A World of Stories: International Literature and Literacy Lessons in Elementary Classrooms
Carolyn Angus & Nancy Brashear
23rd World Congress on Reading Auckland, New Zealand July 14, 2010
For our exploration of ‚a world of stories,‛ we have developed text sets (groups of books that are conceptually related by theme or topic, by genre, or in another way) and some Perfect Pairs (two books that go together in some way). We focus on the 2010 United States Board on Books for Young People’s Outstanding International Books (OIB) but also include
books on earlier OIB lists and other recently published international books. For the text sets and Perfect Pairs, we have suggested some teaching ideas that engage students in reading, conversation, research, and writing. The resources listed on page 14 will be useful in expanding these text sets with other international books and identifying other Perfect Pairs.
How Does It Translate? Selecting and Using International Books
What is international literature?
The definition of ‚international literature‛ depends upon the country in which you live. In New Zealand, for example,
international literature includes books that were originally published in a country other than New Zealand in the language of that country and later (or simultaneously) published in New Zealand. In the United States, international literature includes books that were originally published in a country other than the United States in the language of that country and later (or simultaneously) published in the U.S.
For this workshop, we have selected books based on the criteria used by the USBBY Outstanding International Books Committee. Books on the annual USBBY Outstanding International Books lists are selected as being representative of the best of children’s literature from other countries—books that introduce American readers to outstanding artists and
writers from other countries, help them see the world from other points of view, and provide a perspective or address topics otherwise missing from literature in the United States. Under these criteria some of the books exhibit a distinct cultural flavor, but others have no cultural specificity. Additionally, these books are evaluated in terms of the criteria used
to identify excellence in literature regardless of country of origin: artistic and literary merit, originality or creativity of
approach, distinctiveness of topic, and appeal to children.
Some strategies to emphasize the international nature of a book
—Provide some information about the author and the illustrator, including their native countries (and where they live
now if different from their birthplaces); locate the countries on maps and globes.
—Mention where the book was originally published; locate the country on maps and globes.
—Talk about the language in which the book was first published. Write out the title of the book in the original language
and in English. Learn a few words or phrases that relate to the book. If you are reading a book that was first
published in another English-speaking country, has the title or the illustration on the book cover been changed? Also,
as you read the book, identify terms, idioms, or other language-related items that are different from those you
—Locate the country in which the book is set using maps and globes.
—After reading the book, discuss any distinctive cultural characteristics.
Beginning Our Exploration of a World of Stories
thWe begin our exploration of international literature with We Are All Born Free, a book celebrating the 60 anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amnesty International UK (Ed.). We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures. Frances
Lincoln, 2008. (UK) All ages. 2009 OIB
—The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in Paris on December 10, 1948, declares and protects the rights of
all people. In We Are All Born Free, each of the 30 articles of the Declaration has been simplified for young readers and
illustrated by an internationally renowned artist.
—A Teacher’s Notes, which includes many ideas for classroom use of We Are All Born Free, is available from the
Australian publisher of the book, Walker Books Australia, on its website (www.walkerbooks.com.au). —Encourage students to discuss their understanding of the meaning of each of the articles of the Declaration and how the
artist has chosen to illustrate the article. Students can make posters illustrating the articles for display. —After selecting one of the illustrations in We Are All Born Free, students can identify the illustrator by referring to the
brief biographical sketches of illustrators in the back matter of the book. They can learn more about the illustrator,
read other picture books by him/her, and study the illustrations in his/her books.
Bob Graham illustrated Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The image he used was enlarged
from a small picture in How to Heal a Broken Wing and modified to illustrate the article.
Graham, Bob. How to Heal a Broken Wing. Candlewick, 2008. (Australia) K-Gr 2. 2009 OIB
—A bird hits a window in a tall city building and falls to the pavement below. No one takes notice of the bird with a
broken wing except young Will. He takes the injured bird home. ‚With rest . . . and time . . . and a little hope . . .‛ the
bird flies again.
—Simple, beautifully composed illustrations are used in telling this story of an urban family’s finding of an injured bird,
nursing it back to health, and releasing it. Few words are needed to express young Will’s love for the injured bird and
his understanding of the healing process.
—A Teacher’s Notes is available on the Australian publisher’s website (www.walkerbooks.com.au).
—Graham won the Children‘s Book Council of Australia’s 2009 Book of the Year Award: Early Childhood for How to Heal
a Broken Wing.
Bednar, Sylvie. Flags of the World. Trans. by Gita Daneshjoo; illus. by author. Abrams, 2009. (France) Gr 3-5. 2010 OIB
—Flags of the World features the flags of all the countries of the world, explains the colors and symbols of the flags, and
provides statistics and brief notes of interest about each of the countries.
