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Great Kids' Reads: 5 Cross-Cultural Children's Books

Published on: December 29, 2013

news-digest1Editor's note: This post is part of a series where local experts share top picks for kids' books on a particular theme.

The books we read together in language classes at Sponge are always in language, but at home I’m most comfortable reading in English. So it’s always a thrill to find great children’s books from around the world in translation.

For your summer reading pleasure, here are five books that have crossed oceans and cultures. It’s fun to think about what makes a book so great it thrills audiences around the world. It’s also fun to see how things can be just a little bit different, and sometimes it’s those things that tickle us most.

press-here1. The little French book Press Here has found huge numbers of fans for its design and sensibility. It’s an interactive picture book that's all book — no pop-outs, no iPad app. And, yet it’s playful all the same. The script at the bottom (and somehow the font looks French to me!) tells the children what to do. “Clap twice.” And, when they do it, voilà something big happens on the next page.

cherry-pig2. The Story of Cherry the Pig has a 1950s Americana sense of style to it, but comes direct from Japan this year. It’s a charming story of a pig who likes to bake and enters a contest. There’s a nice lesson about perspective in it, and a sweet-as-pie ending. If you look carefully, you can find some Japanese writing, too.


everyone-poops3. If your child is fascinated by toilet talk, then I also recommend Everyone Poops by one of Japan’s most famous children’s authors and illustrators, Taro Gomi. We have a couple of his gorgeous board books that my kids have recently outgrown. But I’m keeping them!


guij14. The children's picture book market is relatively new in China and Taiwan. But it's growing — and the NYT bestseller Guji Guji comes from a clever Taiwanese author who is now beloved around the world. This book is a modern take on the ugly duckling story starring a brave and adorable croco-duck.

It's still hard to find original children's books from Latin America. But the good news is that there are great books with Latin culture and Spanish being published here in the US. Yuyi Morales was born in Mexico and grew up with her vivacious grandmothers. Her award-winning Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book is a lively bilingual counting book in which a clever grandmother outwits a mischievous skeleton.

If you have other international books that you love, please let me know in the comments. Or come on over to the Sponge Facebook page, and join the discussion there.

Jackie Friedman Mighdoll is the founder of Sponge, which offers language classes for young children from newborn through elementary school.

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