

    In both English and Spanish, this vibrant picture book follows the annual migration that monarch butterflies take from Canada to Mexico. Young readers will get to see not only the landscapes the butterflies travel through, but also the people who call those landscapes home. It’s a fascinating way to travel, and a call to protect monarch butterflies and their habitats.
    (Ages 3 – 5)

  • Deep in the Sahara

    by Kelly Cunnane, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi

    Deep in the Sahara, a young Muslim girl named Lalla lives in a country called Mauritania, and she longs for a malafa, the beautiful cloth that women wear in her community. But before she’s gifted one of her very own, Lalla must learn what it really means to wear a malafa. A lyrical and warm story, this picture book brings Mauritania to life.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • Angel in Beijing

    by Belle Yang

    Taiwanese author-illustrator Belle Yang pens a sweet story of friendship between a young girl and a lost cat, set against the lively and inviting backdrop of Beijing. With her bell-adorned bicycle, the girl shuttles the cat through Beijing’s neighborhoods and tourist spots, and the two take in the breathtaking sights at the Dragon Boat Festival. It’s an authentic and charming introduction to China’s bustling capital city.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • Clara

    by Emily Arnold McCully

    Based on a true story, Clara features the infamous rhinoceros that made waves across Europe during her 18th-century tour. Only the fifth living rhino ever seen in Europe, Clara made the royal circuit, meeting Louis XV of France, Frederick the Great of Germany, and many more. The book makes for a fun historical view of Europe and includes a helpful map of Clara’s travels.
    (Ages 4 – 8)

  • Waiting for the Biblioburro

    by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra, translated by Adriana Dominguez

    I love this story of a dedicated teacher and librarian who took his mobile library — called the biblioburro, “powered” as it was by burros Alfa and Beto — to children living in rural villages in Colombia. This bilingual Spanish-English edition is perfect for adding new words to growing vocabularies, and the unique illustration style exudes the enthusiasm of young reader, Ana.
    (Ages 5 – 8)

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

    Young readers can now enjoy the inspiring true story of 14-year-old William Kamkwamba’s ingenuity that brought electricity to his Malawi village. William’s love for his tight-knit community shines through in this beautifully illustrated picture book full of lush and textured landscapes. For middle grade readers, check out the Young Readers Edition.
    (Ages 6 – 8)

  • Sand Swimmers

    by Narelle Oliver

    Young wildlife buffs know that Australia is teeming with fascinating creatures, especially in the strange and harsh desert region called the Dead Heart. In Sand Swimmers, Narelle Oliver combines science, natural history, and firsthand observations to uncover the unbelievably hardy species that live and thrive in this mysterious piece of Australian wilderness.
    (Ages 7 – 10)

  • The Secret Kingdom

    by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola

    The Secret Kingdom is a visually stunning biography of Nek Chand Saini, a village farmer who relocated to the city of Chandigarh after the 1947 partition of India. There, he gathered castoffs and small treasures to create a secret Rock Garden in the jungle — now a 40-acre sculpture garden open to the public. Rich watercolor illustrations capture the region’s natural beauty.
    (Ages 7 – 10)

  • Egyptology: Search for the Tomb of Osiris

    by Emily Sands, illustrated by Nick Harris, Helen Ward, and Ian Andrew

    A favorite with my kids, Egyptology is an educational and historical adventure. Interactive pieces on each page engage readers as they follow an explorer's search for the Tomb of Osiris. There are photos, drawings, maps, and journal entries for kids to pore over and explore.
    (Ages 8 – 12)