Read your way around the world!
Ellis, Deborah. Lunch with Lenin and Other Stories. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008.
“Just say no to drugs,” is a common saying. But how do drugs affect families in Afghanistan and street children in Russia? These short stories offer various perspectives on the war on drugs.
Buitrago, Jairo. Cave Paintings. Toronto: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2020.
A young boy – on summer vacation – travels across the universe to visit his grandmother on Earth. Stunningly beautiful full-page coloured pencil illustrations by Rafael Yockteng help tell this brilliantly imaginative story highly recommended for readers 7 to 12 years old. Translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado.
P.S. A great introduction to a unit on space travel or the history of technology.
P.P.S. A lovely addition to a unit on stories from countries around the world. The author lives in Mexico and the illustrator in Columbia.
Find books set in North America HERE.
Find books set in Europe HERE.
Robinson, Anthony and Annemarie Young. Gervelie’s Journey: a Refugee Journey. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s, 2009, c2008.
This true story, written in the form of a diary, tells the story of a girl who had to flee from her home in 1997 when fighting broke out in her home city of Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Illustrated with paintings and photos, this touching story follows Gervelie as her family travels to Ghana and the Ivory Coast before finally moving to England. Highly recommended for readers 10-years-old and up. [Refugees]
Krebs, Laurie. We’re Sailing Down the Nile. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books, 2007.
“As the riverboat sails down the Nile River, remnants of Egypt‘s long history and aspects of its present culture are revealed on its banks.” – CIP. A picture book for readers of all ages. [Egypt; Nile River; Stories in rhyme]
Laird, Elizabeth. The Garbage King. Macmillan Children’s Books, 2003.
Two teenaged runaways meet on the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Dani has run away from his wealthy father. Mamo, an orphan, has run away from the man who kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Together, they find a way to survive with the help of other boys living in poverty. [Ethiopia; Runaways; Survival; Courage; Child abuse; Slavery; Homelessness; Friendship; Brothers and sisters]
Oron, Judie. Cry of the Giraffe. Toronto: Annick Press, 2010.
Thirteen-year-old Wuditu and her family, Ethiopian Jews, set out for the Sudan, hoping to eventually reach safety in Israel. Instead, Wuditu ends up in a refugee camp and life as a slave. Will she ever be reuinited with her family? Based on a true story, this novel is for mature readers. [Ethiopia; Sudan; Jews; Refugees; Slavery; Historical fiction]
Milway, Katie Smith. One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2008.
“Kojo, a poor boy in Ghana, finds a way out of poverty and helps others do the same after he is given a small loan and buys a hen.” – CIP. An informative picture book for readers 10-years-old and up. [Chicken; Ghana; Microfinance]
Cunnane, Kelly. For You Are a Kenyan Child. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.
“…a little Kenyan boy who gets distracted by all there is to see and do and forgets what his mama asked him to do.” – CIP. A beautiful picture book for all ages. [Kalenjin (African people); Kenya; Village life]
Graber, Janet. Muktar and the Camels. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2009.
“Muktar, an eleven-year-old refugee living in a Kenyan orphanage, dreams of tending camels again, as he did with his nomadic family in Somalia, and has a chance to prove himself when a traveling librarian with an injured camel arrives at his school.” – CIP. A beautiful picture book for readers 8-years-old and up. The short sentences and flowing language make it a good read-aloud story. [Books and reading; Camels; Kenya; Orphans; Refugees; Somalis]
Kessler, Cristina. Our Secret, Siri Aang. New York: Puffin Books, 2007, c2004.
“Namelok, a Masai girl, tries to persuade her traditionalist father to delay her initiation and marriage because they will restrict her freedom and keep her from the black rhino mother and baby she is protecting from poachers.” – CIP. A young adult novel recommended for mature readers due to the subject matter. [Culture conflict; Maasai (African people); Poaching; Rhinoceroses; Sex role]
MacColl, Michaela. Promise the Night. Chronicle Books, 2011.
Young Beryl, abandoned by her mother and living with her father on a farm in Kenya, is determined to be independent. She is determined not to become a dignified young lady despite all the attempts made by the new housekeeper her father brings into their home and by the headmistress of the boarding school she is forced to attend. Based on the stories and diaries of Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, this novel set in the early 20th century will appeal to readers 10-14 years old. [Africa; Markham, Beryl; Friendship; Loneliness; Determination (Personality trait); air pilots; Historical fiction]
Naidoo, Beverly. Burn My Heart. Amistad, 2009, c2007.
