The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Around the World in 40 Books - December 2006

Selected and annotated by Kelly A. McCusker


AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN: Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Under the Persimmon Tree. Foster/Farrar, 2005 Gr. 6-9
Set in 2001-2002, Najmah is a young Afghan girl who has lost her mother and newborn brother and whose father and older brother are recruited by the Taliban. Nusrat, an American who is in Pakistan while her Afghan doctor husband runs a clinic, teaches refugee children in Peshawar under a persimmon tree. As Najmah treks to Pakistan to find her family and seek refuge, Nusrat awaits for news about her husband. When Najmah arrives in Peshawar, their two paths are intertwined.

AFRICA: Brett, Jan. Honey…Honey…Lion!: A Story from Africa . Putnam, 2005 5-8 yrs
Badger and Honeyguide have an equal partnership when it comes to finding and eating honey. Honeyguide shows Badger where the honey is and Badger breaks open the hive to reach the honey. However, one day Badger does not share the honey with Honeyguide so Honeyguide decides to teach Badger a lesson.

AFRICA: Diakite, Penda. I Lost My Tooth in Africa . Illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite. Scholastic, 2006 Gr. 5-7
Amina is headed off to Mali , West Africa where she will visit her family. She has a lose tooth and is excited about losing it in Africa so that she can place it under a gourd and have the African tooth fairy exchange it for a chicken. When the tooth pops out and is placed under a gourd, a chicken and rooster appear. Amina cares for the chicken and rooster and awaits the hatching of the eggs during the final days of her trip.

ASIAN AMERICAN: Salisbury, Graham. House of the Red Fish. Lamb, 2006 Gr. 5-9
In the sequel to the award-winning Under the Blood Red Sun, thirteen-year-old Tomi Nakaji is left alone in his house when his father and grandfather are arrested after the attack on Pearl Harbor . As Tomi and his friends attempt to raise his father’s sunken fishing boat, his enemies wish to stop him.

AUSTRALIA: Ormerod, Jan. Lizzie Nonsense. Clarion, 2005 4-7 yrs
Set during the pioneer days of Australia , Lizzie lives in the bush country with only her papa, mama and the baby. With Lizzie’s imagination and enthusiasm, she brightens the day for Mama and the baby while her Papa is away.

BOSNIA/CROATIA: Dorros, Arthur. Under the Sun. Amulet/Abrams, 2004 Gr. 6-10
In war-torn Sarajevo , Ehmet and his friend Milan have learned how to survive the dangerous alleys. When the war comes too close to home however, his father decides that it would be best for Ehmet and his mother to go to the country. As they begin their journey they encounter harsh conditions and problems along the way. Eventually Ehmet travels through Bosnia into Croatia to a place known as “The Children’s Village,” where war orphans rebuild their lives.

BRAZIL: Machado, Ana Maria. From Another World. Translated by Luisa Baeta. Groundwood, 2005 Gr. 5-7
Mariano and three friends help their parents turn an old Brazilian coffee plantation into an inn. However, they are awakened one night by crying and suddenly a strange girl appears. She is Rosario and lived as a slave on the plantation years ago. Mariano is moved by Rosario ’s story and vows to write it so that they will not forget what she told them.

CAMBODIAN AMERICAN: Ly, Mary. Home is East. Delacorte, 2005 Gr. 5-7
Amy Lin is the daughter of an American father and Cambodian immigrant mother. Living in Florida ’s tight-knit Cambodian community, she feels safe and comfortable; however, when her mother leaves the pity begins to feel suffocating. Her father decides to move them to San Diego and Amy realizes that as she watches him fall apart, she needs to do something to help him.

CHILE: Bondoux, Anne-Laure. The Killer’s Tears. Delacorte, 2006 Gr. 9-12
When Angel Allegria arrives at Paolo’s, a young boy’s, house, Angel kills Paolo’s mother and father. Angel and Paolo begin a new life in the home which starts a strange, but caring relationship. When Luis Secunda, son of a rich winery owner, joins them their family is complete. The story follows the three through pain, hardship, love and forgiveness.

CHINA: Zhang, Ange. Red Land , Yellow River . Groundwood, 2004 Gr. 5-8
In this poignant story, Ange Zhang is a teenager in June 1996 when Mao’s Cultural Revolution is spreading in China . As his father is ridiculed for being an intellectual and Ange is unable to join the Red Guard, Ange begins to feel alienated from the world around him. With photographs and pictures, this autobiography captures the feelings and helplessness that Ange feels as he sees and experiences the development of a new China .

