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Global Literature  

Recommendations for K-12 classrooms
Last Updated: May 24, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Books for K-5 Print Page

Book Suggestions

Some stories can be told for older readers as well as younger readers. For example, Wangari Maathai's memoir, Unbowed, is an excellent read for teachers and excerpts could be used with middle through high school students. Elementary teachers can use the picture books Wangari's Trees of Peace, Planting the Trees of Kenya, and Mama Miti to teach about Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai and her quest to solve environmental and social problems in her home country, Kenya.


Middle East

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The Turtle of Oman - Naomi Shihab Nye
Aref does not want to move to Michigan. But Sidi has another point of view. Sidi says Aref will go and come back. Just like a falcon or the turtles of Oman, he'll travel far and make his way home to Muscat.

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Muslim Child: Understanding Islam Through Stories and Poems - Rukhsana Khan
A collection of stories and poems about Muslim children from a variety of backgrounds, focusing on the celebration of holidays and practices of Islam.

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Hands Around the Library - Susan L. Roth (Illustrator); Karen Leggett Abouraya
In January 2011, in a moment that captured the hearts of people all over the world, thousands of Egypt's students, library workers, and demonstrators surrounded the great Library of Alexandria and joined hands, forming a human chain to protect the building. They chanted "We love you, Egypt!" as they stood together for the freedom the library represented.

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Stepping Stones - Margriet Ruurs; Nizar Badr (Artist)
Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village in Syria to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. N

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Day of Ahmed's Secret - Florence Parry
Young Ahmed carries a secret with him as he works in the streets of Cairo delivering butane gas.

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The Best Eid Ever - Asma Mobin-Uddin
Aneesa and her grandmother come up with a plan to help two girls who are refugees celebrate Eid in America.

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Mirror - Jeannie Baker (Illustrator)
In this ingenious, wordless picture book, readers are invited to compare, page by page, the activities and surroundings of children in Morocco and Australia.

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The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran - Rita Jahanforuz
Shiraz, a kindhearted young girl growing up in Tehran, has a miserable life at home with her stepmother and stepsister, who treat her like a servant. When she meets an old woman in her neighborhood, her true self comes out.


United States

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Everybody's Revolution: A New Look at the People Who Won America's Freedom - Thomas Fleming
Explores the variety of people who participated in the Revolutionary War, including immigrants from all over the world, African-Americans, Native Americans, and women.

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1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving - Catherine O'Neill Grace and Marge Bruchac
This book exposes the myth that the 1621 harvest celebration event was the “first Thanksgiving” and is the basis for the Thanksgiving holiday that is celebrated today. Includes descriptions of the actual events that took place during the three days that the Wampanoag people and the colonists came together.

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A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet - Kathryn Lasky
A biography of an African girl brought to New England as a slave in 1761 who became famous on both sides of the Atlantic as the first Black poet in America.

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Henry's Freedom Box - Ellen Levine
A fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry "Box" Brown, escapes to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia.

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Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak - Kay Winters
Ethan, a printer's errand boy, must deliver an important message to the Patriots, and as he makes his way through the streets of his city, he witnesses the daily events and practices of diverse groups of people.


Global Themes

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I'm New Here - Anne Sibley O'Brien
Maria is from Guatemala, Jin is from Korea, and Fatima is from Somalia, and all three are new to their American elementary school. Through determination and with encouragement from their peers and teachers, they learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity.

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A Faith Like Mine: A Celebration of the World's Religions--Seen Through the Eyes of Children - Laura Buller
Presents full-color illustrated photographs examining the traditions of a number of religious faiths including Judaism and Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam, and others, and describes ways of worship, holy days, and celebrations.

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Let's Eat!: What Children Eat Around the World - Beatrice Hollyer
Presents a children's book on the traditional foods around the world including Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, France, and India and provides a number of recipes.

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A Cool Drink of Water - Barbara Kerley
Depicts people around the world collecting, chilling, and drinking water.

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A Little Peace - Barbara Kerley
Juxtaposes photographs from around the world with a simple message about our responsibilities for making and keeping peace on the planet.

