Stories reflect our history and show us who we are. Stories help us to understand others and share our own cultures. Here are voices from other places, stories worth sharing from around the world in picturebooks, in poetry and in nonfiction.
Thao by Thao Lam is an autobiographical story by an illustrator. Her name was common in Vietnam but once she and her family came to live in Canada, she did not like having a name that no one could pronounce or spell properly. Why could her name not be Jennifer? But only Thao could eat yummy Vietnamese food…. The book is exquisitely illustrated in paper collage. A wonderful story to share with children who also have hard to pronounce names! ISBN 978-1-77147-4320-0, Owl Books
Burying The Moon by Andrée Poulin, with beautiful art by Sonali Zohra is the touching story of a 12 year old girl in India. The women in Latika’s village can only do their daily ‘business’ at night in a nearby field. Once girls reach puberty they can no longer go to school because the school nor the village have toilets. Latika is angry that boys don’t have these problems. Education doesn’t even seem important to them. Latika gathers her courage to speak out and make a change for all women in her village. A heartbreaking story, written in free verse, that sheds light on a huge problem around the world. I had no idea that half the world’s population has no access to flush toilets. If, after reading this book, you want to make a difference, check out this website: https://water.org/donate/ ISBN 978-1-77306-604-2, Groundwood Books
Ho’Onani, Hula Warrior is a unique picture book about Hawaiian culture. Traditionally, boys can lead a Hula group. But why not a girl who loves to sing and dance? Ho’onani does not think of herself as ‘just a girl’ or ‘just a boy’. She is Ho’onani – strong, sure and steady. Through hard work and courage she achieves her dream and make her family and village proud of their heritage. ISBN 978-0-7352-6449-6, Tundra
Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth and Priscilla Burris is the story of Natsumi, who may be a Japanese girl but is not dainty nor quiet like other girls in her village. Everything Natsumi does, she does in a big way. Her family tells her that she is too fast, too loud. Discouraged, Natsumi’s grandfather knows what his granddaughter will be good at. On the day of the annual traditional Festival, dainty dancers perform, tea is served carefully and finally Natsumi can show her true self by being a powerful, traditional taiko drummer! ISBN 978-0-399-17090-4, G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Part of a picture books series based on the UN Convention on the rights of the child, I Have The Right to Culture, by Alain Serres and Aurélia Fronty, the book celebrates all things art. From dance to film, from poetry to paintings, the book shows how cultures preserve and protect their heritage and how each person has the right to learn about the art from their country because ‘A child who never knew about.. sculptures or paintings… would as as sad as a thousand birds who never learned how to fly.’ Highly recommended especially for schools with diverse populations. ISBN 978-1-77306-490-1, Groundwood Books.
A sad but beautiful, and important, story is I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe, art by Pauline Young. It is the story of a child in residential school, forced to adopt a new language and new customs. As the child grows older and darkness folds away, colour returns to the pages as she slowly discovers the power of her own culture and extends a hand of friendship to others to help them understand. A beautifully executed picture book that works on many levels, for many ages. ISBN 978-1-77108-810-7, Nimbus Publishing
So what if you have a common name and no special skills? Well… You Might Be Special by Kerri Kokias, illustrated by Marcus Cutler, puts you to the test. If you feel different from others you can take a quiz to make sure you are not a unicorn, or a dragon. And if you are none of these… then you are special because you are you! A fun book to share out loud with young readers who are special. ISBN 978-1-5253-0333-3, Kids Can Press
Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author of over 40 books for children. She conducts author presentations at international schools and shares her travel stories here: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com