Travel to INDIA
Jyoti Johari starts first with saying that “the culture of India is one of the oldest and unique.” Not only does almost every state has its own culture, but climate, geography, and religion of the people (mainly Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh) all play into making the vast amount of subcultures in the country. “India is called a country with ‘unity in diversity’.” This has all created an “exclusive culture” which is a “composite mixture of varying styles and influences,” Johari explained.
Tell Me About Festivals of India by Nita Mehta and Anurag Mehta
“Books on the topic of festivals of India help kids read about various festivals we celebrate in India. It is said that Indians have festivals all year round – that’s 365 festivals in a year! Every day is celebrated with some festival somewhere in some part of the country. Hence it’s very important to let kids know about these festivals, which directly connect them to the culture of the country.”
All books available for purchase on Amazon.com
Ramayan Ki Kahaniyan by J.M. Mehta, and Ramayana for Children by Sudha Gupta
“The Ramayana (Sri Ramcharitmanas) is one of the greatest epics of Hindu mythology. The Ramayana is not just a story, but also an educational medium used by ancient sages to espouse the importance of doing your dharma (duty) in relationships. The Ramayana depicts characters that we should aspire to be like, the ideal father, son, brother, leader, wife, and on. The Ramayana, and Mahabharata especially, preach a lot of values that we would want our children to imbibe. Instead of simply commanding a child to respect his elders, we use examples from his favorite epics to teach him the same.”
Suggested by the Johari family. Daughter Vaariya attends Grade 1 at the British School of Beijing, Sanlitun (BSB, Sanlitun), while mother Jyoti doubles as a homemaker in Beijing and preschool owner in India. Father Anshul works as a manager for a semiconductor chip design company.
Travel to GERMANY
Rico, Oskar und die Tieferschatten by Andreas Steinhoefel
“We cannot say what constitutes German culture, but we all agree that this is a great children’s book that is set in contemporary Berlin. It tells the story of a wonderful friendship between two boys who are both outsiders; one participates in a special needs program and the other one, a real nerd. When one of them gets kidnapped, a fantastic mystery unravels. We think it shows a Germany beyond ‘beer with sausages’, rather, one that is funny and heartwarming.”
Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
“Everybody knows some fairy tales of the Grimm brothers and they are, of course, an important part of our cultural heritage. We read them a lot to our younger kids.”
Reckless Series, Lord of Thieves, and Inkheart Trilogy
“If, however, you think you are no longer scared of those evil witches, check again with Cornelia Funke. Many of her books are translated into English and very well received, like Lord of Thieves and the Inkheart trilogy. To connect again with Grimm’s culture, we suggest her Reckless series for young adolescent readers, which tells about a boy who falls into fairyland and has a tough time with many of those familiar characters who are, in fact, pretty grim and fearsome. Expect suspense!”
All books available for purchase on Amazon.com or on borrow from WAB library.
Suggested by the Hein family. Mom, Weibke, works as a library technician at the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) Elementary School. She has three children at WAB.
Travel to AUSTRALIA
The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan
“Claire is always interested in different animal species stories. Although this book is partly an allegorical fable about colonization, it is a nice storybook for children and a good book for adults too, to understand Australia as a country, how they come together in the past.”
Tomorrow: When the War Began by John Marsden
“Popular for the last 20 years, this book is widely read by Australian youth. It is about when a future war comes, how Australian young adults react to what happens. We consider it a great series.”
Both books available on Amazon.com
Suggested by the Song family. Claire, 12, attends Grade 7 at Hyde Academy. Mother Jane and father Garry founded O’Formula Fashion Ltd, which makes custom cashmere sweaters.
Travel to BOLIVIA and MEXICO
Azucar by Ivar Da Coll
“This is one of our favorite books in Spanish. This is the story of Celia Cruz, Cuban salsa singer, and how she develops the talent of singing to entertain her family. After going to college to be a teacher, she participates in a talent show contest that ends up marking the beginning of an exuberant singing career. Her music expands to the whole world, and even to this day we still hear her songs that carry so much of the fire and sweetness that salsa brings into the lives of many.”
