Five Great Books

Five Great Stories from around the World

Diversity in books can come from a number of sources. Sometimes books by or about people of a different race open our eyes to the diverse cultures in our own country, and even our own neighborhood. And sometimes books introduce us to new cultures from the other side of the globe. Here are five great books that do just that:

The Blue Jackal

The Blue Jackal

Written by Shobha Viswanath
Illustrated by Dileep Joshi

Juno the jackal is the runt of the pack, and the other animals bully him because of his size. One night, Juno is chased by some dogs from the village, and he hides in a vat of indigo dye to escape. When he returns to the forest, his fur is bright blue, and the animals hail this strange new creature as their king. But can Juno keep his true identity hidden?

Featuring illustrations inspired by traditional Warli artwork and an informative historical note, this Indian folktale will spark a wonderful discussion about the relationship between perception and reality.

Learn how to make Warli-style rice flour art — just like the illustrations in the book — in this great craft from Jessica.

Mikis and the Donkey

Mikis and the Donkey

Written by Bibi Dumon Tak
Illustrated by Philip Hopman

One day, Mikis’s grandfather has a surprise for him: a new donkey waiting! Mikis falls in love with the creature, but his grandparents tell him that the donkey is a working animal, not a pet. However, they still let Mikis choose her name — Tsaki — and allow the two of them to spend their Sundays together. Mikis and Tsaki soon become fast friends, and together the two have some grand adventures. Eventually, both Mikis and his grandfather learn a bit more about what exactly it means to care for another creature.

Brought to life by drawings from Philip Hopman, Bibi Dumon Tak’s gentle, humorous story is perfect for any readers who may have their own soft spot for animals.

For another great book from this author-illustrator duo, see Soldier Bear (which also won the Batchelder Award), and for more about this book, see our five (or fifteen) questions interview with award-winning translator Laura Watkinson.

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Written by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated by Doug Chayka

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one.

As the girls go about their routines — washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America — the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

Four Feet, Two Sandals was inspired by a refugee girl who asked the authors why there were no books about children like her. With warm colors and sensitive brush strokes, this book portrays the strength, courage, and hope of refugees around the world, whose daily existence is marked by uncertainty and fear.

Mariana and the Merchild

Mariana and the Merchild

Written by Caroline Pitcher
Illustrated by Jackie Morris

Old Mariana longs for friendship, but she is feared by the village children and fearful of the hungry sea-wolves that hide in the sea-caves near her hut. When one day Mariana finds a Merchild inside a crab shell her whole life changes — but she knows that one day, when the sea is calm again, the Merchild’s mother will come to take her daughter back . . .

A memorable story of unconditional love, this poetic retelling of a traditional South American folk tale beautifully conveys the joy that may come if you open your heart to what you cannot keep.

Sivu’s Six Wishes

Sivu’s Six Wishes

Written by Cynthia Grady
Illustrated by Michele Wood

Sivu is a stonemason who can create extraordinary things out of rock. But he is poor, and as time goes by, he becomes bitter and envious. If only he could be rich and powerful — surely then he would be happy.

Suddenly and mysteriously, Sivu’s wish is granted. Not just once but six times! Sivu becomes in turn a rich businessman, the mayor, the sun, a rain cloud, the wind — and finally a great rock. Surely nothing can be more powerful than Sivu now. But at that very moment he hears banging, and more banging, far beneath him . . .

This magically illustrated and thought provoking story, based on an ancient Taoist tale, conveys a timeless message for our own age.

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Fore more great stories from around the world, see our entire featured collection.

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