Matthew and Mugo have been friends for years even though Matthew is the son of a wealthy landowner and Mugo is a household servant. But everything changes when the Mau Mau uprising begins in 1950s Kenya. Everyone becomes afraid and violence is around every corner. Based on historical events, this novel will appeal to adventurous readers who like books about real life. [Kenya; Historical fiction; Friendship; Racism; Fathers and sons]
Odhiambo, Eucabeth. Auma’s Long Run. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2017.
Auma has dreams. She wants to leave her small Kenyan village – where people all around her are dying – and attend high school. Then maybe – someday – she can become a doctor. Auma also has determination. She works hard and she can run. If she earns high grades and wins a track scholarship, maybe her dreams can come true.
But then her father dies of AIDS and her mother becomes ill. Auma is needed at home to support her siblings. What should she do?
This 297-page novel is not difficult to read. The font is relatively large, the lines of print widely spaced, and the margins generous. But the story is not a fairy tale and there is no simplistic happy ending. Recommended for mature readers 11 years old and up.
Walters, Eric. Alexandria of Africa. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
After getting in trouble with the law, a judge sends Alexandria to Kenya to work for an international charity. Away from home and without the luxuries to which she is accustomed, she begins to change her view of life. An easy-to-read young adult novel for readers 12-years-old and up. [Juvenile delinquency; International agencies; Kenya; Teenagers]
Ellis, Deborah. The Heaven Shop. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
After their father dies of AIDS, Binti and her siblings are sent to neglectful relatives all over Malawi until they are rescued by their grandmother. Recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [AIDS (Disease); Grandparents; Orphans]
Whelan, Gloria. Yatandou. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2007.
“Eight-year-old Yatandou helps the women of her Mali village raise enough money to buy a machine that will replace their pounding sticks.” – CIP. A picture book for readers 8-years-old and up. [Child labor; Mali]
Cunnane, Kelly & Hoda Hadadi. Deep in the Sahara. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013.
Set in West Africa, this picture book tells the story of a young girl who wants to wear the veiled dress – a malafa – like her mother and older sister. It is recommended as a read-aloud for listeners up to 9 years old. It could also be useful for older students as an introduction to units on religion, customs, and world geography. Includes a glossary and additional information about Mauritania and Islam.
Mankell, Henning. Secrets in the Fire. Richmond Hill: Annick Press, 2003.
This novel is based on the true story of an young girl living in war-torn Mozambique who has to flee with her family through a jungle planted with landmines.
Mankell, Henning. Shadow of the Leopard. Toronto: Annick, 2007.
At the age of nine, Sofia lost her legs in a landmine explosion. She still lives in a village in Mozambique and is now expecting her third child. Her beloved Armando works in the city and comes home on Saturdays. Life is hard, but things become much worse when, one weekend, Armando does not return. (back cover) This sequel to Secrets in the Fire is for mature readers only due to subject matter.
Naidoo, Beverley. The Other Side of Truth. London: Puffin Books, 2000.
“Smuggled out of Nigeria after their mother’s murder, Sade and her younger brother are abandoned in London when their uncle fails to meet them at the airport; they are fearful of their new surroundings and of what may have happened to their journalist father back in Nigeria.” – CIP. “The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo is a story about the way that people in Nigeria are treated differently than we are and how the main characters’ father works for a newspaper. Bit by bit, he starts losing all his social status. The main characters, Sade and Femi, have to be smuggled into London, England, where they find out by they’re not wanted by their uncle who is supposed to be taking care of them and so they’re sent to an adoption agency. They’re sent to three or four homes before finding out where they really belong. It’s a really good book with lots of suspense.” – Karissa in grade 7. Highly recommended for readers in grade 6 and up.
Doder, Joshua Grk: Operation Tortoise. New York: Delacorte Press, 2007.
“While vacationing in the Seychelles, Tim discovers a well-guarded private island where he learns of a devious plot that threatens the endangered local giant tortoise.” – WAFMS. Part of an easy-to-read series that travels around the world addressing modern day issues. Recommended for 9 to 13 year old readers. [Adventure stories; Dogs; Endangered species; Turtles]
Javaherbin, Mina. Goal! Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2010.
