Argentina: The Big Wet Balloon

The Big Wet Balloon by Liniers tells the simple story of a big sister and a little sister who spend a rainy Saturday outside. This graphic novel for young children has lovely illustrations ands is just a nice story about the simple joys of childhood. Liniers based this story on his own two daughters. They all live in Buenos Aires.


Thailand: Hush! A Thai Lullaby

Minfong Ho is the author of this delightful book for young children. The mother in the story tries to get all the animals to be quiet because her baby is sleeping. The rhyming, repetitive verses and the different animal noises will appeal to little ones. It has always fascinated me how different languages and cultures translate animal sounds into spoken language and when the reader speaks the sound out loud, it makes sense even though it may not be what we’re used to. The illustrations for this book are lovely. They have a folk art quality that gives the reader a glimpse into Thai home life. This Caldicott award winning story is one I will likely acquire for my family’s personal collection.

Tanzania: Shadow Dance

This modern day trickster tale by Tololwa Mollel tells the story of a kind girl, named Salome, whose compassion is taken advantage of by a hungry crocodile. I don’t know if it was the author’s intent but I also saw a theme of prejudice in the way that the different creatures who are asked if the girl should be spared, tell of their own bad experiences with little girls. It speaks to how all people can sometimes have the tendency to make generalizations about various cultural or religious groups. In the end, the girl was able to save herself with a friend and a little ingenuity.

Mali: I Lost My Tooth in Africa

Author and artist, Penda Diakite, in partnership with her father Baba Wague Diakite, creates this enchanting story book about the tradition surrounding that universal childhood milestone of losing baby teeth. 

When Amina is on the plane from her home in Oregon to her second home in Mali, she discovers she has a loose tooth. Her father tells her that if she loses her tooth while they are in Mali, the African tooth fairy will bring her a chicken.This  very sweet story is accompanied by lovely illustrations of life in rural Mali. I loved the illustrations of the African style clothing worn by Amina’s family and the colourful detailed border around each picture. I also adored the inclusion of specific cultural practices like each person receiving a blessing every morning from the family matriarch.

Penda Diakite split her time as a child between her two homes in America and Mali. I decided to use this book as my Mali read because it highlights the way that country borders and nationalities are very fluid concepts.

El Salvador: Talking with Mother Earth

This gorgeous book of verse by award winning author Jorge Argueta invites us into his world of indigenous South American culture. Paired with breathtaking illustrations by Lucia Angela Perez, we see through the author’s eyes both the cruelty of racism that indigenous people experience but also the beauty of mother earth and the customs and beliefs of his ancestors. This book really touched heart. And even my 1 year old daughter loved the colourful illustrations.

Somalia: When I Am Older

When I discovered that K’naan, a Somali born,  Canadian musician had a children’s book, I was really pumped to read it. The book is gorgeous and tells the story of how K’naan and his family escaped the war in Somalia and ended up coming to Canada as refugees. The lyrics of his Waving Flag song are explained as a poem that his grandfather wrote for him before he left Somalia.
“When I get older, I will be stronger. They’ll call me freedom,  just like a waving flag.”
A moving story about a fascinating person!

Nicaragua: The Kite

The Kite by Luis Garay is a hopeful story about a boy living in poverty named Francisco who must go to the market every morning to sell newspapers to support his family. He is very dedicated to his family and learns that loyalty amd hard work are rewarded. This is an excellent story for any family that wants a well rounded library to introduce children to people of various cultures and socio-economic realities. I particularly loved the illustration of Francisco with his mother and the new baby in the bedroom with a portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe smiling down.