Encouraging kids to travel and be aware of the larger world around them is a really important thing. Natalie Diaz and Melissa Owens did a fabulous job introducing kids to 12 different countries plus the United States in their book A Ticket Around the World.
We’ve had this book sitting on our shelves for a while, but recently my younger daughter took it out and started looking at it. She was really excited when she got to the page about France because it had a picture of the Louvre Pyramid which that had been studying in math. But for the next week, she would pick up the book, read some, put it down, pick it up, read some, etc. It worked as a great way to slowly take a look at a variety of countries. Continue reading →
My older daughter is heading to London this summer with her grandfather. Just in time, Usborne books published the really fun book Kitty Kat, Kitty Kat, Where Have you Been – London.
As you may recall, the original poem is quite simple and goes like this:
Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.
This wonderful picture book pays homage to the original English rhyme, first published in 1805, as a way to tour some of the bigger sites of London.
In this story, written by Russell Punter and illustrated by Dan Taylor, an owl asks a returning Kitty Kat where he had been. Of course Kitty tells the owl that he had been to London to visit the Queen. When pressed further to say what he saw, Kitty Kat encourages the owl to listen to his story. He then recounts many of the really cool things that he was able to do on his trip to London.
From going on a boat under London Bridge, seeing the Crown Jewels, hopping on a double decker bus, going to Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace, Kitty Kat takes a full tour of London. Many of the locations are described within the original rhyme sequence.
The inside front and back covers have a truly basic map of the region and items that young Kitty Kat sees and even though Kitty wasn’t able to actually see the Queen, he still had a marvelous time in London.
Books about travel destinations typically engage children through bright and vivid illustrations and this book is no different. The pictures are whimsical yet realistic. A child can get a good sense of what the Tower of London was like and how amazing it is to actually get to see the Crown Jewels. For a child who hasn’t yet been to a location, seeing what another child might have gone to see can help get them excited, especially if there are fun details like how a whisper is heard throughout the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. A place like London has a huge amount of history for kids to be excited by, and this book does a great job for the 4-8 set.
There is also a version that whisks Kitty Kat off on an exciting tour of Paris. Young readers can join him as he cruises down the Seine, climbs the Eiffel Tower, and discovers famous paintings in the Lourve Museum. I don’t have a copy of that yet, but I will 🙂
We learn many things from folk stories and fairy tales. Once passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and then in written form, they are becoming less of a staple in the stories that are read to children. An important message that flows through many old tales is that good things come in small packages and that riches are often found in items not worth a lot of money.
Take the traditional story of Beauty and the Beast. In it, Beauty’s father sets off for a trade ship to see if there is anything that he can sell and asks his children what gift they would like him to bring back for them. Of his three daughters, the first two ask for clothing, jewels, and the finest dresses possible while his youngest asks for a rose. The father unfortunately picks a rose in the Beast’s garden after being graciously hosted the previous night and seals Beauty’s fate, but we know how the story resolves in the end.
In Priceless Gifts, by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, we are swept into the time of the old spice trade, where merchants traveled to distant islands to get precious spices in exchange for other goods. They would trade fine items for things that we take for granted, such as cinnamon or nutmeg.
On one of Antonio’s journeys to the spice islands, he is invited to the King’s Palace for dinner. Antonio is confused when he see servants holding sticks ready to strike and discovered that they were there because the palace was infested with rats who come out of hiding the moment that food is served. In order for people to eat in peace, there needed to be guards ready to beat off the rats. Antonio gives the king two cats from his ship to deal with the problem. He wants nothing in return, but the King is so grateful that he gives him a chest of jewels.
Another Italian merchant hears of Antonio’s experience and gathers up fine items of his own in hopes of getting his own supply of jewels from the King. The King of the island is stunned by the treasures that Luigi brings. Luigi is certain that he will be given a chest of jewels at least 20 times as large as Antonio’s. After a long discussion with his advisors over what they should give Luigi in return, the King gifts him with something truly priceless – a kitten from a litter born from Antonio’s cats. Luigi returns to Italy with the kitten. He didn’t return a rich man, but “he was certainly a wiser one.”
This is a wonderful example of how every person values things differently and that simple items that make your life a little easier and better can bring more joy than riches.
Sharon Robinson invites us to travel with her to Tanzania in her book Under the Same Sun published by Scholastic Press. This lushly illustrated book is based on a family trip that Robinson and her mother took to Africa to visit her brother and his family and to celebrate her mother’s 85th birthday. Robinson is the daughter of the famous baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, and while she and her brother grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut, her brother moved to Tanzania in 1984.