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Children Just Like Me - Barnabas Kindersley
Photographs and text depict the homes, schools, family life, and culture of young people around the world.

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A Life Like Mine - Amanda Rayner
Looks at what life is like for children of different countries and how each child can fulfill his or her hopes and ambitions no matter how little or much their human rights are infringed.

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If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People - David J. Smith

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A School Like Mine: A Unique Celebration of Schools Around the World - Penny Smith
Introduces children from around the world and discusses where they live, how they play, and what their schools are like.

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I Have the Right to Be a Child - Alain Serres; Aurélia Fronty (Illustrator); Helen Mixter (Translator)
With a very simple text accompanied by rich, vibrant illustrations a young narrator describes what it means to be a child with rights -- from the right to food, water and shelter, to the right to go to school, to be free from violence, to breathe clean air, and more. The book emphasizes that these rights belong to every child on the planet, whether they are "black or white, small or big, rich or poor, born here or somewhere else."



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Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah - Laurie Ann Thompson
Born in Ghana with one deformed leg, Emmanuel was encouraged by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, he hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at 13 to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. In 2001 he rode 400 miles across Ghana, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability.

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The Red Bicycle - Jude Isabella
The story of a bicycle that starts its life in North America, ridden by a young boy, who eventually donates it to an organization that ships bicycles to Africa. In Burkina Faso, it finds its way first to a girl who uses it to get to her family's field and to the market more quickly and then to a young woman who uses it to deliver medications and bring people to the hospital.

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One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia - Miranda Paul; Elizabeth Zunon (Illustrator)
Tells the true story of Isatou Ceesay of Njau, Gambia, who found a way to recycle discarded plastic bags by crocheting them into purses. An inspirational story that shows how one person's actions really can make a difference in the world.

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Africa is Not a Country - Margy Burns Knight
Demonstrates the diversity of the African continent by describing daily life and customs in 25 of its nations.

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Beatrice’s Goat - Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter
McBrier and Lohstoeter recount this true story about how one child, given the right tools, is able to lift her family out of poverty.

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Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales
A collection of traditional stories from different parts of Africa, featuring varied characters and themes.

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Bintou's Braids - Sylvianne Diouf; Shane Evans (Illustrator)
Rich, earthy illustrations and a heartwarming story capture the spirit of a West African village in this wise tale about a girl who learns she's perfect just the way she is.

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Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan - Mary Williams
Eight-year-old Garang, orphaned by a civil war in Sudan, finds the inner strength to help lead other boys as they trek hundreds of miles seeking safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya, and finally in the United States.

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The Day Gogo Went to Vote - Elinor Batezat Sisulu; Sharon Wilson (Illustrator)
Illustrated in rich pastels, this child's-eye view of an important milestone in South African history allows young readers to experience every detail of this eventful day.

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Chicken in the Kitchen - Nnedi Okorafor; Mehrdokht Amini
When Anyaugo follows a giant chicken into her kitchen one warm night in Nigeria, she embarks on a hilarious adventure where nothing is quite as it seems.

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Mimi's Village: And How Basic Healthcare Transformed It - Katie Smith Milway; Eugenie Fernandes (Illustrator)
Mimi's baby sister get sick by drinking unclean water. The family has to walk overnight to another village to see a doctor. Mimi is inspired by the doctor and clinic to bring a clinic to her own village.

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The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case - Alexander McCall Smith
A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers. Treats are disappearing from lunches at school and Precious Ramotswe is out to discover who or what is stealing them.


Latin America

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Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay - Susan Hood; Sally Wern Comport (Illustrator)
The extraordinary true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash.

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Drum Dream Girl - Margarita Engle; Rafael López (Illustrator)
Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers.

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Two White Rabbits - Jairo Buitrago; Rafael Yockteng (Illustrator); Elisa Amado (Translator)
In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the US border. As many thousands of people, especially children, in Mexico and Central America continue to make the arduous journey to the US border in search of a better life, this is an important book that shows a young migrant's perspective.

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My Mexico=Mexico Mio - Tony Johnston
Bilingual collection of poems reflecting the author's memories and experiences in México.