CHINESE AMERICAN: Wong, Joyce Lee. Seeing Emily. Amulet, 2005 Gr. 6-10
Written in poem format, the book tells the story of Emily Wu. Emily is a 16-year-old who works hard at school and in her family’s Chinese restaurant. However, Emily is feeling stifled and with the entrance of Nick, a transfer student, her life and sense of self changes from how her parents and friends see her.

CUBA: Chambers, Veronica. Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa. Illustrated by Julie Maren. Dial, 2005 6-8 yrs
Celia Cruz is a young girl in Cuba who sounds like any other girl when speaking, but when she sings, she sounds as lovely as a bird. As she grows older, Celia becomes more confident in herself and her singing voice and begins to perform on stage. She must, however, make a choice between staying in Cuba or leaving.

EGYPT: Hawass, Zahi. Tutankhamum, The Mystery of the Boy King. National Geographic, 2005 Gr. 4-8
There are still many mysteries surrounding Tutankhamum, but this book discusses the life he may have led. From birth to death, the lives of the royal family are described with pictures of artifacts, statues, drawings, and architecture. Descriptions of the excavation of Tutankhamum’s tomb and of Egyptian history give a great background for the story.

GERMANY: Rahlens, Holly-Jane. Prince William, Maximilian Minsky, and Me. Candlewick, 2005 Gr. 7-10
Nelly Sue Edelmeister is a thirteen-year-old living in Berlin , Germany who falls desperately in love with Prince William. To meet him, Nelly plans on joining the basketball team in order to go on their trip to England . She decides to take basketball lessons from Maximilian Minsky, the son of her father’s business partner, who is a basketball ace and dresses like a vampire. Nelly must also deal with her bat mitzvah and her parents deteriorating marriage along the way.

HAITI: Williams, Karen Lynn. Circles of Hope. Illustrated by Linda Saport. Eerdmans, 2005 6-9 yrs
Facile has a new baby sister, but he has no gift to give to her. His father told him that a strong tree will protect people and his father had planted a tree when Facile was born. Facile decides to take a mango pit and plant it. Day after day he tries to care for the tree, but many troubles get in his way. With the help of his mother and Tonton he discovers how to protect the tree and help it grow.

INDONESIA: Masson, Sophie. Snow, Fire, Sword. Eos/HarperCollins, 2005 Gr. 6-8
Set in a fantasy-like Indonesia , Adi, a fisherman’s son, and Dewi, daughter of a healer, are thrown into a battle where the mystical spirits of Jayangan are threatened. They must find the Snow, Fire, and Sword in order to save their homeland from evil.

ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Frank, Mitch. Understanding the Holy Land : Answering Questions about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict . Viking, 2005 Gr. 6-10
The Israeli-Palestine conflict is dealt with thoroughly and clearly and answers many questions about the history of the area. Using black-and-white photographs and maps, students will understand the points of view from both sides of the dispute.

JAPAN: Say, Allen. Kamishibai Man . Lorraine/Houghton, 2005 6-9 yrs
Jiichan, Grandpa, used to be a Kamishibai man, a man who sold candies and sweets on his bicycle and told stories to the children. But as years passed fewer and fewer children would come when he clapped his wooden blocks. He decided to stop riding. After a long time, he decides to ride into town again and discovers that he has been missed.

KENYA: Ainnane, Kelly. Art by Ana Juan. For You Are a Kenyan Child. Schwartz/Atheneum, 2006 5-8 yrs
Imagine you are a young boy living in a small Kenyan village and are asked to watch your grandfather’s cows. However you are easily distracted by villagers and animals. When you finally do remember the cows, you find Grandfather where you should be. Readers will understand that even though Kenyan life is very different from their own, all children can be the same in many ways.

KENYA: Mwangi, Meja. The Mzungu Boy. House of Anansi/Groundwood, 2005 Gr. 4-8
Kariuki develops a friendship with the mzungu boy, Nigel, grandson of the local landowner. As they go in search of Old Moses, the ugliest, oldest, and meanest warthog, they discover that Old Moses is not the biggest danger to them. Set against the burgeoning Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya in the 1950’s, Nigel’s inability to understand Kariuki’s life and the boys’ friendship offers both compassion and hope.