The most beautiful portion of this book takes place in the first half when the family in Tanzania gets the home ready for their guests, when they wander through the marketplace, and then when the go on a safari through Sarengeti National Park. The illustrartions of the animals, by AG Ford, were absolutely stunning. Continue reading →
For the past few weeks I have been working on an Israel unit with my Hebrew school class. It is very hard to get a group of 7-8 year old excited about a place that is so far away from them, so a key way that I have tried to make it a little more interesting is to bring in a wide variety of picture books to capture their attention and engage them. As a member of the PJ Library we have been fortuante to get some of our books sent to us, but I have also built up quite the library over the years.
A new book that I recently received direct from author Laura Gehl is Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel. This takes the oft told story about how slow and steady wins the race, but seen through the comical lens of Hare and Tortoise making their way from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea. Before the race begins, you get a quick view of the fun things the pair like to do in Tel Aviv, the most metropolitan city in Israel. The two decide to race and of course Hare makes it to Jerusalem first and starts to soak in the local culture, complete with signs in both Hebrew and English. Tortoise manages to catch up and off Hare goes again. From Jerusalem, Hare continues east towards the dead sea and enjoys a quick stop for tea at an oasis then takes a quick nap under a palm tree, just steps from the finish line. As the story always goes, Tortoise manages to make it to the finish line first and then both soak their tired bodies in the rejuvenating Dead Sea. This is a wonderful romp through Israel that the kids definitely enjoyed. (Stay tuned for a special interview post with Laura Gehl)
Another favorite series of ours that focuses on learning other cultures are the Bella and Harry books by Lisa Manzione. When we saw that there was a book on Jerusalem, of course we had to add it to our library. This books focuses on Jerusalem, but also tours Masada and the Dead Sea. The main focus is the old city, and while there is a slight focus on the Jewish history, the book does do a great job of showing that Jerusalem is a historic region for a variety of religions. As with all of the Bella and Harry books, there is also a fun portion about local foods and fun Hebrew words and phrases.
Speaking of book series, a great Jewish series for younger children are the Sammy Spider books. We probably own nearly every book in this series, so of course we had to have a copy of Sammy’s first trip to Israel. Many of the Sammy Spider books not only focus on a specific topic, such as a holiday, but many of them also have a theme like shapes, sounds, counting, etc. The Israel book focuses on the five senses. In this book, Sammy accidentally stows away in Josh Shapiro’s suitcase when his family goes to Israel. He visits the beaches of Tel Aviv, strolls along Dizengoff Street, rides the bus to Jerusalem, visits a kibbutz, explores the old city of Jerusalem, rides camels in the Negev, snorkels in Eilat, and floats in the Dead Sea. Throughout his journey, he also explores the different sounds, tastes and sights of being in a different country. This is one of the best Sammy Spider books and also works well for a slighter older age group. A wonderful book to be a part of your collection.
Another awesome book is Zvuvi’s Israel, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig. What is wonderful about this is that it manages to get kids and adults excited about Israel. Zvuvi is a fly that takes you on a whirlwind trip across all of Israel showing pieces of the country that I never knew existed. This continues to be one of my older daughter’s favorite books and she is dreaming of the day that she gets to visit Israel. One of the truly wonderful things about this book is how it covers such a wide variety of cities in Israel. In addition, the illustrations are truly fun and kids love to try and find the flies when they are hidden in various pictures.
As a part of our Hebrew school curriculum, I discovered the amazing book The Great Israel Scavenger Hunt, by Scott Blumenthal. This book is almost like a textbook, but written as a story as well. An American boy travels to Israel with his family and on the airplane over receives a cryptic letter from his grandfather telling him of a scavenger hunt that he is to do while in Israel. He is joined by his Israeli cousin and the two travel across Israel in search of the special objects, including the Israeli flag, a palm tree, and the Western Wall.
As they travel, Daniel and your students learn about the major cities and extraordinary sites of Israel, the diversity of Israel’s people and cultures, our biblical and modern ties with the Jewish homeland, and the geography of Israel. They also learn key Hebrew terms, such as Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), Ivrit (Hebrew),shalom (hello, goodbye, and peace), and they learn about important Jewish values, such as rodef shalom (pursuing peace) and ahavat Tzion (love of Israel), that are linked to chapter content.
This is a truly wonderful book that is a great way to educate kids about Israel in a fun and engaging way.
The final book that we have found that really allows kids to explore Israel is a wonderful non-fiction book called Let’s Go Explore Israel. This book is absolutely gorgeous! The book is broken down into 6 sections – Places to go, Sights to see, Culture to experience, People to know, Curiosities to Consider, and Words to work on. It is incredibly in-depth and full of absolutely stunning pictures. This is actually a part of a series that has a few other books – Jerusalem, Galilee, and Egypt. Interestingly, this is published by a Christian book company but does not have any religious overtones in any way. If you are looking for an amazing non-fiction book on culture and geography, this is a must have.