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Roses for Isabella - Diana Cohn; Amy Córdova (Illustrator)
Roses for Isabella invites us to experience life in Ecuador through the eyes of a young girl who keeps a journal and loves to write. We learn about Isabella's parents who work on one of the hundreds of farms growing beautiful roses that are sold all over the world. But not all of these farms are fair to workers and kind to the earth. Through Isabella, we learn how her family's life changes for the better when her parents find work at a Fair Trade farm.

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Mama's Nightingale - Edwidge Danticat; Leslie Staub (Illustrator)
After Saya's mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother's warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them while she's in jail, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore on cassette tape. Moved by her mother's tales and her father's attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own-one that just might bring her mother home for good.

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Waiting for the Biblioburro - Monica Brown; John Parra (Illustrator)
Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the BiblioBurro.

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Eight Days: A Story of Haiti - Edwidge Danticat
Junior tells of the games he played in his mind during the eight days he was trapped in his house after the devastating January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti. Includes author's note about Haitian children before the earthquake and her own children's reactions to the disaster.

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Juana and Lucas - Juana Medina (Illustrator)
Juana loves many things — drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all.



National Geographic Countries of the World Series
Each book provides and introduction to a country and discusses its geography, natural landscape, history, people, culture, government, and economy.

Gruber, Beth. Mexico. 2007. Croy, Anita. Colombia. 2008.
Croy, Anita. Peru. 2007. Dalal, A. Kamala. India. 2007.
Deckker, Zilah. Brazil. 2008. Green, Jen. Cuba. 2007.
Green, Jen. Jamaica. 2008. Phillips, Charles. Japan. 2007.





Lands, Peoples, Cultures Series
Each country has a book titled The Land, The People, and The Culture.

Banting, Erinn. Afghanistan. 2003. Banting, Erinn. Australia. 2002.
Black, Carolyn. Pakistan. 2002. Clark, Domini. South Africa. 2008.
Fast, April. Iran. 2005. Fast, April. Iraq. 2004.
Hollander, Malika. Brazil. 2003. Hughes, Susan and April Fast. Cuba. 2004.
Kalman, Bobbie. China. 2008. Kalman, Bobbie. India. 2001.
Kalman, Bobbie. Japan. 2008. Kalman, Bobbie. Mexico. 2008.
Kalman, Bobbie and David Schimpky,
and Carolyn Black. Peru. 2003.
Kalman, Bobbie. Vietnam. 2002.
Moscovitch, Arlene. Egypt. 2008. Nickles, Greg. Argentina. 2000.
Nickles, Greg. El Salvador. 1997. Rosenberg, Anne. Nigeria. 2000.
Smith, Debbie. Israel. 2008. Wilson, Amber. Jamaica. 2004.



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National Geographic Countries of the World: Cuba

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Iraq: The Culture

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Iraq: The Land

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Iraq: The People


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Tiger Boy - Mitali Perkins
A young boy struggles with his familial duty and his desire to maintain the beauty and wildness of his island home in West Bengal's Sunderbans.

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Dancing to Freedom: The True Story of Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin
The author describes his experiences training and performing as a dancer, discussing his acceptance into the Beijing Dance Academy as a child, travel to America, supportive family, and other related topics.

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Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and the Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
A children's book that tells the story of Dr. Greg Mortenson's promise to build a school in a remote Himalayan village after the villagers saved his life.

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One Year in Beijing - Xiaohong Wang
A year-long journey in the world of Ling Ling, a young girl who lives in Beijing, China. Her personal accounts tell about Chinese culture, including school life, family life, and holidays and festivals.

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Bee-Bim Bop! - Linda Sue Park; Ho Baek Lee (Illustrator)
A wonderful paperback picture book about the joys of family and food, from Newbery Award winning author Linda Sue Park.

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Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem About China - Ed Young
Lyrical text and illustrations featuring Chinese characters and paper collage introduce the beauty and richness of China.

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Take Me Out to the Yakyu - Aaron Meshon
A little boy's grandfathers--one in America and one in Japan--teach him about baseball and its rich, varying cultural traditions.


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