A group of soccer playing buddies fend off bullies who try to spoil their game of soccer in this picture book set in a South African township. [Bullying; South Africa; Soccer; Friendship]
Kent, Trilby. Stones for My Father. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2011.
Twelve-year-old “Corlie Roux, an Africaner from the Transvaal, copes with many changes after her father dies, war breaks out with the British, and she and the mother who clearly prefers her brothers escape to the bush only to be sent to a concentration camp.” – CIP Set during the Boer War at the turn of the 19th century, this vivid historical novel – with some swearing – is highly recommended for avid readers in grades 6 and up. The story is much better than the unappealing cover design. [Brothers and sisters; Concentration camps; Historical fiction; Mothers and daughters; South Africa; South African War; Survival]
Naidoo, Beverley. Journey to Jo’burg. New York : HarperTrophy, 1988, c1986.
“Separated from their mother by the difficult conditions for blacks in South Africa, Naledi and her younger brother travel over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg.” – CIP. A short powerful novel for readers 11-years-old and up. It could be compared to the longer American novel Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. [South Africa; Voyages and journeys]
Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Secrets. Buffalo, NY : Distributed in the U.S.A. by Firefly Books (U.S.), 2004.
“Chanda Kabelo, a sixteen-year-old in a small South African town, faces down shame and stigma in her efforts to help friends and family members who are dying of AIDS.” – CIP. A powerful novel for mature readers 12-years-old and up. [AIDS (Disease); South Africa; Teenagers]
Tutu, Desmond and Douglas Carlton Abrams. Desmond and the Very Mean World: a Story of Forgiveness. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2013.
“While riding his new bicycle Desmond is hurt by the mean word yelled at him by a group of boys, but he soon learns that hurting back will not make him feel any better.” – CIP. A picture book for readers of all ages. [Forgiveness; Prejudices; Racism; South Africa]
Colfer, Eoin. Benny and Omar. New York : Miramax Books/Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 2007, c1998.
“Benny hates his new life in Tunisia; none of the kids play his favorite sport, and he feels like he just doesn’t fit in, until he is befriended by Omar, a wild boy living on his talent for buying, selling, and fixing things.” – CIP. A fast-moving novel recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old. [Friendship; Moving, Household; Tunisia]
Williams, Michael. Diamond Boy. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2014.
“When Patson’s family moved to the Marange region of Zimbabwe he begins working in the mines, searching for blood diamonds, until government soldiers arrive and Patson is forced to journey to South Africa in search of his missing sister and a better life.” – CIP. For competent readers 12-years-old and up. [Brothers and sisters; Child labor; Diamonds; Mines and mining; Runaways; Shona (African people); Zimbabwe]
Williams, Michael. Now Is the Time for Running. New York : Little, Brown, 2013, c2009.
“When soldiers attack a small village in Zimbabwe, Deo goes on the run with Innocent, his older, mentally disabled brother, carrying little but a leather soccer ball filled with money, and after facing prejudice, poverty, and tragedy, it is in soccer that Deo finds renewed hope.” – CIP. Recommended for more mature readers. [Brothers; Homelessness; People with mental disabilities; Refugees; Soccer; Zimbabwe]
Khan, Rukhsana. Wanting Mor. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2009.J
“Jameela feels relatively secure, sustained by her Muslim faith and the love of her mother, Mor. But when Mor dies, Jameela’s father impulsively decides to start a new life in Kabul where Jameela ultimately becomes an orphan after being abandoned in a busy marketplace by her father and stepmother. With only the memory of her mother to sustain her, Jameela finds the strength to face those who abandoned her when fate brings them together again.” – NVPL. [Afghanistan; Courage; Homelessness; Orphans; Sex role]
Stampler, Ann Redisch. The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2012.
A wise Muslim shah in Kabul disguises himself in order to test a poor Jewish shoemaker’s faith in the goodness of God. Brightly illustrated by Carol Liddiment and recommended for ages 7 to 14. [Afghanistan; Faith; Folklore; Jews; Kings; Muslims]
McCormick, Patricia. Never Fall Down. New York : Balzer + Bray, 2012.
Arn is forced to serve as a child soldier in this vivid novel, based on a real story, by an accomplished author. It will be appreciated by mature readers in grades eight and up. [War; Survival; Cambodia; Soldiers; Genocide; Young adult fiction; Kidnapping]
Bell, William. Forbidden City. Doubleday Canada, 1990.
