10 children’s books to grow good global citizens

kids reading books

Believe it or not the residents of Casa Eats World are not always eating… or travelling. But that doesn’t mean that our offspring aren’t thinking about exploring and tasting other lands pretty much every waking moment.

In fact, my nomadic spawn are a little too eager to hit the road and find it difficult to comprehend the logistical and economic complexities of travelling to “everywhere in the whole world ever” so we find other ways to keep them interested and excited in the world when we’re not on the road.

Much of this is done through words.

Their little library is stuffed with everything from picture books and volumes of regional myths and legends to junior guidebooks, atlases and stories of the world’s people and their struggles, as well as imaginative tales that take them to the four corners of the world (which incidentally, is an utterly stupid phrase… unless you’re a member of the Flat Earth Society) and beyond.

While the most important stories in our collection are the journals the kids are beginning to put together of their own journeys and experiences, unlike Elle “I never read anything I haven’t written myself” McPherson, the kids have plenty of non-autobiographical works on their heaving bookshelves that they’re happy to read over and over again.

Here’s are 10 of their all-time fave children’s books that inspire interest in other lands…

  1. Mr Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs – This is without question Sugarpuff’s favourite children’s book. Mr Chicken takes up his friend Yvette’s invitation to visit Paris. As they wander through the City of Love, learning a little of the local lingo as the go, the gentlemanly Mr Chicken is overcome by the magic of Paris oblivious that the city’s residents are overcome by the sight of a giant chook in a top hat. I always get a kick out of reading this one because it’s freakin’ hilarious.
  2. One World Together by Catherine Anholt – This very sweet story follows one boy as he travels to nine different countries to find a friend – and ends up becoming friends with all the different children he meets along the way. I know of a few grown-ups who could do with hearing this one at question story time…
  3. Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Emily Hayes & Sanjay Patel – This one takes the kids to India with a fresh and fun twist on the classic Hindu tale of Ganesha. In this pretty, pretty picture book, a little Ganesha breaks his tusk biting a jumbo jawbreaker laddoo and learns that what seems broken can prove useful. It also gives me a great excuse to bake the coconut treats for afternoon nibbles.
  4. Ayu and the Perfect Moon by David Cox – This is a lovely story about a little girl in Indonesia who performs a traditional Balinese Legong dance for her village. We read this one before we visited Bali to get the kids in tune with the culture of the island and it’s still a firm favourite with Sugarpuff who likes to “dance with my hands and my feet and my eyes, mama. Like Ayu… and Queen Elsa”. Is there nothing she can’t connect to frickin’ Frozen? Sigh…
  5. Mirror by Jeanne Baker – This wordless dual-format picture book shares snapshots from a day in the life of little two boys and their families, one living in Australia and the other living in Morocco, to reveal the simple truth that despite our cultural and economic differences we are all very much the same. The lack of text in the story encourages questions and discussion. Genius.
  6. The Little Refugee by Anh Do & Suzanne Do – Anh Do’s amazing tale about his family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam and his childhood in Australia moved me to tears. Here it is retold for younger children. It’s a timely tale about a family’s survival against the odds and the power of hope and human compassion. It’s simple enough for my three-year old to comprehend and should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in Australian politics… sadly though, it may not be quite simple enough for those of them afflicted with outdated xenophobic views.
  7. Pea Boy and Other Stories From Iran by Elizabeth Laird & Shirin Adl – Raffles loves this book packed full of enchanting local tales of fairies and demons, romantic cockroaches (yes, really) and foolish weavers that shows a side to Iran that’s far removed from the news headlines.
  8. Mysterious Traveller by Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham – An old guide, wise to the life of the African desert, finds treasure – a baby girl tucked away in a cave (Man, if I’d known you could get them in caves I could have saved a fortune on IVF). This gorgeous story about cranky camels, lost princesses, loyalty, family and the strength of wisdom is one of Raffles favourites.
  9. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne – It’s a classic but my kids love hearing the timeless story of Phileas Fogg as he embarks on the race of a lifetime to circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days by boat, train, and even by elephant – a journey the kids claim they could do in 79, easy. Bonne chance, enfants.
  10. Lonely Planet’s Not-for-Parents Travel Guides This travel guide series is the first I’ve come across that has been written for kids and they are, according to my two, awesome. Packed with intriguing stories and quirky facts, I often find Raffles flipping through his collection and sharing whacky facts, usually about Ninjas and Sumo wrestlers, with his little sister.kids books on travel and culturekids books about travel and culture

17 Comments on 10 children’s books to grow good global citizens

  1. FreshHomeCook
    July 17, 2014 at 9:06 am (10 years ago)

    Oh wow Aleney what a great collection of books! Our kids love The Little Refugee (as do I!). I will have to look into the others – I particularly like the look of Mr Chicken in his top hat! 🙂

      July 19, 2014 at 9:00 am (10 years ago)

      The Little refugee is such an important book. And though Mr Chicken may not be, it’s loads of fun!

  2. Kylie Howard
    July 17, 2014 at 9:36 am (10 years ago)

    Great list. I’m off to the library

      July 19, 2014 at 8:57 am (10 years ago)

      Great to hear we’ve inspired you Kylie

  3. Jonathan
    July 18, 2014 at 8:40 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for putting together such a great list, I’d not heard of any of these books before.

      July 19, 2014 at 8:56 am (10 years ago)

      They are just the kids faves. I might do another list of my faves Jonathon. 🙂

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm (10 years ago)

    Great idea! I find people that travel so much more interesting to talk to and I would think that with curiosity, you’d definitely raise interesting people!

      July 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm (10 years ago)

      People who are wordly are always great to talk to, Lorraine and I’m doing my best to raise worldly little people

  5. Amanda @ Cooker and a Looker
    July 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm (10 years ago)

    Whenever my folks travel overseas, they buy a kids book and find someone to help them translate it to English. The girls now have books from loads of European countries complete with a sometimes flawed, but always amusing English translation!

      July 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm (10 years ago)

      What a fab idea, Amanda! Love it.

      • Amanda Kendle
        July 22, 2014 at 11:35 pm (10 years ago)

        That is such a fabulous idea Amanda – your parents are genius!! And a brilliant list of books here Aleney, I am definitely going to look up a few of them for my Mr4.

  6. Zanni Arnot
    July 23, 2014 at 2:54 pm (10 years ago)

    That’s a great resource! Thanks so much for sharing. I just wrote about reading more ‘global’ or challenging books to kids.

      July 23, 2014 at 7:19 pm (10 years ago)

      I think it’s so important to expose them in any way we can to other cultures – I’ll have to pop over and read your post 🙂

  7. Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist
    July 23, 2014 at 11:00 pm (10 years ago)

    You’ve got some great recommendations there – I recognise a few of our favourites.

    Question: how old were they when they started reading Around The World In Eighty Days? I’d pegged it for a little older (my son’s six) but looking at your two it might be worth a go…?

      August 21, 2014 at 9:49 pm (10 years ago)

      Six. And we read it in chapters. There are some great kids versions around

  8. Natalie
    August 9, 2014 at 9:04 am (10 years ago)

    Ooh I’ll definitely have to get these. I’ve just ordered the start of our collection and am waiting for our Atlas and folk tales from around the world to arrive. Can’t wait to tie them into cooking and eating! X

  9. Carolyn - Holidays to Europe
    February 8, 2015 at 8:36 pm (9 years ago)

    What a great list of books. I must say, even as an adult Madeleine has me dreaming of visiting Paris.


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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