KOREA: Choi, Yangsook. Peach Heaven. Foster/Farrar 2005 5-8 yrs
Set in South Korea in 1976, Yangsook lives in Puchon, famous for growing the best peaches in Korea . One day a heavy rain carries the peaches to her house and her family eats until they are full. Yangsook becomes concerned about the farmers, who no longer have crops to harvest. Yangsook, along with her friends, decides to help the farmers regain their peaches.

LATINO: Carlson, Lori Marie. Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States. Introduction by Oscar Hijuelos. Holt, 2005 Gr. 7 and up
This anthology of poems, written in both English and Spanish, is organized into sections which show the emotions, dreams and beliefs of Latino youth; the sections are language/identity, neighborhoods, amor, family moments/memories and victory.

MEXICO: Garza, Xavier. Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask: A Bilingual Cuento. Cinco Puntos, 2005 5-9 yrs
In this bilingual book, Carlitos is taken by his father to see a lucha libra match in Mexico City for the first time. However his uncle, Tio Vicente, who is supposed to meet them, never arrives. As the famous luchador, The Man in the Silver Mask, enters the ring his eyes seem familiar to Carlitos.

MIDDLE EASTERN: Johnson-Davies, Denys, ad. Goha the Wise Fool. Art by Hag Hamdy and Hany. Philomel, 2005 5-8 yrs
For centuries stories about Goha, the man with a faithful donkey, have been told via word of mouth. Through the fifteen short stories in this book, the reader can laugh at Goha and his antics, as well as understand that it is okay to laugh at oneself. The hand-sewn khiyamiyas, discussed at the end of the book, bring life to the story.

NATIVE AMERICAN: Wyss, Thelma Hatch. Bear Dancer: The Story of a Ute Girl. McElderry, 2005 Gr. 4-7
Elk Girl is the sister of a Ute chief and loves to hunt deer and race ponies. She also understands the importance of the Bear Dance; which wakes bears from hibernation and celebrates spring. When she is captured by the Cheyenne and encounters white settlers for the first time, she sees that the white men are the real enemy. As she is traded to the Arapaho and then to a white soldier, she realizes what is happening to the land and people around her.

NEPAL: Stewart, Jennifer J. Close Encounters of a Third-World Kind. Holiday House, 2004 Gr. 4-7
When Annie Ferris’s father announces that the family will be spending two months in Nepal on a medical mission she is not looking forward to it. She will have to leave her friends, sleep in a tent, and eat strange new food. Once in Nepal though, Annie meets Nirmala, a local girl, and Annie begins to understand the culture and people.

NORSE: Coville, Bruce. Thor’s Wedding Day. Harcourt, 2005 Gr. 4-6
In this novel adaptation of the ancient Norse poem “Thrymskvitha,” Thialfi tells the story of how Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir, was stolen by Thrym, the king of giants. Thor, Loki (god of mischief), and Thialfi disguise themselves as bride and bridal party because Thrym has demanded the goddess Freya as ransom. As the story ensues, humor and adventure keep the reader entertained.

NOVA SCOTIA: Gilkerson, William. Pirate’s Passage. Trumpeter, 2006 Gr. 5-9
In 1952, a small boat is forced into port and the boat’s captain, Captain Charles Johnson, takes residence in a small inn run by Jim and his mother. As the family struggles to keep the inn open the captain’s stay there becomes more valuable. As Jim listens to the captain’s stories, Jim wonders how one man can know so much about Vikings, Queen Elizabeth, and Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of Ireland .

OJIBWE: Erdrich, Louise. The Game of Silence. HarperCollins, 2005 Gr. 4-8
In this sequel to The Birchbark House Omakayas, a young Ojibwe girl, encounters the chimookomanag, the white people. The chinookomanag want the Ojibwe to leave the island in Lake Superior and move west. Omakayas realizes that she may lose something extremely valuable to her and her people: their home.

POMPEII: Deem, James M. Bodies from the Ash: Life andDeath in Ancient Pompeii . Houghton, 2005 Gr. 5-8
Pompeii , one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire , was destroyed within twenty-four hours on August 24, AD 79 . Centuries later archaeological excavations unearthed clues to the dwellers lives which lay buried under layers of volcanic rubble. Buildings, jewelry, treasures, and bodies were uncovered. Pictures of the excavations and maps of the area provide fascinating detail for readers.