Amnesty International UK (Ed.). Free? Stories Celebrating Human Rights. Candlewick, 2010. (UK) Gr 5+.
—This anthology includes stories which address articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by children’s book
authors, including David Almond (UK), Ursula Dubosarsky (Australia), Margaret Mahy (New Zealand), and Meja
—Select grade-level appropriate stories from Free! to read aloud. A Teacher’s Notes available on the Australian
publisher’s website (www.walkerbooks.com.au) includes discussion questions for each story.
And the Winner Is . . .
Major international book awards are important selection resources. Featured here are recent winners and nominees of prestigious international awards who also have books on USBBY Outstanding International Books lists.
Hans Christian Andersen Awards (International Board on Books for Young People)
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards are presented every two years by IBBY to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important and lasting contribution to children’s literature. Each IBBY National Section may nominate an author and an illustrator. A list of all winners is available on the IBBY website (www.ibby.org). The 2010 nominees are profiled in a special issue of IBBY’s journal: Vardell, S. & Kurkjian, C. (Eds.). (2009). The Hans
Christian Andersen Awards 2010. [Special issue]. Bookbird, 48(2).
—You can develop a text set focusing on Hans Christian Andersen Award winners or one based on books by nominees
for a particular year (for example, the most recent award year, 2010).
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (International Board on Books for Young People)
David Almond (UK) won the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. The other finalists were Ahmad Reza Ahmadi (Iran), Bartolomeu Campos de Queirós (Brazil), Lennert Hellsing (Sweden), and Louis Jensen (Denmark).
David Almond’s young adult novel Raven Summer (Random House/Delacorte Press, 2009) is a 2010 Outstanding
International Book in the Gr 9-12 category. Almond’s short novel My Dad’s a Birdman was a 2009 Outstanding
Almond, David. My Dad’s a Birdman. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick, 2008. (UK) Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
—Young Lizzie’s dad is a ‚birdman.‛ Dad believes he is a bird. He’s made himself a pair of wings, is eating like a bird,
and has even entered the Great Human Bird Competition—and Lizzie is going to don wings and compete with him.
—Almond has created an original tale that is difficult to describe. My Dad’s a Birdman is sad and dark yet playful and
joyful. It is a short, memorable story that celebrates the power of love, faith, and the imagination. —My Dad’s a Birdman is a beautifully designed book. Polly Dunbar’s whimsical illustrations contribute to the warm and
gentle tone of the story.
—Polly Dunbar illustrated Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in We Are All Born Free.
Almond, David. The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick, 2010. (UK) Gr 3-5.
—A bored young boy, helped by a host of quirky individuals who live in his apartment building, sets out to prove that
the moon is really just a hole in the sky.
—The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon is a good read aloud. Be sure to share Dunbar’s illustrations, too. Her delightfully
humorous portraits of the characters add to the enjoyment of Almond’s imaginative story.
Margaret Mahy (New Zealand) won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 2006. Mahy’s The Magician of
Hoad is a 2010 Outstanding International Book in the Gr 9-12 category. Mahy has had two picture books on Outstanding International Books Lists in the K-Gr 2 category: Bubble Trouble in 2010 and Down the Back of the Chair in 2007.
Mahy, Margaret. Bubble Trouble. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Clarion, 2009. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2010 OIB
—In rhyming text that is as bubbly as the story it tells, Mabel’s bubble bobs and bobbles and wafts Baby away. Baby’s
bubbly, bobbling adventure as he travels inside the bubble continues until a pebble from a slingshot bursts the bubble.
Not to worry, Mabel and her friends save Baby with a ‚calculated catch.‛
—As with all of Mahy’s picture books, plan on reading this one aloud—and often—to appreciative audiences of young
Mahy, Margaret. Down the Back of the Chair. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Clarion, 2006. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2007 OIB
—In rhyming text, Mahy tells the story of a poor father who has lost his keys and can’t get to work. Two-year-old Mary
advises Dad to ‚do what I would do‛ and look ‚down the back of the chair.‛ Jewelry, animals, and even one of the
twins turns up in the chair, and their fortune is made when they discover the ‚long lost will of Uncle Bill.‛
—Dunbar’s humorous illustrations and the rollicking rhythm of the text make this a great read-aloud choice. Young
children will soon join in with the repeated ‚down the back of the chair.‛
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration (International Board on Books for Young People)
Jutta Bauer (Germany) won the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration. The other finalists were Carll Cneut (Belgium), Etienne Delessert (Switzerland), Svjetlan Junakovic (Croatia), and Roger Mello (Brazil).