I’m not posting a ton these days, but that doesn’t mean that we are not reading. I’m just trying to do too many things and running out of time. One series that we happened to stumble upon at the library has definitely topped our list lately. The series is called “The Adventures of Bella and Harry.”
This series is one of many that is not quite fiction and yet not quite non-fiction. The books follow brother and sister Chihuahuas as they travel the globe with their owners. Older sister Bella acts as tour guide for younger brother Harry as they learn about famous landmarks, food and languages of a variety of countries.
The books are “intended to be an informative, interactive and exciting way to introduce children to travel, different countries, customs, history and landmarks.” After reading a number of these with J, I have to say – job well done! J likes to pretend that she is Bella and then I read all of the Harry parts, so she is doing most of the reading. She also was so excited by the books that she brought one into school and had one of her classmates read the Harry parts while she played Bella.
One thing that each book does is take a landmark and then show how it is measured in animals to give kids a more concrete idea of how big it really is. For example, in the book where they visit Paris, the Eiffel tower is 986 feet tall and that is “almost 50 giraffes stacked on top of each other!” For a child who can’t visualize what 986 feet is, using something they understand and can picture makes it easier to comprehend.
Each book also features a snack time where a local food is highlighted. I know with my picky eaters, it is always great to show them that if they want to travel, they are going to have to broaden their horizons on food. But on the flip side, it also shows not to be afraid of food with names they don’t recognize like “jambon baguette” which is just a ham sandwich.
At the end of each book they do a scrapbook of photos of places they covered and some that didn’t make it into the book. Then they close with a page of fun phrases and words from each country.
Another wonderful tool is that their website has tools for teachers on a number of the books which features lesson plans and a teacher’s guide. This helps teacher’s bring these books to life in class and also helps homeschooling families.
We’ve checked out all of the ones from our local library and have purchased 4 additional titles, including the Maui one which doesn’t come out until June. I actually haven’t had a chance to read all of them, but we have gotten a great deal of pleasure out of them. Our favorites at the moment are London, Jerusalem, Venice, Paris and Barcelona. You should definitely check if your local library has them for this is one series that we highly recommend.
I am super excited to be participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature.
Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event. On January 27th, Jump into a Book and Pragmatic Mom will be presenting the first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books. The event is sponsored by Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of My Grandfather’s Masbaha.
The reason they have created this event is this sad data:
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content.
Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.
Just being a part of this awesome group of bloggers (links at bottom) and watching everyone start to post their reviews has made me think a lot about the books out there and the full and beautifully colored spectrum of all the people that make up this world. I was lucky to grow up in Los Angeles where multi-culturalism was just a way of life. We now live in an area that is a lot less diverse. I hope that I am managing to show my girls that the world is full of different people. We ourselves are in the minority where we live. Although we are white, we are Jewish in a very non-Jewish area. So my girls will always have that sense of being slightly different themselves, but in a way that no one can see on the surface. However, we have been really fortunate to find a lot of great books that show multiculturalism, to some degree because I’m the crazy mom who scours the library for something new and different and because I buy a lot of books about Jewish culture. Whatever the case may be, I’m going to dedicate this whole week to posts about multi-cultural books leading up to Monday’s big event.
I received the beautiful book How Far Do You Love Me? by Lulu Delacre from Lee & Low Books. This is a simple, yet emotionally and artistically beautiful book about the common love that all parents have for their children. Each spread is gorgeously illustrated with images of different locations and people around the globe.
The story itself is a wonderful bedtime story for the younger set. It was based on the author’s game of “How far do you love me?” with her daughters. Each answer is a stop on one of the seven continents. From “the top of the peaks lit by the morning sun” in the Grand Canyon in Arizona to a glacier in Antarctica, and from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt to the “crannies of the corals rough and twisted on the ocean floor” of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Our absolutely favorite part of the book was actually the map at the back of the book which points out all of the stops. My older daughter (nearly 7) had us flipping back and forth to see locations. She was especially excited by the picture from Egypt and of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
This is a great way to see different parts of the world and to talk about the bigger world around us. It opens children’s eyes to other cultures and perhaps encourages them to dream of traveling beyond the world they inhabit.
Please also visit our collaborative Pinterest board, Multicultural Books for Kids, to see more great books and check out all of these amazing blogs participating in the event!
2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac · Children’s Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s Books– Kid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout’s Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators’ Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. All opinions are my own.