“…a story about a sixteen-year-old boy named Alexander, enthusiastic and out-going, with a fascination for war-related strategies and important generals. One of his favourite hobbies is making soldiers out of clay. When his father goes to China, he is excited to go along but that’s when a dilemma happens. He is caught in a student protest and has to choose whether to help the students – and risk being hurt, wounded, or killed by the government armies – or to run and flee from the soldiers. He gets caught and sent back to America where he writes Forbidden City to cope with his pain.” – Caleb in grade eight.
Liu, Na and Andrés Vera Martínez. Little White Duck: a Childhood in China. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe, 2012.
Da Qin and her younger sister live with their parents in the city of Wuhan, China. This thought-provoking graphic novel – composed of 8 short stories – describes the author’s childhood in the 1970s. Emotive illustrations by the author’s husband – Andrés Vera Martínez – help to create a powerful portrait of life for two little girls in a changing world. Recommended for competent readers 9 years old and up.
Namioka, Lensey. Ties that Bind, Ties that Break. London: Puffin, 2003.
“Ailin’s life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.” – WAFMS. A fascinating fast-moving story that follows a young girl from the age of four to adulthood during the mid-20th century. Highly recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [China; Sex roles; Immigration and emigration]
Noyes Deborah. Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2007.
A Chinese princess secretly takes along silkworm cocoons and mulberry seeds when she is sent to marry the king of Khotan. This exquisite picture book – illustrated by Sophie Blackall – includes a two-page explanation of the legends surrounding the history of silk-making. Highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.
The poetic description of everything the princess will miss when she has to leave her home is reminiscent of Shi-shi-etko by Nicola Campbell (Groundwood, 2005). Readers – and teachers – might like to compare the five senses details in the two stories.
Pennypacker, Sara. Sparrow Girl. New York: Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009.
“When China’s leader declares war on sparrows in 1958, everyone makes loud noise in hopes of chasing the hungry birds from their land except for Ming-Li, a young girl whose compassion and foresight prevent a disaster.” – CIP. A picture book recommended for readers 8-years-old and up. [Birds; China; Country life; Farms and farming; Historical fiction; Individuality]
Click HERE for a list of great stories.
Kling, Heidi R. Sea. New York: G. P. Putnam, 2010.
Fifteen-year-old Sienna accompanies her father on a trip to Indonesia to work with relief workers helping victims of a tsunami. She has no idea that the people she meets will change her life forever. Teen readers who enjoyed Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters are likely to find this novel, with added romance, even more enjoyable. In both novels, the main characters are typical self-absorbed teenagers who unwillingly leave California to discover the wider world. [Tsunamis; Natural disasters; Orphans; Grief; Love; Humanitarianism]
Myers, Walter Dean. Sunrise over Fallujah. New York : Scholastic Press, 2008.
“Robin Perry, from Harlem, is sent to Iraq in 2003 as a member of the Civilian Affairs Battalion, and his time there profoundly changes him.” – CIP. A young adult novel for mature readers 13-years-old and up. [African Americans; Iraq; War stories]
Rumford, James. Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2008.
In this picture book for adolescents, bombs and missiles fall on Baghdad while a boy uses the art of calligraphy to emotionally distance himself from the fighting.
Life lessons, I learned, can come from pretty much anywhere, whether it is my mom telling me to think ahead of what the weather will be like and to dress appropriately, or just me realizing I just did a stupid thing and telling myself, “Well, I’ll never do that again.” And many times I find those life lessons in books. Silent Music by James Rumford (Roaring Book Press, 2008) is one of the books from which I learned a good life lesson. At first, when I picked up this picture book, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I needed to sign out two picture books so this was the one I grabbed off the shelf. Well, I guess this was the right one to pick because in the few pages this book had, there was so much meaning that a whole novel could be written on it. Some of the things that I learned are that inspiration can lead to great things, and that in a time of depression, desolation and war, not losing yourself is one of the most important things that you can do. This story is set in Baghdad and is the tale of Ali, a young boy, who loves to play soccer and dance, but most of all loves practicing calligraphy. He is inspired by the great calligrapher Yakut and so, totally trapped in a country where war and poverty are all around, he turns to what he loves to bring peace to his heart and to his mind. This was truly an inspiring story. (Luisa in grade eight)
Banks, Lynne Reid. Broken Bridge. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1995.