SOUTH AFRICA: Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. Delacorte, 2005 Gr. 6-10
Peekay, a five-year-old English boy, is sent to boarding school in 1939 in South Africa and the story follows him through the age of 12. Peekay is teased and abused by his Afrikaner classmates and he feels the need to protect and empower himself. Peekay meets many people who help him develop; a medicine man, a railroad guard, a German music professor and a black prisoner are a few.

TROY: Schlitz, Laura Amy. The Hero Schliemann: the Dreamer Who Dug for Troy . Illustrated by Robert Byrd. Candlewick, 2006 Gr. 5-8
Schliemann, a sickly boy who decided he deserved a romantic and heroic life, discovered the ruins of Troy as an adult. However, without sheer luck he may never have found them. An amateur historian and archaeologist, his sloppiness during excavating and misinterpretation of his own data, Schliemann was also an outrageous and interesting character.

UNITED KINGDOM: Rosen, Michael. Dickens: His Work and His World. Illustrated by Robert Ingpen. Candlewick, 2005 Gr. 6-9
In this well-organized and well-written biography, the life and works of Charles Dickens is explored. Details of Dickens’ tour, life, work, and legacy allow readers to imagine and identify with the time and man. Introductions to four of Dickens’ major works will persuade the reader to pick them up and read them.

VENICE: Gavin, Jamila. The Blood Stone. Farrar, 2005 Gr. 7-12
Filippo must travel thousands of miles carrying the Ocean of the Moon, a precious diamond, a “blood stone” which promises multiple people different types of wealth. Filippo has the priceless diamond as ransom for his kidnapped father. As his guardian plots to take the stone, Filippo must make it from Venice to Hindustan in time to save his father.

VIKINGS: Roberts, Judson. Viking Warrior. HarperCollins, 2006 Gr. 7-10
Even though Halfdan can effectively use a bow & arrow and understands animals, he can only dream of becoming a warrior because he is a slave. However, after his father, Hrorik a Viking chieftain, is dealt a fatal blow, Halfdan's mother makes a bargain to travel to Valhalla with the chieftain in exchange for Halfdan’s freedom and recognition as Hrorik’s son and heir. Halfdan learns to live with and respect his brother Harald, but Toke, Hrorik’s foster son, resents Halfdan and tries to destroy his happiness.

WEST AFRICA: Watson, Pete. The Heart of the Lion. Pictures by Mary Watson. Shenanigan, 2005 Gr. 4-7
A young American boy is living in West Africa and through the help of Yampabou, a local boy, the American learns to understand the traditions and culture of West Africa . As the friendship develops, the American boy realizes that without Yampabou, he would be lost.

WORLD: Lewin, Ted. How Much? Visiting Markets Around the World. Harper Collins, 2006 5-8 yrs
What can you buy at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market near Bangkok , Thailand ? How much are llama-wool ponchos at the Agua Calientes Market in Peru ? Food and craft markets in five countries are explored, each with its own distinct ambiance. The hustle and bustle of the markets are well-depicted in the drawings, bringing to life the real-lives of the people.

WORLD: Ruurs, Margaret. My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World. Boyd Mills, 2005 Gr. 3-6
Around the world books are brought to communities by different modes of transportation. In Kenya books are sometimes delivered by camel, in Finland by boat, and in Thailand by elephant. The importance of reading and learning is shown through pictures and descriptions of the trips. For each country there is a short information box which includes a map, flag, capital, population and geography description.

WORLD: Zimmermann, Karl. All Aboard! Passenger Trains Around the World. Boyds Mills, 2006 Gr. 4-8
Covering train travels through North and South America , Europe , Africa , Australia , and Asia , this book provides photographs and details of railroad history and current trains. Zimmerman’s excitement spreads to the reader from his descriptive real accounts of the train rides. The glossary allows new train travelers or readers a chance to boost up their train vocabulary.

WORLD CULTURES: Tchana, Katrin Hyman. Changing Woman and Her Sisters: Stories of Godessses from Around the World. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House, 2006 Gr. 6-8
Covering stories about feminine power, beauty, and goddesses, the book spans from Navajo to Celtic and from Shinto to Ancient Sumerian. Each story begins with a short paragraph describing the beliefs and background of the story and culture. The beautifully drawn art contributes to the mood and magic of the stories.

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