Julia by Georgina Lazaro
“This is the biography of Julia de Burgos (from Puerto Rico) one of the first Hispanic female poets. The book beautifully narrates the poverty and richness into which she was born in 1914. The retellings of wide rivers and green land remind me of my own memories as a child in Bolivia. Her father eventually takes her on a trip and he tells her stories of ‘Don Quixote’ and this inspires her to read more. After that and still at a young age, she starts composing poetry and finishing school ahead of her time. To continue her education, she separates from her parents and lives with a teacher. She then becomes a teacher and starts publishing her poetry.”
Skippyjon Jones Series by Judy Schachner
“We always have a good laugh when we read these books, where the mix of Spanish and English always comes at the perfect time. This book is perfect for English/Spanish speaking children. The books are about a Siamese cat that believes he is a chihuahua dog, and his imagination takes him to countless places. He is the hero of other chihuahua dogs who chose him as their leader. Very funny and entertaining!!”
All three books can be found on Amazon.com
Suggested by the Wise Maldonado family. Ruth Wise Maldonado was born in Bolivia, lived in the US for several years, and now works as a dentist in Sunny Dental in Shine Hills. Her husband is Abraham Wise Hernández, who works for the American embassy. Her daughter Elizabeth, 11, attends the International School of Beijing (ISB), while Sariah, 9, and Joshua, 6, both attend the International Montessori School of Beijing (MSB).
Travel to ZAMBIA
Kristu Mu Nyimbo
“This is a Christian music hymnal with songs in the Zambian language. The hymnal is translated as “Christ in Songs.” As parents we have grown with music and this is the heartbeat of our family. Prudence sings well, has won many competitions, and has been featured on TV. Msafiri and all the children like music. David plays the guitar, Vanessa plays the piano, and Esther would like to learn to play the violin.”
The Tortoise’s Gift by Lari Don
“This Zambian folktale about a wonderful tree with a very tricky name, and the hungry animals who seek to learn (and remember) that name, is adapted into a chapter book for early readers. The repetitious nature of the story is well suited to the format, while the colorful and playful illustrations have the appeal of a picture book.”
Both books available on Amazon.com
Suggested by the Sinkala family. Mom Prudence works for the Zambian embassy, and dad Msafiri works for the British Council. Their son David, 17, is a senior in high school in Zambia. Vanessa, 11, Grade 6, and Esther, 7, Grade 2, both attend the Pakistan College School. Baby Winnie is 5 months old and stays at home.
Travel to PANAMA and PUERTO RICO
Oh, Wie Schon Ist Panama by Janosch
“My wife lived for a time in Germany, and when she was there,
everyone thought Panama was a made up place. When she would show her passport for official procedures, she would be told it was a fake passport. So this book in German was helpful for her to teach others that Panama was in fact a real country.”
Magnificent Molas: The Art of the Kuna Indians by Michel Perrin
“The Molas are an important part of Panama’s culture. When we went there two years ago, it was amazing to see the different things the Kuna Indians would recycle to make the Molas, like shoe strings and plastic bottles. The Kuna have been supported and preserved by the Panamanian government. The children travel from their many small islands in boats to get to school every day.”
En Dondequiera Coquies! by Nancy Hooper
“Everywhere in Puerto Rico you find coquis, which are small frogs that are the size of one of the tips of your fingers. They make a loud sound like coquis (pronounced like the Chinese kou and English key). So this book, available in both Spanish and English, introduces you to these frogs.”
All three books available on Amazon.com
Suggested by the Febles-Bula family. Dad Pedro works for a company that makes the mapping technology for self-driving cars. Mother Iris Bula is a professional chef. Daughter Tyra, 13, and son Pedro, 11, both attend Dulwich College Beijing.
Photos by Uni You and Dave’s Studio, and courtesy of WAB, D
Download the digital copy here.