Bauer, Jutta. Selma. Illus. by author. Kane/Miller, 2001. (Germany) K-Gr 2.
—For Selma, a contented ewe, happiness is eating grass, playing with her offspring, exercising in the afternoon, eating a
bit more grass, chatting with a friend in the evening, and having a good night’s sleep. When asked what she would
do if she had more time or won a million dollars, she recites the same list of activities. —This tiny book beautifully illustrates living for the moment and being content with what you have. Reading Selma can
lead to some interesting discussions on daily routines and the definition of ‚happiness.‛
—Following the format of Selma, older children can write and illustrate their own small books with a patterned text and
Bauer, Jutta. Grandpa’s Angel. Illus. by author. Candlewick, 2005. (Germany) Gr 3-5.
—From his hospital bed, a grandfather tells his grandson the story of his life: his childhood (including how he bravely
faced the dangers he encountered along his way to school), young adulthood (during World War II, when he was firstname.lastname@example.org 3
forced to become a soldier), and adulthood (when he fell in love, married, became a father and then a grandfather). —The illustrations reveal something that the words do not: Grandpa has had a special protector watching over him
throughout his life. After a last good bye, the grandson leaves; the final doublespread shows him in the square
outside the hospital, with Grandpa’s angel now following close behind him.
—This is a good picture book to use in studying how illustrations can ‚tell‛ more story than do the words alone.
Anthony Browne won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 2000. Browne has had three books on Outstanding International Books lists in the K-Gr 2 category: Little Beauty in 2009, Silly Billy in 2007, and My Mom in 2006.
Browne, Anthony. Little Beauty. Illus. by author. Candlewick, 2008. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2009 OIB
—When a very special gorilla (he’s learned sign language) asks his keepers for a friend, they give him a kitten. The two do
everything together. When the gorilla loses his temper and smashes the TV in their compound, however, the keepers
fear for Beauty’s safety. They plan to take her away, until she takes responsibility for the damage—using sign
language! The two remain faithful companions.
—This story of an unusual friendship was inspired by a true story about a gorilla in the San Diego Zoo in California. —Little Beauty is a beautifully crafted picture book. There are new things to spot in the illustrations with each rereading.
Visual references to ‚King Kong‛ and ‚Beauty and the Beast,‛ a reproduction of a Dutch master’s painting, the
humorous depictions of the gorilla behaving like a human, the dramatic showcasing of the great size difference
between the gorilla and Beauty, and Browne’s signature stylized art make this a picture book that can be enjoyed by
readers of all ages.
Browne, Anthony. Silly Billy. Illus. by author. Candlewick, 2006. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2007 OIB
—Worrying about everything keeps Billy awake until Grandma gives him some Guatemalan worry dolls to tell his
worries to. Billy sleeps well until he begins to worry about overburdening the tiny dolls with worries. His solution:
create worry dolls for the worry dolls.
—Silly Billy includes a note on customs associated with worry dolls. Learn more about these dolls. If possible, show
students some worry dolls crafted by Guatemalan artisans.
—Students can make or draw worry dolls and, just as Billy did, give them names.
—Guatemalan children place worry dolls under their pillows when they go to sleep. According to legend, when they
wake up in the morning, their worries will be gone. Ask students if they have a doll, a toy animal, or some other
object that offers them comfort. Have them write a brief description of it and tell about an incident in which it helped
them forget a worry, or have them make up stories about having a ‚worry‛ and sharing it with a worry doll.
Browne, Anthony. My Mom. Illus. by author. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2006 OIB
—A young narrator offers an affectionate, gently humorous, and definitely childlike tribute to his mother. The brief text,
which incorporates similes and patterned language, is paired with Browne’s signature stylistic illustrations.
—Browne has two other picture book tributes to family members: My Dad (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001) and My
Brother (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).
—After reading all three books, students will recognize the similarities in artistic style and book design used by Browne. —This book was originally published in England under the title My Mum. Students can do research to identify what
common terms children in various countries use to refer to parents and siblings other than by their proper names. —Following the pattern of these books, students can write and illustrate stories about one of their family members. —Extend your author/illustrator study of Anthony Browne by reading other of his many picture books.
Mildred L. Batchelder Award (Association for Library Services to Children, ALA)
Random House/Delacorte Press won the 2010 Batchelder Award for A Faraway Island by Annika Thor, translated from
Swedish by Linda Schenck. A Faraway Island is on the 2010 Outstanding International Books list in the Gr 6-8 category.
