One of the first things I found myself unconsciously doing when reading aloud to my kids was changing the word “Daddy” in stories to “Baba.” My kids, before preschool, had no clue what a “Daddy” was. Beyond the usual Goodnight Moon and other American classics, I gravitated toward more multicultural books to show my kids my own love of the world (and perhaps subconsciously to see if I could find any “Babas” in books!). Through friends and family around the globe who have sent us some of their favorites, we’ve been lucky to also discover books we may have never stumbled upon on our own.
Here are some multicultural books we love as well as other favorites from around the world:
Marlaguette,by Marie Colmont, is a classic French story (I am not sure if it exists in English) of a young girl who helps an injured wolf. As the wolf recovers, she wants him to become vegetarian, but it’s impossible for a wolf to change his nature.
Tenzin’s Deer, by Barbara Soros (author) and Danuta Mayer (illustrator), features a boy in Tibet who discovers a hurt deer and nurses him sweetly back to health. It weaves Buddhist principles throughout the book in a child-friendly way, such as the ideas of non-attachment and being one with all beings.
Basava and The Dots of Fire, by Radhika Chadha (author) and Bhakti Phatak (illustrator), is a beautifully illustrated story about a little boy from an Indian village who goes into the woods to gather firewood and rescues a dragonfly with wet wings and butterfly from a spider web. When the forest grows dark and he can’t find his way home, he discovers how they will in turn help him. Published in India, this book is also available in Hindi, Marathi, Gujrati, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Kannada.
Mein Schönstes Wimmel-Bilderbuch (My Beautiful Teeming Picture Book) by Ali Mitgutsch: Despite the German title, the book has no words and is all pictures, so it’s perfect for any reader. Depicting life in Germany across different seasons, the pages are full of tiny details to discover. I love it because of the freedom it allows the reader to create any story, without the limitation of words. The pictures inspire new questions from my kids each time as they uncover a new element. The details of many of the pictures are very German, like the little corner for “FKK” in the beach picture, which is a reference to German’s FKK (free body culture or in other words, nudity) clubs. Despite how this may sound, it is all very normal in Germany.
In Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure, by Naomi C. Rose, a Tibetan-American girl is saddened by her Popola’s (grandfather’s) deteriorating health. When he reminisces about the pollen from flowers helping sick people heal in his Tibetan village, she gets an idea to cure him.
The Story Tree, retold by Hugh Lupton and illustrated by Sophie Fatus, is a collection of seven classic fables from different countries with fun illustrations. My kids love the African-American story, “The Sweetest Song,” of the little girl who tricks the wolf. The German story, “The Magic Porridge Pot,” is another of their top requests.
Suki’s Kimono, by Chieri Uegaki (author) and Stephanie Jorisch (illustrator), tells the story about maintaining your individuality and taking pride in your culture. Suki, a Japanese girl, goes to her first day of school proudly wearing a kimono that her grandmother gave her. Her older sisters think she is silly for not wearing something “new” and “cool.” We follow Suki during her first school day and watch her classmates’ reaction to her kimono.
What are some of your favorite multicultural books?