Sunday, June 8, 2008

World Cafe of Books for Kids

Here is a beginning of a list of books about children and teens from many cultures. Some of these are brand new. Some are classics. Some are my long time favorites and some are new favorites contributed by my fellow writers and illustrators on the New England Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators list serve.See links to the right for other lists of good books on multicultural themes.

Write me with your favorites and we'll make this list grow.

Picture Books and Folktales

ALVAREZ, Julia. illus by Fabian Negrin, The Secret Footprints. Dell Dragonfly, c2000.

A folktale about Dominican ciguapas, mythical creatures who live on the land and in the sea.

BARTONE, Elisa, illus by Ted Lewin, Peppe the Lamplighter. Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard, 1993. Set in New York City’s Little Italy at the turn of the century.

BROWN, Monica, illus by John Parra, My Name is Gabriella* Me llamo Gabriela, the Life of Gabriella Mistral, Luna Rising, 2006.

A picture book biography of the Chilean writer and Nobel Prize winner.

BULION, Leslie. Fatuma’s New Cloth, Moon Mountain, 2002. A little girl in East Africa shops with her mother for a cloth to make a kanga. Includes a recipe for East African tea.

BUNTING, Eve. How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story, illus by Beth Peck.

CHAMBERS, Veronica. Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa, illus by Julie Maren, Dial, 2005.

Biography of Celia and her childhood world that influenced the making of salsa, illustrated in brilliant colors.

CONNOR, Leslie. Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel, illus by Mary Azarian, HM, 2004.

Miss Bridie comes to America in 1856 and shows the fortitude and ingenuity of immigrants.

CUNNANE, Kelly. For You Are a Kenyan Child, illus by Ana Juan, Atheneum, 2006.

A little boy in search of cows calls out to people in his Kenyan village to the refrain of “Hodi? Anybody home?” and they answer “Karibu! Welcome!”

HEST, Amy. When Jessie Came Across the Sea, illus by P.J. Lynch, Candlewick, 1997.

Jessie immigrates from Eastern Europe to New York City at the turn of the century.

LORD, Michelle. A Song for Cambodia. Lee and Low, 2008

Biography of Arn Chorn-Pond who played the khim. (Film Connection: The Flute Player.)

KURTZ, Jane, illus by Lee Christiansen. Fire on the Mountain. Simon & Schuster, 1994.

A retelling of an Ethiopian folktale.

MICHELSON, Richard. Grandpa’s Gamble, illus by Barry Moser, Marshall Cavendish, 1999.

Story of a Polish grandpa and grandchild that captures “the tough, brazen immigrant culture...” Booklist.

NORMAN Lissette. My Feet Are Laughing, F, S, & G, 2006.

Narrative poems about a girl in NYC whose parents are from the Dominican Republic.

Film connection: Mad Hot Ballroom, a gorgeous story about competitive ballroom dancers in NYC elementary schools. Many of the kids are Hispanic.

NIVOLA, Claire. Planting the Trees of Kenya, Frances Foster Books, 2008. A biography of Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

PIERNAS-Davenport, Gail. Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas, illus by Marion Eldridge, Albert Whitman, 2007.

Shanté discovers New Year’s traditions of many cultures.

REICH, Susanna. Jose! Born to Dance, illus by Raul Colon, Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Biography of Mexican-American dancer, Jose Limon, a "soaring portrayal of achievement." Booklist.

RUMFORD, James. Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, Roaring Brook, 2008.

A story of contemporary Baghdad and a boy’s skill in writing Arabic calligraphy.

SAY, Allen. Grandfather’s Journey, Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

The story of a man living in two cultures, and when he is in one, he yearns for the other.

YASHIMA, Taro. Crow Boy, Viking, 1995.

The classic tale of a Japanese boy who finds his voice in the world with the help of a good teacher.


APPLEGATE, Katherine. Home of the Brave, Feiwel & Friends, 2007.

A young boy from Sudan in America.

ALVAREZ, Julia, Before We Were Free, Knopf, 2002.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic during a dictator’s rule.

LIN, Grace. The Year of the Dog, Little, Brown, 2006.

Pacy, who is Tawainese-American, sorts out her identity in her American school.

PERKINS, Mitali. Rickshaw Girl, illus by Jamie Hogan, Charlesbridge, 2007. Chapter book

"Funny, smart, and chuck full of the sights, sounds, and smells of Bangladesh." Fuse #8 Production

Venkatraman, Padma. Climbing the Stairs, Putnam, 2008. YA

Set in India in the 1940s, this is the story of a young woman's struggle for freedom which plays out against the backdrop of World War II and India's coming independence.

SCHMIDT, Gary. Trouble. Clarion, 2008

YA novel, a Cambodian American and a native boy are in deep trouble in this adventure story of climbing Mt. Katahdin.

Tan, Shaun. The Arrival, Arthur Levine, 2006. A wordless, graphic story told in surreal drawings to capture the unknown and often frightening things of a new place to immigrants.

TESTA, Maria. Something About America, Candlewick, 2005.

A short verse novel about a girl from Serbia who comes to Maine. It climaxes when 6,000 people rally in support of immigrants in Lewiston.


  1. Hi Terry
    THanks for this list!

  2. I suggest Colibri, The Best Place in the World, and the Julian books by Ann Cameron as wonderful examples of multicultural books.

  3. I suggest that you add Colibri, The Best Place in the World and the Julian books as wonderful examples of multicultural books.

  4. I agree about your additions to this list. I think Stories Julian Tells is masterful. Thank you. Write again when you discover more books.

  5. Thanks so much for your list! We will definitly dive into these over the summer! I dropped in from Susan Gaylords site. I look forward to exploring, and learning more here!
    I wish you all the best

  6. New Old Shoes is a colorful picture book about a pair of red sneakers and their journey from the USA to Kenya where they are worn by many different kinds of feet.
    Should be added to the list.