Enchanted Lion Books won a 2010 Batchelder Honor for Big Wolf & Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme, translated from
French by Claudia Bedrick. Farrar Straus Giroux won a 2010 Batchelder Honor for Eidi by Bodil Bredsdorff, translated
from Danish by Kathryn Mahaffy. Eidi is a 2010 Outstanding International Book in the Gr 3-5 category.
Brun-Cosme, Nadine. Big Wolf & Little Wolf. Trans. by Claudia Bedrick; illus. by Olivier Tallec. Enchanted Lion
Books, 2009. (France) K-Gr 2.
—Big Wolf lives at the base of a tree, alone but happy. One day a little wolf appears and joins in with his activities. Big
Wolf isn’t sure how he feels about this, until his little companion goes away. Big Wolf finds that he is lonely and,
when Little Wolf finally returns, it is decided that they should stay together.
Bredsdorff, Bodil. Eidi (The Children of Crow Cove). Trans. by Kathryn Mahaffy. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009.
(Denmark) Gr 3-5. 2010 OIB
—Feeling that there is no longer room for her after her mother and stepfather have a baby, Eidi leaves Crow Cove and
eventually travels to a harbor town where she befriends a neglected young boy, Tink. As they journey together,
struggling to survive, Eidi learns a great deal about herself, including her need of family. —This brief, beautifully crafted novel is a good read-aloud choice.
—Before reading Eidi, you might want to read The Crow-Girl (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2004), the first book in the Children of
Crow Cove series, which was a 2005 Batchelder Honor book.
One of the 2009 Batchelder Honor winners was Eerdmans for Garmann’s Summer written and illustrated by Stian Hole,
translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Garmann’s Summer was on the 2009 Outstanding International Books list.
Hole, Stian. Garmann’s Summer. Trans. by Don Bartlett; illus. by author. Eerdmans, 2008. (Norway) K-Gr 2.
—Garmann worries about starting school. He queries elderly aunts, Daddy, and Mama about their worries. He discovers
that being scared isn’t a good or a bad thing. It’s simply a fact that everyone fears something.
—Hole’s exploration of childhood emotion is expressed visually in intriguing mixed-media collages.
—Hole received the 2007 BolognaRagazzi Award, a prestigious international prize for excellence in children’s books.
Garmanns Sommer was recognized for its creative visual text, which offers ‚a clear, dreamlike world whose poetic
narrative is sustained by a quite clarity of intent.‛ Reread Garmann’s Summer and examine the illustrations closely.
How were the illustrations created? How are they different from what we usually see in picture books? —Most students have been exposed to quite a few first-day-of-school jitters stories. After reading aloud Garmann’s
Summer, have students compare Hole’s book to other stories about starting school. How are they different? For
example, consider the ending. Unlike most books that originate in the U.S., the story does not end with Garmann’s
having overcome his fears. The last sentence reads, ‚And Garmann is scared.‛
—You’ll also want to read Hole’s Garmann’s Street (Eerdmans, 2010).
Use books in which reading the pictures is essential for complete understanding and appreciation of the story to focus on visual literacy.
Isol. Petit, the Monster. Trans. by Elisa Amado; illus. by author. Groundwood, 2010. (Argentina) K-Gr 2.
—When his mother asks, ‚How can such a good boy sometimes do such bad things?‛ Petit doesn’t know how to answer.
He grapples with the perplexing problem of whether he is good or bad and begins to think that he must be a ‚not-yet-
discovered type of monster.‛
Larsen, Andrew. The Imaginary Garden. Illus. by Irene Luxbacher. Kids Can, 2009. (Canada) K-Gr 2. 2010 OIB
—When Poppa, who loves gardening, moves into an apartment, his granddaughter helps him create a colorful garden for
his balcony on a big sheet of canvas.
Choung, Eun-hee. Minji’s Salon. Illus. by author. Kane/Miller, 2008. (South Korea) K-Gr 2. 2009 OIB
—Peeking through the window of the hair salon where her mother is getting her hair styled inspires Minji to give her dog
the same beauty treatment at home.
—The situation is set up in a series of preliminary wordless pages that show Minji and her dog following Minji’s mother
to the salon. In the body of text, the page on the left shows what is going on in the salon while the page on the right
shows Minji doing the equivalent at home—and creating a mess of both the dog and the house.
—The last scene shows Minji in her mother’s high heels peering into the window of a women’s dress shop and suggests
that Minji’s imagination is working on another big project. Students can write and illustrate stories about what Minji
does after being inspired by what she sees in the dress shop.