Two fourteen-year-olds, recently arrived in Israel walk unsuspectingly thorough the streets of Jerusalem. Two men jump out of a doorway and pounce on them. A few agonizing seconds later, one of the teenagers lies dead from the stab of a terrorist’s knife. Recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [Israel; Teenagers; Terrorism]
Kass, Pnina Moed. Real Time. New York: Clarion Books, 2004.
“Sixteen-year-old Thomas Wanninger persuades his mother to let him leave Germany to volunteer at a kibbutz in Isarel, where he experiences a violent political attack and finds answers about his own past” – CIP Recommended for readers in grade 8 and up. [Israel; Holocaust; Arab-Israeli conflict; Voyages and travels; Terrorism]
Zenatti, Valerie. A Bottle in the Gaza Sea. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2008.
Tal, a teenager in Tel Aviv, throws a bottle in the sea after witnessing a bombing. Soon, she receives an email message from a Palestinian young man and slowly, a friendship develops between them. A young adult novel for readers 12-years-old and up.
Click HERE for stories set in Japan.
Kadohata, Cynthia. Half a World Away. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014.
“Twelve-year-old Jaden, an emotionally damaged adopted boy fascinated by electricity, feels a connection to a small, weak toddler with special needs in Kazakhstan, where Jaden’s family is trying to adopt a ‘normal’ baby.” – CIP. While not of outstanding literary quality, this novel for 11 to 14 year olds is recommended for its depiction of a little-known country and the intricacies of the process of international adoption process. [Adoption; Emotional problems; Love; Kazakhstan]
Park, Frances. My Freedom Trip: a Child’s Escape from North Korea. Honesdale, PEN: Boyds Mill Press, Inc., 1998.
A young child is secretly helped to escape across the border into South Korea in this powerful picture book based on real events. (Korean War; North Korea; Night; Courage; Historical fiction; Voyages and travels)
Park, Linda Sue. The Firekeeper’s Son. New York: Clarion Books, 2004.
“In nineteenth-century Korea, after Sang-hee’s father injures his ankle, Sang-hee attempts to take over the task of lighting the evening fire which signals to the palace that all is well. Includes historical notes.” – CIP. A picture book recommended for readers 7-years-old and up. [Fire; Historical fiction; Korea]
Park, Linda Sue. When My Name was Keoko. New York: Clarion Books, 2002.
“With national pride and occasional fear, a brother and sister face the increasingly oppressive occupation of Korea by Japan during World War II, which threatens to suppress Korean culture entirely.” – CIP. Recommended for competent readers 11 to 15 years old. [Korea, WW 2; Courage; Brothers and sisters]
Perkins, Mitali. Bamboo People. Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2010.
Chiko has been forced to join the Burmese army.Tu Reh has run away from a refugee camp to join his father fighting with the Karen people against the Burmese government. The two boys unexpectedly meet in the jungle. What will happen? This young adult novel of compassion and hope set in Myanmar is recommended for readers 12-years-old and up, especially ones who appreciated War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Shattered by Eric Walters. [Fathers and sons; Burma; Survival; Soldiers; Refugees; War stories; Courage]
McCormick, Patricia. Sold. Hyperion, 2006.
Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi lives in poverty with her mother and stepfather on a Nepalese mountainside. She hopes a better life awaits her when she is sent to work in the city. But instead, she discovers she has been sold into prostitution. A National Book Award finalist, this disturbingly realistic novel is for mature readers only. [Human trafficking; India; Nepal; Prostitution; Slavery]
Click HERE for an annotated list of recommended stories.
Papua New Guinea
Mikaelsen, Ben. Jungle of Bones. New York: Scholastic Press, 2014.
After joyriding in a stolen car, Dylan ends up in Papua New Guinea because his mother sends him to spend the summer with his uncle, an ex-Marine, who is on an expedition to find his grandfather’s bomber which was shot down in World War 2. Resentful, Dylan disregards warnings and gets lost in the jungle. Will he survive? Will he give up his perpetually defiant attitude? This quickly-paced novel will appeal to 11 to 15 year old readers. [Adventure and adventurers; Juvenile delinquents; Survival; Uncles; World War 2]
Walters, Eric. Wave. Doubleday Canada, 2009.
When the 2004 tsunami strikes Thailand, Sam struggles to survive while his sister, Beth, at home in New York City wonders if she will ever see her brother and parents again. Told from alternating points of view, this historically based novel is by a popular and prolific Canadian author.
