Guest Post from Janelle Diller and Pack-n-Go Girls®
::Big sigh:: The world has changed—we hope just temporarily. But here we are. No travel. Extra days out of school. Uncertain times. Thank goodness for books to distract us! We have some great multicultural recommendations to pass the time and expand your children’s world.
Hopefully, your library has them, but if not, Amazon still delivers to your door. We hope.
Multicultural Book Recommendations for World Travel
The Breaking News Written and Illustrated by Sarah Lynne Reul
Bad news breaks and a young girl tries to make sense of it. A gray cloud slips over the family and the community. The parents are sad and distracted. “Suddenly Mom is glued to the television. Dad can’t stop checking his phone. They whisper and I pretend not to hear.” The mother even forgets to tuck the girl into bed at night. Her schoolmates feel the weight of the bad news, too.
This isn’t a random bedtime story to read to a sleepy three-year-old. Even though the sparse text and picture book format implies a preschool audience, the subject matter and treatment could be unsettling for a young child who didn’t have a context for the theme. In this current environment, it can be a powerful conversation starter for preschoolers through early elementary children.
My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder Written and Illustrated by Nie Jun; Translated by Edward Gauvin
Whether you’re eight or eighty, My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder is perfect for an afternoon of contemplating. What’s real? What’s a dream? What’s magic? The four stories give readers plenty of moments to use their own imagination.
Nie Jun wrote and illustrated the stories in comic book style, but don’t be misled. This is not your father’s comic book of bold lines and dramatic primary colors (washed out by the printing process and cheap paper). This is a book of art. Each page presents multiple frames of the story, all done in pastel watercolors and ink lines. They’re rich in detail and action.
Penguin Days Written by Sara Leach; Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Penguin Days takes the reader on a journey. In the second book in this endearing series by Sara Leach, Lauren and her family travel to Lincoln, North Dakota, so Lauren can be the flower girl in her auntie Joss’ wedding. It takes Lauren’s family “two days, eight movies, four chapter books, and three throw-ups” to get to their destination. This is perhaps as good of a time as any to stop and ponder how many children’s books take place in North Dakota.
Zero? That’s the common answer.
So here’s the first clue to the nature of this book: Penguin Days is not common. And that’s its gift. Lauren, the protagonist, has ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, which means her brain works differently than other people’s brains. The book is filled with gentle humor, which helps the reader appreciate Lauren’s perspective while at the same time doesn’t sugar coat life with a child with ASD. The family drives to North Dakota because the last time they traveled there, they flew, and as Lauren notes, “[N]obody wanted to live through the experience of flying with me again.”
Penguin Days provides learning of the most important kind and has an added bonus of sweet humor, age-appropriate text, and engaging illustrations. It belongs on the shelf of every library for young readers.
Big Problemas Written and Illustrated by Juana Medina
In Big Problemas, written and illustrated by Juana Medina, Juana and Lucas return in a second romp through the world of this delightful young Colombian and her dog, Lucas.
Juana’s life is just about perfect—but it’s about to become just a little less perfect. Her first clue is that her mami has a new hairdo. At first, Juana thinks she’s just gotten into the wrong car after school, but when Juana tells her mami that she liked her mami’s old hair better, her mami isn’t too happy about her comment. “That’s when I knew I was in the right car with the right Mami, just not with the right hairdo.” And that’s when the reader realizes that this is going to be fun.
This engaging story with endearing characters and a gentle touch on the larger themes of loss and change make for a valuable read.
Small Mercies Written by Bridget Krone; Illustrated by Karen Vermeulen
Mercy steals the reader’s heart from the very first page. Although more accurately, it’s Mercy’s eccentric foster aunts who do the initial stealing. Their quirky excuse notes—one says Mercy has “the collywobbles,” another that she has “a dicky tummy,” and on another that she can’t participate in inter-house cross-country because she “has a bone in her leg”—let the reader know some sweet humor is ahead.
Small Mercies carries the reader to South Africa. One of the benefits for the North American audience is that the reader realizes that, yes, there are unfamiliar differences between the two places, but even more important, the similarities are even greater. Take away the African cultures and replace them with familiar American cultures, and the classroom is the same. Children can be kind and can be cruel; they can stress out about school expectations, and the worries they have about their home life travel with them into the classroom.
Karen Vermeulen’s simple line drawings complement Krone’s text with appropriate whimsy. The short chapters are a nice treat for the reading level, particularly since the themes have a depth to them that takes some reflecting. Krone notes that her “favorite stories are those that, just when you expect a lesson, sing a song instead.” Small Mercies is just that surprising song, full of light and sweetness. Readers will carry the melody in their hearts long after the last page is turned.
If you’re looking for travel adventure mysteries, Pack-n-Go Girls will take you there. Snuggle up with spooky stories that take readers to haunted castles in Austria, catch thieves in Mexico, save dolphins and turtles in Brazil, search for lost golden temples in Thailand, and chase aliens in Australia. It’s the cheapest way to travel to the other side of the world, and you can do it by paperback, ebook, or audiobook!
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