Tolman, Marije & Tolman, Ronald. The Tree House. Illus. by authors. Boyds Mills/Lemniscaat, 2010. (The Netherlands)
—In this wordless book, various animals, beginning with a polar bear, make their way to a tree house in a huge rain
storm. When the flood waters recede, other animals come by land and air.
—Each doublespread illustration is a beautifully composed painting that tells this tale of adventure and companionship. —Younger students will enjoy looking at and talking about what is going on in the illustrations. Older students can write
brief descriptive passages for the illustrations.
A Sense of Place/A Sense of Time
These books have distinct settings in terms of both place and time and communicate cultural details of countries and their people. Remember to use the strategies for emphasizing the international nature of these books (see list on page 1). Use Sylvie Bednar’s Flags of the World (see entry on page 2) to learn a bit about the countries in which the stories are set.
Baasansuren, Bolormaa. My Little Round House. Adapt. By Helen Mixter; illus. by author. Groundwood, 2009. (Japan)
K-Gr 2. 2010 OIB
—Jilu tells the story of his first year of life, which is centered around his nomadic Mongolian family’s ger (yurt) as they
travel by camel caravan to their autumn, winter, spring, and summer camps.
—Beautifully crafted illustrations show a very different way of life from a child’s early years in America as well as the
love Jilu’s extended family gives him, which is something all can relate to.
—Do an Internet search for information about the felt-lined tents (gers) in which many Mongolian families live. A
recommended site: www.bluepeak.net/mongolia/ger.html
Bae, Hyun-Joo. New Clothes for New Year’s Day. Illus. by author. Kane/Miller, 2007. (South Korea) K-Gr 2. 2008 OIB
—A young Korean girl excitedly dresses in new traditional clothes in preparation for Lunar New Year celebrations. —Learn more about New Year’s Day celebrations in Korea and other Asian countries. Bae’s author notes are a good
starting place. They provide information on the celebration of the Lunar New Year, the new clothes worn by girls and
boys on New Year’s Day, and their significance. How do these celebrations differ from the celebration of New Year’s
Day in your country?
—For New Year’s Day, the young girl in the story has received new clothes, which she describes in detail. Have students
tell or write about a celebration for which they received new clothes they especially liked, including a description of
the clothes and the occasion.
Teevee, Ningeokuluk. Alego. Trans. by Nina Manning-Toonoo; illus. by author. Groundwood, 2009. (Canada) K-Gr 2.
—For the first time, Alego, a young Inuit girl, goes clam digging with her grandmother at low tide. She also discovers the
various animals that inhabit the tide pools of the Canadian Arctic.
—The text of Alego is written in both Inuktitut and English. The book includes an illustrated glossary of sea animals and a
map of Baffin Island.
—Students can use nonfiction books and Internet resources to learn more about the tide pool animals Alego discovers.
Gilani-Williams, Fawzia. Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale. Illus. by Proiti Roy. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish,
2010. (India) Gr 3-5.
—Nabeel the shoemaker, who is buying new clothes for his family to wear to the mosque for the celebration of Eid, is
persuaded by the shopkeeper to buy himself a pair of pants. The problem is that the only pair available is too long
and no one has time to shorten the pants for him.
—The book includes a glossary and pronunciation guide.
—Eid is the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. Use informational books and Internet resources to learn more about
the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Greenwood, Mark. The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I. Illus. by Frané Lessac.
Candlewick, 2008. (Australia) Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
—Seventeen-year-old Jack left his boyhood home in England for Australia in search of adventure. When England
declared war on Germany, he enlisted, trained as a stretcher bearer in Egypt, and took part in the British invasion of
Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. In the 24 days before he was killed, Jack carried more than 300 wounded men off the
battlefield on the back of a donkey.
—The Donkey of Gallipoli is an informative and inviting picture book that tells a true story of heroism in World War I. The
text is clear and simple. The color and detail of the gouache illustrations, executed in Lessac’s signature primitive
style, add depth to the story.
—Frané Lessac illustrated Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
—Back matter includes a map of Anzac Cove, Turkey, in 1915; a list of sources; and information about John ‚Jack‛
Simpson Kirkpatrick, his friend Billy Lowes, the donkeys, the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps),
and the Turks.
—This book was originally published as Simpson and His Donkey by Walker Books Australia in 2008. A Teacher’s Notes is
available on the publisher’s website (www.walkerbooks.com.au).