Oral, Feridun. A Warm Winter. Hong Kong: Michael Neugebauer Publishing, 2016, c2015.
Little Mouse needs more firewood to warm his nest. But he’s not strong enough to pull the pile of sticks back home. Maybe some friends can help? This heartwarming picture book from Turkey – translated into English – will delight readers and listeners up to 9 years of age.
Pelliciolli, Anna. Song of the Old City. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020.
A delightful story set in Istanbul, Turkey. A young girl ventures out into the old city, meeting merchants, making friends, and passing along all the kindnesses shown to her. Cheerful full-page pictures filled with joyous movement illustrate this wonderful picture book highly recommended for readers 6 to 12 years old.
Ho, Van and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Too Young to Escape: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to Be Reunited with Her Family. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2018.
Imagine being left behind when your parents move to another country. That is what happened to young Van. She was left behind when her parents and older siblings fled from the communist rulers in Vietnam. Happily, Van was eventually able to rejoin her family in Canada. The large print and widely spaced lines make the book easy to read, but the story itself is not so easy to read. This 142-page true story – accompanied by photographs – is recommended for brave readers with compassionate hearts. [Communism; Grandmothers; Refugees; Vietnam]
Lai, Thankha. Inside Out and Back Again. HarperCollins, 2011.
A ten-year-old girl tells of the journey she, her three brothers and her mother make from Vietnam to their new home in Alabama in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. A novel based on a true story for readers 11-years-old and up.
Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk with Tuan Ho. Adrift At Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2016.
In 1981, six-year-old Tuan escaped with his mother and two of his sisters. In the middle of the night, they got on a boat which took them far out to sea where they were rescued by sailors on an American aircraft carrier. Illustrated by award-winning Brian Deines, this powerful picture book tells the true story of one child’s journey as a refugee from Vietnam to Canada. Accompanied by historical and biographical information, as well as numerous photographs, this informative and inspiring story is recommended for readers 8 years old and up.
Click HERE for an annotated list of stories set in Australia.
Jones, V.M. Shooting the Moon. London: Andersen Press, 2008.
Pip and his father head into the wilderness of New Zealand on a hiking trip with a group that threatens to disintegrate rather than pull together to survive.
Bucay, Jorge. The King and the Magician. New York: Abbeville Kids, 2014.
A powerful and feared king, who commands his subjects to not only obey him and but also admire him, hears of a much loved magician who can foretell the future. Consumed by jealousy, the king plots the magician’s demise. This spell-binding picture book from Argentina – full of magnificent pictures by Gusti, an award-winning illustrator – will be appreciated by readers 8 to 14 years old. [Jealousy; Kings, queens, rulers, etc.; Wisdom; Wizards]
Whelan, Gloria. The Disappeared. New York: Dial Books, 2008.
“Teenaged Silvia tries to save her brother, Eduardo, after he is captured by the military government in 1970s Argentina.” – CIP. What if you are trying to save your brother who has been kidnapped? What will you do if the kidnappers are part of the 1970s government in Argentina? Recommended for readers 12-years-old and up. [Argentina; Brothers and sisters; Kidnapping]
Ellis, Deborah. I Am a Taxi. Groundwood Books, 2006.
In the first novel in a series, twelve-year-old Diego tries to earn money while living with his parents in a Bolivian prison. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. [Boliva; Child labor; Drug traffic; Prisons; Runaways; South America]
Ellis, Deborah. Sacred Leaf. Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2007.
In the second novel in a series, twelve-year-old Diego escapes from slavery at an illegal cocaine operation and is taken in by a family of coca farmers in Bolivia. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up. [Cocaine industry; Drug traffic; Farm life; Poverty; Slavery]
Doder, Joshua. Grk and the Pelotti Gang. New York : Yearling, .
“Tim, accompanied by Grk the dog, faces kidnapping, a plane crash in the jungles of Brazil, and other adventures as they pursue the infamous Pelotti brothers, a gang of escaped bank robbers originally captured by the recently deceased father of Tim’s friends Max and Natascha Rafiffi.” – CIP. Part of an entertaining and informative series recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. [Adventure stories; Bank robberies; Rio de Janeiro (Brazil); Dogs; Mystery and detective stories]
Rundell, Katherine. The Explorer. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Fred, Con, Lila and Max were supposed to be flying from Brazil to England. But their plane has crashed into the Amazon rainforest. They’re all alone. Except for the snakes and the monkeys and the caimans. Except for an explorer hiding in a ruined city deep within the jungle. More fast-paced than Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson and more fantastical than Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, this wildly adventurous tale will appeal to readers 10 to 14 years old looking for a new survival story. [All of Katherine Rundell’s novels are full of mysterious events. If you like those stories that mix the possibly-real with the truly-real, read more of her stories. Then, if you are at least 12 years old, try novels by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.] [Aircraft accidents; Amazon River Region; Brazil; Explorers; Rainforests; Survival]
Bondoux, Anne-Laure. The Killer’s Tears. New York: Delacorte Press, 2006.
