Tag: diverse childrens books

8 Books That Bring the World to Your Child

We don’t get out much. I would blame it on the fourth baby or on this “hectic” season of life, but I can’t really. Even before we had kids, we didn’t get out much. We just like staying home.

When I opened my Instagram account a few months ago and started seeing all the amazing places my friends take their kids, I began to feel a little guilty about that, like maybe we should be putting our kids in backpacks and trekking up mountains and stuff. And maybe we will once, just so they know what it’s like. But I grew up doing things like that and somehow, it never took. I’d just rather be at home, having dinner with the neighbors and harvesting tomatoes until my hands smell like tomato plants, putting the kids to bed on time and then watching The Clone Wars with my husband.

8 Books That Bring the World to Your Child | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t see ourselves as a family who will travel a lot, at least not for the sake of exploration. We would like to show our kids some parts of the world, yes. That sounds pretty cool. But we have always had a clear vision of our home as a place of refuge, a place our children return to when they are grown and need a rest from their travels, and shaping that refuge (wherever it eventually is) is a daily work that we find it hard to walk away from.

Just because we may not take our children around the world ourselves, though, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t know what’s out there. I find myself looking for more and more ways to broaden their borders so that they grow up grounded but not sheltered: we have dinner with friends from other countries and host foreign exchange students (okay, we did that once, before we filled our house to capacity with babies. But it was a wonderful experience for all of us). We look up every little thing on Google Earth, and bring home stacks of library books about life in other countries.

8 Books That Bring the World to Your Child | Little Book, Big Story

Many of the books on this list came to my attention through Jamie C. Martin’s beautiful book, Give Your Child the World. If anything on this list whets your appetite, then please: read her book first. It’ll fill your cart with incredible titles and your heart with stories of life around the world. The rest of the books on this list are family favorites.

ALL THE COLORS OF THE EARTH, by Sheila Hamanaka

All The Colors of the Earth, by Sheila Hamanaka | Little Book, Big Story

This books describes children not as “black” or “white,” but as “cinnamon, walnut, wheat” and more. Hamanaka uses both her words and her illustrations to celebrate the many different ways children can look. (Read my full review.)

PAPA, DO YOU LOVE ME?By Barbara M. Joosse

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

Set in the Maasai culture of Africa, Papa, Do You Love Me? follows the questioning of a young child as he asks his father, “What would you do if I was cold? If I was hungry? If I did wrong?” The papa’s patient and generous answers show that the love of a father for is child is truly cross-cultural. (Read the full review.)

BEGINby Philip & Erin Ulrich

The Growly Books: Begin, by Philip and Erin Ulrich | Little Book, Big Story

A book about a talking bear may seem like an unlikely choice for this list, but I loved the way that the authors present Growly’s exchanges with other animals: as he runs into cultural differences and language barriers, he meets them with humility and respect. This is a lovely story about a young bear whose world is much larger than he originally thought.

PEOPLE, by Peter Spier

People, by Peter Spier | Little Book, Big Story

This book is an impressive, “big picture” look at people: the many ways they can look, the things they do, the places they live, and more. It’s a fun one to read together or to study alone (the illustrations are incredibly detailed). By looking at the many ways we differ and the few things we have in common, Spier creates a fascinating portrait of the human race.

The Anna Hibiscus Booksby Atinuke

The Anna Hibiscus books, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, amazing Africa, and Atinuke celebrates that by exploring her daily life in Africa through Anna’s charming perspective. These are early chapter books and heavily illustrated, so they’re perfect for sharing with a beginning reader. In fact, my beginning reader likes to follow me around while I do housework, reading aloud from them like she is my own private audio book. (Read the full review.)

Children Just Like Meby Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley

Children Just Like Me | Little Book, Big Story

My girls found this book enchanting. Dozens of countries appear in its pages, represented by one or two children who give a glimpse into their daily lives. We found ways in which those lives differed dramatically from our own, of course, but we also found many things that our families have in common. If People is a big picture look at humanity, this is a close-up detail shot that focuses on one child at a time.

TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON, by Jude Daly

To Everything There is a Season | Little Book, Big Story

Jude Daly uses the familiar passage from Ecclesiastes 3 for the book’s text, but places her illustrations in South Africa. By having one family enact the different “times” described, she gives a fascinating portrait of life in the South African countryside. (Read my full review.)

GIVE YOUR CHILD THE WORLD, by Jamie C. Martin

Give Your Child The World, by Jamie C. Martin | Little Book, Big Story

Jamie C. Martin makes a compelling case for why we should read things that expand our children’s understanding of the world. She isn’t bossy about it, though: she makes her case quietly, by sharing what has worked for her own multi-cultural family and describing their favorite books so enthusiastically that I found myself filling an Amazon cart as I read (oops . . . ).

What are your favorite books about life outside your own community?

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Barbara M. Joosse

The giveaway is over, and it was so much fun! Congratulations to Teresa and Emily, and thank you so much to all of you who entered. And to those of  you who tried to enter on Friday but couldn’t because the giveaway closed twenty-four hours before I said it would: I’m so sorry! I thought I’d worked all the kinks out of the giveaway system, but I missed that one. My apologies. Can I make it up to you with a new book review?

I hope so. Here it is:


This summer, we started a tradition. It involved library trips in the morning and a picnic blanket in the afternoon, along with a stack of books, simple homemade caramel corn and cream soda.

If that sounds insanely idyllic though, remember this: it also involved taking a toddler to the library.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

With a baby in the carrier and a book bag over one arm (a book bag that grew increasingly heavy the longer we stayed), I had only one arm free for herding Phoebe away from the easy fiction, where she happily unshelved books one series at a time, and back toward the board books—only to have her slip away when I wasn’t looking and head toward the bathroom.

It is no coincidence that our Fridays also involved a post-library stop for coffee.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

But while browsing the library with a toddler in tow has its downsides, it also has a few notable upsides: namely, the books she slipped into her own book bag, that were checked out by an older sister and brought home unnoticed until I pulled them out and read them aloud on our picnic blanket. We found a few gems that way.

We found Papa, Do You Love Me? that way.

Papa, Do You Love Me? | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a beautiful, “Yes, child, I love you to the moon and back and nothing you can do will change that” sort of story, but it’s set in the Masai culture in Africa, so while it tells a familiar, comforting story, it also quietly shows how universal that story is. The child, Tender Heart, presses his father with questions: “Do you love me? How much? What would you do if I was hot? If  I was thirsty but the river ran dry? If I disobeyed?” And his father answers honestly and beautifully, painting a picture not just of a father’s love but of Our Father’s love as he does so.


Papa, Do You Love Me?
Barbara M. Joosse, Barbara Lavallee (2005)