Milway, Katie Smith. One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference. Illus. by Eugenie Fernandes. Kids Can,
2008. (Canada) Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
—With a few coins from a small loan his mother gets from their village, Kojo buys a hen, sells the eggs to pay back the
loan, and buys more hens. Based on the true story of Kwabena Darko, a successful Ghanaian businessman and
founder of Sinapi Aba (Mustard Seed) Trust, this story explains and advocates for global microcredit. —Back matter includes notes on Darko and people around the world who are being helped by small loans from
international organizations, a glossary, and suggestions for learning more about microfinance. This book is really a
hybrid: a fictional picture book with extensive back matter. The story is simple and beautifully illustrated; it makes
the concept of microloans clear and compelling.
—The website for this book (www.onehen.org) includes a section for teachers and librarians with suggested activities.
Robinson, Anthony & Young, Annemarie. Gervelie’s Journey: A Refugee Diary. Illus. by June Allan. Frances Lincoln,
2008. (UK) Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
—Photographs, drawings, and short chronological entries gently tell the true story of Gervelie’s life as a refugee from
turmoil in the Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast. Presently a young teen in England, Gervelie expresses her
hopes of the future—especially that she and her father will remain safe.
Taylor, Sean. The Great Snake: Stories from the Amazon. Illus. by Fernando Vilela. Frances Lincoln, 2008. (UK)
Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
—Storyteller Taylor describes river, jungle, and villages as he travels along the Amazon and shares tales of tricksters,
myth, and magic he hears along the way. Diary entries serve as a frame story and add an element of adventure. —Trace Taylor’s journey along the Amazon River on a map of the region. Use informational books and Internet sites to
learn more about the Amazon River region.
—Fernando Vilela’s boldly colored woodcuts are a perfect match for the stories. Vilela, a Brazilian artist, illustrated
Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in We Are All Born Free.
—In The Great Snake, Taylor also introduces children to the importance of collecting traditional tales. He nicely links the
preservation of stories with the need for sustainable development of the rainforests, if both are not going to vanish.
I Have a Tale to Tell
Folktales and legends are part of the rich body of literature from around the world. Develop text sets featuring one type of folklore, such as trickster or pourquoi tales, or tales from a particular country or region of the world.
Kilaka, John. The Amazing Tree. Illus. by author. NorthSouth, 2009. (Switzerland) K-Gr 2. 2010 OIB
—In this Tanzanian folktale, a group of hungry animals must learn and call out the name of an amazing tree so that its
ripe, juicy fruit will fall. Each of the big animals travel to wise Tortoise certain they will succeed in obtaining and email@example.com 7
remembering the name he reveals, but it is little Rabbit who succeeds.
—An author’s note includes information about this story and Kilaka’s experiences of collecting African folktales.
Sellier, Marie. What the Rat Told Me: A Legend of the Chinese Zodiac. Illus. by Catherine Louis; calligraphy and chop
marks by Wang Fei. NorthSouth, 2009. (France) K-Gr 2. 2010 OIB
—The story of how the Great Emperor of Heaven chose the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac—and why rats and cats are
enemies even to this day—is told in this beautifully designed book. Stunning artwork of linoleum prints and chop
marks accompany the text.
—The back matter includes a ‚Which sign are you?‛ section. Students can learn which sign they were born under and do
some research in informational books and on the Internet to discover their characteristics based on Chinese lore.
—There is a chart of the animals of the zodiac and their chop marks and names in Chinese calligraphy on the back
—Collect other legends of the Chinese Zodiac for reading aloud or reading alone. Note how different illustrators have
portrayed the animals of the zodiac.
Daly, Niki. Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa. Illus. by author. Clarion Books, 2007. (UK)
K-Gr 2. 2008 OIB
—In this version of ‚Little Red Riding Hood,‛ Pretty Salma, who lives with her grandparents in a West African village,
gets into a great deal of trouble when she does not heed Granny’s warning about avoiding strangers and talks to Mr.
Dog on her trip to the market in the city.
—Compare and contrast Niki Daly’s retelling with a traditional European version of ‚Little Red Riding Hood.‛
—Daly illustrated Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in We Are All Born Free.
Rinck, Maranke. I Feel a Foot! Illus. by Martijn van der Linden. Boyds Mills/Lemniscaat, 2008. (The Netherlands)
K-Gr 2. 2009 OIB
—In this retelling of an old folktale, different animals (turtle, bird, bat, octopus, and goat) try to discover what is rustling
in the dark near their hammock. Each believes that a part of the intruder is an oversize version of itself. Just as they
conclude that the huge beast is a ‚Tur-Bat-Octo-Bird-Goat,‛ it trumpets and they know it’s an elephant.