“A young boy, Paolo, and the man who murdered his parents, Angel, gradually become like father and son as they live and work together on the remote Chilean farm where Paolo was born.” – CIP. A thoughtful novel highly recommended for readers 11-years-old and up. [Chile; Fathers and sons; Hostages; Thieves]
Ryan, Pam Munoz and Peter Sis. The Dreamer. New York : Scholastic Press, 2010.
This powerful novel of hope tells the story of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood in Chile. A shy quiet boy with an authoritarian father who despised his son’s love of words, Pablo protected his younger sister and dreamed of another life. [Chile; Poets; Neruda, Pablo; Fathers and sons; Authors]
Durango, Julia. The Walls of Cartagena. New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008.
“Thirteen-year-old Calepino, an African slave in the seventeenth-century Caribbean city of Cartagena, works as a translator for a Jesuit priest who tends to newly-arrived slaves and, after working for a Jewish doctor in a leper colony and helping an Angolan boy and his mother escape, he realizes his true calling.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers 11 to 16 years old. [Catholic Church; Faith; Leprosy; Slavery]
Kunkel, Angela Burke. Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutíerrez and the Library He Built. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020.
A night-time garbage collector, Señor José collects books from the trash of wealthy homes. Then, every Saturday, he opens the doors and welcomes eager children into his neighbourhood library. Set in Bogotá, Columbia and based on a true story, this inspiring picture book – illustrated by Paola Escobar and accompanied by a detailed author’s note – will appeal to readers 7 to 12 years old who already know the joys of using imagination to enter new worlds.
Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016.
Ada lives in a poverty-stricken town that serves as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. She – along with thousands of other residents – spend their days picking through the trash to find things to recycle and sell. This poignant and inspiring story tells how a man sent to teach safety practices decided to teach the children how to make musical instruments. The orchestra he formed has now performed around the world! Dramatically illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, this true story is recommended for readers 7 years old and up. [Musicians; Poverty]
Lacey, Josh. Island of Thieves. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.
Tom’s parents leave him with an uncle for a week while they go on a holiday. What they don’t know is that Uncle Harvey is about to fly off on his own adventure: tracking down buried treasure in Peru. Tom tags along for an exciting week meeting criminals, hiding out in villages and barely escaping death. A quick read for fans of Anthony Horowitz and Rick Riordan. [Drake, John; Adventure and adventurers; Mystery and detective stories; Islands ; Uncles; Buried treasure; Theft]
Schmidt, Gary D. Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert. Boston: Clarion Books, 2012.
His father was a Spanish nobleman. His mother was a slave. Born into poverty and sent to work as a servant, there was no bright future for Martin. But miracles happen. And miracles followed this boy from Peru. The lemon trees he planted bore fruit all year long. The bread he gave to the poor never ran out until everyone was fed. The people he treated were healed. He quietly died in a monastery in 1639, but miracles continued and he was named as the first black saint in the Americas in 1962. Born to be forgotten, Martin de Porres is now known as the patron saint of social justice. This beautiful picture book biography – illustrated by David Diaz – is highly recommended for people of faith and for all those who carry within themselves a reverence for mystery.
Baker, Jeannie. Circle. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2016.
Another outstanding picture book by an accomplished artist and storyteller. Recommended for readers eight-years-old and up. “Each year, bar-tailed godwits undertake the longest unbroken migration of any bird, flying from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to Australia and New Zealand and back again. They follow invisible pathways–pathways that have been followed for thousands of years–while braving hunger and treacherous conditions to reach their destination. In Circle, Jeannie Baker follows the godwit’s incredible flight, taking us over awe-inspiring scenes as the birds spread their wings above such beautiful landmarks as the Great Barrier Reef and China’s breathtaking cityscapes.” – CIP.