Thursday, August 24, 2006


With school almost back in session, let's get one more big trip around the world in, while we have the chance! These titles will also painlessly get those neurons firing in time for September...

IT'S BACK TO SCHOOL WE GO! by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis (Millbrook) Kids can get into the back-to-school-groove by reading the conversational portrayals of the return ritual from the POV of eleven kids in the same boat. The map on the endpapers helps to track the trips!

MY LIBRARIAN IS A CAMEL: HOW BOOKS ARE BROUGHT TO CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD by Margriet Ruurs (Boyds Mill Press) Finland! Indonesia! Kenya! Mongolia! Azerbaijan! How do young readers in remote areas get their goodies? An exploration of thirteen countries introduces us to beasts, bookmobiles and even boats that really know how to deliver to their patrons! Lots of text is motivating for hard-core bibliophiles, and for the rest, a multitude of cool, exotic photographs really show us how we all have so much in common through our love of reading. Each spread also includes a sideline featuring a map, flag, and brief encyclopedia-like description of the locale. What an unusual, inspiring book! (8 and up)

CELEBRATE! CONNECTIONS AMONG CULTURES by Jan Reynolds (Lee & Low) What do people around the world have in common when they celebrate? Do they decorate themselves? Do they use fire? Do they dance? Featuring vibrant, people-cenetered photographs in the style of George Ancona, this choice is perfect for your youngest anthropologist. (7 and up)

Also pretty great is Disney Press's OUR WORLD (6 and up) which is, unsurprisingly, relentless in its product placement through little iconic cartoons. I am generally unkind to anything featuring a licensed television/movie character. However, to be fair, this book is a stand-out because it also has an amazing amount of information, well-organized with large print, a clear index, and lots of photographs, including great big ones of kids from every continent. Written in very kid-friendly language, it's handy for reports, and is an extraordinary value for a hardcover. But if you find the likes of Lilo and Stitch too intrusive, check out OUR WORLD: A COUNTRY-BY-COUNTRY GUIDE by Millie Miller (Scholastic)(7 and up), is also rich in information, including a lot of history, with hand-illustrated pages and maps, almanac-like info in handy sidebars on the bottom of every spread and a handy guide to world flags.

CAN YOU SAY PEACE? by Karen Katz (Henry Holt)(3 and up) has succulent, gumdrop-colored illustrations with plenty to point out to preschoolers on every page, and a reminder that September 21st is an International Day of Peace. Oh, heavens to betsy, if dear dear Fred Rogers were still alive, I bet he would have loved this book, it is such a warm reminder of what all children have in common, and what they have to teach us. CAN YOU GREET THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD by Lezlie Evans, illustrated with sweet, unpretentious cartoons by Denis Roche (Houghton Mifflin) (4 and up) is beautifully laid out, with lists of polite remarks that would make Emily Post very happy, and pronunciation help on every page. Both books offer multilingual opportunities for children to extend a friendly hand to one another.

Also of interest:
One of the very best ways for children to get to learn about the world is to have a penpal, someone far away who wants to exhange letters. Educators, I highly recommend International Youth Services as a provider (you have to order a relatively large number of addresses). Children can learn skills like geography and letter-writing, as well as character traits such as tolerance and empathy. These long-distance relationships are so interesting, and can last...I was given a penpal from India through IYS over twenty years ago, and she is now the godparent of my son and one of my dearest friends! (Hi, Cleta, love you!!!)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

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