—The stunning illustrations feature boldly colored and patterned animals on a midnight black background. —Compare this story with other retellings of the story of ‚The Blind Men and the Elephant.‛
Laird, Elizabeth. Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran. Illus. by Shirin Adl. Frances Lincoln, 2010. (UK) Gr 3-5.
—Laird retells seven folktales from Iran that feature both wise and foolish people (and even a silly cockroach and a clever
chickpea boy). Adl adds colorful, detailed illustration evoking the Iranian setting of the tales. —As these stories are read aloud, have students listen for details that indicate their setting to be Iran. What additional
clues to setting are revealed in the illustrations?
Laird, Elizabeth. A Fistful of Pearls and Other Tales from Iraq. Illus. by Shelley Fowles. Frances Lincoln. (UK)
Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
— This collection of nine traditional stories from Iraq introduces young readers to a host of interesting characters,
including a lazy man with a clever wife, a boastful tailor with a resourceful daughter, a miser who is taught a lesson
by a neighbor, a wise hare who tricks the King of the Elephants, and a wolf who outwits a prideful lion. —A Fistful of Pearls and Other Tales from Iraq is part of a series of folktales from around the world published by Frances
Lincoln. Use these collections of tales for additional reading aloud or for independent reading.
Three recommended titles:
Laird, Elizabeth. The Ogress and the Snake and Other Stories from Somalia. Illus. by Shelley Fowles. Frances Lincoln, 2009.
Monte, Richard. The Dragon of Krakow and Other Polish Stories. Illus. by Paul Hess. Frances Lincoln, 2008.
Nimr, Sonia. Ghaddar the Ghoul and other Palestinian Stories. Illus. by Hannah Shaw. Frances Lincoln, 2007.
Taylor, Sean. The Great Snake: Stories from the Amazon. Illus. by Fernando Vilela. Frances Lincoln, 2008. (UK)
Gr 3-5. 2009 OIB
—See entry on page 7.
Author and Illustrator Studies
Develop text sets based on the works of an author/illustrator, an author, or an illustrator.
Emily Gravett won the Kate Greenaway Medal for Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears in 2008 and for Wolves in 2005. Her
Monkey and Me was on the 2008 Greenaway Medal shortlist and Orange Pear Apple Bear on the 2007 Greenaway shortlist.
Two of Gravett’s books were 2010 Kate Greenaway Medal nominees: Dogs and The Rabbit Problem. Gravett has had two
books on Outstanding International Books lists: Wolves in 2007 and Meerkat Mail in 2008.
—Conduct an author/illustrator study on Emily Gravett. After reading all of Gravett’s books, explore the quality of her
illustration (including an evaluation of artistic style, format, synergy of illustration and text, and the visual experience)
using the award criteria for the Kate Greenaway Medal (www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/ greenaway/
award_criteria.php). (See Activity Sheet on 13.)
—Visit Emily Gravett’s website (www.emilygravett.com) for information on her books and book-related games and
Gravett, Emily. Dogs. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2010. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—A brief rhyming text and pencil drawings, softly washed with watercolors, tell the story of an unseen narrator’s love for
dogs—all kinds of dogs.
—There is also an interesting lesson on the concept of opposites in Dogs. Make a chart listing the opposites in the book.
Can students come up with some other contrasting pairs of dog characteristics?
—The endpapers identify the breeds of dogs portrayed in the story. Gather informational books on these dogs for
—The last page of Dogs has a surprise: the narrator is a cat. Following Gravett’s pattern of opposites, older students can
work in small groups to write and illustrate books featuring favorite kinds of cats, narrated by a dog (or perhaps a
Gravett, Emily. The Rabbit Problem. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, November, 2010. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—‚How does 1+1=280? A family of rabbits soon supply the answer!‛ You can get a sneak peek at The Rabbit Problem on
Emily Gravett’s website (www.emilygravett.com).
Gravett, Emily. The Odd Egg. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2009. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—‚All the birds have laid an egg. All except for Duck.‛ Duck wants one too, so he is pleased when he finds an egg—even
though it is a bit odd. Duck is in for a big surprise when his egg hatches.
—The use of cut pages adds drama as each bird’s egg hatches until, at last, an alligator emerges from Duck’s oversize egg.
