Books to Celebrate World Kid Lit Month

One of the best things we can do for kids is to teach them to see the world from many different perspectives. A great way to do this is to read books about other cultures and especially to read books written by authors from other countries or cultures than our own. September is World Kid Lit Month. In the US kids are encouraged to read books translated into English from their original language. This website has fantastic lists of books by age from around the world that have been translated into English. However, some of these books can be hard to find in the US. Another way to experience the world through books is to read books written in English by people from other countries. This month in honor of World Lit Month, instead of looking at specific books, I’m going to give you a list of authors that can open up the world for kids.

Mem Fox is an Australian author who has written over 40 children’s books. Her first book Possum Magic is one of her most beloved, followed by the sweet Koala Lou. Her most recent book I’m Australian Too celebrates multiculturalism in Australia.

Peter Sis is primarily known as an award winning illustrator of children’s books and a filmmaker. His book The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain was a 2007 Caldecott Honor book that tells the story of growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia.

Allen Say primarily writes books that illuminate the immigrant experience In America and that celebrate his Japanese heritage. His father was a Korean orphan brought up by a British family in China and his mother was a Japanese-American from California. Say himself grew up in Japan and then moved to the United States as a teenager. His award-winning books include Grandfather’s Journey which is based on his grandfather’s life. Drawing from Memory is a fantastic graphic novel that tells his own story as an apprentice cartoonist in Japan during WWII.

Astrid Lindgren is the beloved Swedish writer of the Pippi Longstocking books. Although the irrepressible Pippi is the most well known of Lindgren’s characters in the US, she wrote many other books about children. Another beloved classic children’s author, Tove Jansson, was also Swedish speaking although she was from Finland. Her most well-known books feature the Moomins, a family of trolls that look a little like cute hippopotami. The Moomins have been adapted into several TV series, including a recent one in 2019.

Cressida Cowell is the author of another well-known series, the How to Train Your Dragon books (if you only know the movies you should really try these very funny chapter books). Cowell, a native of Scotland, has also written several other series, including picture books about a little girl named Emily Brown that are funny and sweet.

Julia Donaldson is a British author who has written over 200 books. Perhaps the most famous is The Gruffalo. She partnered with another wonderful British author-illustrator, Emily Gravett to write Cave Baby, about a prehistoric baby taking a ride on a Wooly Mammoth. Be sure to check out Gravett’s books that she writes and illustrates on her own as well. They are wonderfully quirky. My favorite is Meerkat Mail about a little meerkat who decides it’s too crowded in his home in the desert. He decides to travel the world. The story is told partially through postcards inserted into the book and includes fascinating fun facts about his mongoose cousins around the world.

Atinuke is the Nigerian author of the Anna Hibiscus series among other books for children. She attended boarding school in the UK and eventually settled in Wales as an adult but all her boos center on Africa. The Anna Hibiscus stories are wonderful early chapter books.

Maria Elena Walsh was an Argentinian author, poet and singer. Her books for children are known for their whimsical characters.  An Elephantasy is a typical Walsh book and includes a girl taking a geranium for a walk, an abandoned elephant, and a fireman that flies away with the elephant as part of a series of crazy events. Think Dr. Seuss meets Lewis Carroll with a pinch of Roald Dahl throw in.

Alma Flor Ada is a Cuban-American author of many children’s books. Island Treasures: Growing Up in Cuba is a non-fiction collection of stories and photos about her life as a child in Cuba. My Name is Maria Isabel is a wonderful chapter book for middle grader readers about a young girl adjusting to life in a new country.