Sunday, January 17, 2010

Around the World in 17 Picture Books

Around the World with Mouk is a new picture book written and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. It's a larger format book with lush, busy illustrations and a fun cast of characters who go all around the world. It's a great book for kids who are interested in different countries as it offers a lot of smaller cultural details from a varied group of countries. Adults could enjoy it just as much; the illustrations are creative and the details are interesting. The book even comes with reusable stickers that allow kids to accessorize the illustrations.

It's a book I take such delight in, that reading it fuels travel fantasies. Please enjoy some favorite globally-themed picture books inspired by this new favorite!

Mouk's first stop on his global journey is Finland! I know I've professed my love before, but if you want the best picture book from Finland, it's without a doubt The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My. Great illustrations, playful die-cut pages and a light-hearted yet adventuresome story underscore the imaginative contributions to picture books of Mouk's first stop on his global tour.

From Finland, Mouk travels to India. Stories from India is a great edition of Indian fairy and folktales with rich and playful illustrations. The volume includes tons of great stories to read aloud or on your own to transport you immediately to far away India.

Japan is just a hop, skip and a jump from India for Mouk, and Japan has a lot of great representatives in the picture book arena. Celebrated Japanese author/illustrator Taro Gomi has written a lot of fun and informative books that have been translated into a gazillion languages. My favorite is My Friends, which follows a girl around her neighborhood as she points out her friends including a bunny rabbit, a cat and many more. Really sweet, with simple text that is good for following along as a read-aloud or for the beginning reader to tackle on his or her own. The illustrations are fun, bright, colorful and entirely distinctive. Another great book about Japan that bears mentioning is the non-fiction picture book Japanese Celebrations, that explains all of the Japanese holidays, from the cherry blossom festival in the spring to the moon-viewing parties of autumn time. It's a book with a lot of illustrations and explanations that kids 7+ would enjoy.
From Japan, Mouk travels to Greece. A great book that delves into the sights, sounds and culture of Greece is This is Greece, one volume in a series of books by M. Sasek, that visit foreign countries, cities, and states here in America, too. The illustrations are distinctive, the information interesting and the stories engaging. A great collection to have for any globally-minded kids.

Mouk also visits a couple of countries across Africa. Anansi the Spider, written and illustrated by Gerald McDermott, is a great picture book of an African folktale, with amazing and bold illustrations. From Ashanti to Zulu is a beautifully illustrated alphabet book by Leo and Diane Dillon. The book not only goes through the alphabet but through the entire continent of Africa highlighting tribes from all over Africa for EVERY letter of the alphabet!

Mouk also ventures to China. There are a lot of great books on China, but one of the most fun AND informative is Find Out About China. This is a great volume with tons of pictures and tidbits that is part of a whole series of books about countries all over the world. Kids 8+ will enjoy pouring over them.
Mouk's beach side stop in Australia evokes a lot of images and great picture books, including Possum Magic by awesome Australian author Mem Fox. In the book two possums take a culinary tour through the country.
For Mouk's sojourn in Peru, one wonders if he'll meet the ancestors of one of the most beloved bears in picture books: Paddington. If you'll recall, before his relocation to merry old England, Paddington hails "from darkest Peru." There's also a great series called "Regions of the World" that offers lush photographic glimpses (with plenty of background information) into countries, and the Middle and South America volume will give kids 12+ a deeper look into Peru and other spots throughout Central and South America.

Mouk's last stop on his tour is New York City, and of the many great picture books that take place in the Big Apple, how can one look past Curious George in the Big City? In it, our favorite monkey has no end of things, people and places to tickle his curiosity!

Other great "Around the World" books are:
Around the World in 80 Tales, which is a great collection of folktales from every corner of the globe.

Babar's World Tour, in which our favorite elephant takes his own world-tour.

For a more global message, the beautifully illustrated All the World is a great bedtime read, and though set in California, the calm and simple rhyme reminds the reader of our global place through images of communal comfort and family happiness.

For the scientifically-inclined globe-trekker, Everything on Earth is a recent release from the genius folks at DK. It is a treasure trove of information about literally everything on Earth. From wildlife to weather patterns, this book covers all the extremes of our globe suitable for ages 12+.

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