Gravett, Emily. Spells. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2009. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—When he finds an old book titled Spells to Become a Handsome Prince, a small green frog tries several scrambled
incantations before finally transforming himself into a handsome prince. But when he kisses a beautiful princess, he is
‚. . . just a small green frog (again).‛
—The small green frog should have read the ‚Small Print‛ warning shown on the last page of Gravett’s book. Reexamine
every part of Spells carefully. Notice all the clever ways in which Gravett ‚tells‛ the complete story using every part of
Gravett, Emily. Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2008. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—A little mouse lists his fears (loud noises, the dark, being sucked down a drain, etc.) in a cleverly designed book which
includes flaps, die-cuts, news clippings, and a fold-out map. At the end of the book, learning that a human actually
seems to be afraid of him makes Little Mouse feel better.
—‚Make Your Own Collage of Fears‛ is one activity on Gravett’s website (www.emilygravett.com).
—Use the ‚Some common fears . . . Are you scared of any of these?‛ sheet from Gravett’s website as a writing prompt.
Illustrated stories can be compiled to create a class Big Book of Fears.
Gravett, Emily. Meerkat Mail. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2007. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2008 OIB
—Tired of his home in the very dry and very hot Kalahari Desert and thinking that his family is sometimes too close (their
motto is ‚Stay Safe, Stay Together‛), Sunny Meerkat travels to other places, visiting various mongoose relatives in
search of an alternative lifestyle. By the end of the week, however, he is glad to be back home. —The postcards sent by Sunny Meerkat to his family indicate the common and scientific names of the mongoose relatives
he visits during the week. Have students select one of these relatives. They can use informational books and the
Internet to learn about the mongoose relatives.
—After they have done some research on Sunny Meerkat’s mongoose relatives, students can pretend they are Sunny and
write letters (rather than postcards) home reporting on their visits. The letters can include information about where
they are (based on the distribution of the mongoose relative), the neighborhood and type of home the mongoose lives
in (habitat), what they serve for meals (food habits), what kinds of things they do (behavior), and other interesting
—Students may want to learn more about the jackal, the predator shown tracking Sunny throughout the book, too.
Gravett, Emily. Monkey and Me. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2008. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—‚Monkey and me,/ Monkey and me./ Monkey and me,/ We went to see,/ We went to see some . . .‛ and, with a turn of
the page, we see a parade of waddling PENGUINS! The text repeats this pattern while the illustrations provide clues
through the actions of the girl and her toy monkey as to what the pair will see next. Finally, the pattern of the text
changes with a tired ‚Monkey . . . and . . . me‛ going ‚. . . ZZZZZZZZ‛ on the last page.
Gravett, Emily. Orange Pear Apple Bear. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2007. (UK) K-Gr 2.
—Using only the four words of the title and playfully arranging them in different order, Gravett tells the story of a big
brown bear who takes on the colors and shapes of the three fruits he comes across as he contemplates what he can do
with them, proceeds to balance the fruit on his head, juggles them, and finally eats them. The simple text ends with
one last word, a satisfied ‚There!‛ as the bear lumbers off.
Gravett, Emily. Wolves. Illus. by author. Simon & Schuster, 2006. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2007 OIB
—Rabbit is unaware that one of the menacing animals he has been reading about in his library book is intent on
devouring him. In an alternative ending for ‚more sensitive readers,‛ the wolf is a vegetarian, the two animals share a
jam sandwich—and live happily ever after as friends.
Read aloud two related picture books, a picture book and an informational book, a folktale and a picture book, a poem and a picture book, or other books that go together in some way. Here we feature some Perfect Pairs of international books and suggest some book-related activities. Reading aloud a Perfect Pair is also a good way to assess student interest in a topic. If the interest level is high, teachers may want to develop a text set of related books to continue the topic. Another way of using Perfect Pairs is to have one student read one of the books and a second student the other book. They can then get together and exchange information about the books. Once teachers have introduced the reading of Perfect Pairs, students will begin to seek out Perfect Pairs in their visits to the library.
A Perfect Pair about grief: Two picture books.
Beake, Lesley. Home Now. Illus. by Karin Littlewood. Charlesbridge, 2007. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2008 OIB
—Sieta is an orphaned child living in a township in South Africa. Kinship with an orphaned baby elephant helps Sieta
realize that her new home with Aunty is, indeed, ‚home now.‛
—Home Now deals with a topic not frequently addressed in books for young children. Sieta’s sadness over the death of her
parents and the way in which she comes to accept living now with Aunty through her connection with the orphaned
elephant comes across well in both the text and the expressive illustrations.
—The fictional story does not specify how Sieta’s parents died, but Beake’s ‚A Note About the Story‛ provides a context:
the plight of the many children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Teachers can use this information to
discuss as much about the topic as the children are able to handle. The endnotes also include a list of websites for
information about the AIDS crisis in Africa.