|WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO|
|Global Reading for Children List from Megan Schliesman
All annotations copyright Cooperative Children's Book Center except where noted. This list is part of Global Reading: Selected Literature for Children and Teens Set in Other Countries (CCBC)
The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou Age range: 5-9 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Too hungry to wait patiently for the couscous dinner to cook, Nora moans to her Baba that she’s "staaarving!" Her father got “the look he gets when he is thinking about tamazirt – that's what Baba calls the place where he comes from, far away in Morocco.” Taking Nora on his knee, Baba shares the story of the butter man from his own childhood. After a season of drought and poor harvest, food became scarce in his home, and Ali’s father left to look for work across the mountains. Soon bread was the only thing left to eat, and the piece his mother gave him each day was smaller and harder than the piece on the day before. In an effort to distract Ali from his hunger, his mother suggested that he go outside and wait for the butter man. If the butter man passed by, Ali could ask for a bit of butter to spread on his bread. The butter man doesn’t pass by on that day, or any of the following days, but Ali is occupied by watching the villagers on the road, “forgetting for a while the gnawing feeling in [his] stomach.” Finally, one of the travelers on the road is his own father, returning from across the mountains and carrying vegetables and a piece of meat. Folk-art paintings show Nora and her Baba in their contemporary kitchen at the story’s opening and conclusion, and depict Ali and his parents in their Moroccan village. An author’s note and glossary provide additional information about life in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman Age range: 12 and older Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Publisher's Description: During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather's large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible. Vidya's only refuge becomes her grandfather's upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya's brother makes a choice the family cannot condone, and when Raman seems to want more than friendship, Vidkya must question all she has believed in.
Crazy Diamond by David Chotjewitz Age range: 14 and older Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Publisher's Description: "I don't wanna be famous I don't wanna be who you are I don't wanna be a trademark I don't wanna be a wannabe superstar I wanna be infamous, Incapable, unfaceable, untraceable..." That's Mira M. And this is the story of her unforgettable life -- as a kid alone in a junkyard tire swing, to her escape from Croatia at age nine in a Marshall amp road case in the rear of her uncle Lou's van. A musician, he hands her the key to her future: a guitar. When she's fourteen, Mira meets Melody, Rosa, and Jackson, three teens who stow away from Ghana in a ship-ping container and end up -- to their surprise -- in Hamburg, Germany. What stories they have! And what a story the four of them, plus Kralle (a little older and wiser) and Zucka (the record producer's son), share on the way to the fame that all of them covet -- except Mira, even after the MTV Awards show in Barcelona. Her song lyrics tell her truth. But are they her lyrics? Her music? She swears so. But who listens, now that she's eighteen -- and dead?
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed Age range: 7-11 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble A truck comes to the refugee camp where ten-year-old Lina lives with her mother and baby brothers on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. From the truck, relief workers throw clothing to the crowd. Lina, who has gone barefoot for two years, is delighted to discovers a yellow sandal adorned with a blue flower. It fits her foot perfectly. Looking up, she sees a girl her age with the other sandal. The two girls work out a comprise: “You wear them both today, and I will wear them tomorrow.” As the young girls take turns with the sandals, they share the stories the brought them both to the camp. Doing the washing, waiting in the water line, and tending to Lina’s brothers, they continue to share their dreams and memories. When Lina finds out that her family is on the list to go to America, the girls find a way to keep their friendship, and the pair of sandals, unbroken in a moving story that brings life in one small corner of the world into fuller relief for readers here. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz Age range: 4-8 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble In an autobiographical story, Shulevitz describes his early childhood in Turkestan. At a time when his family was very poor and hungry, his father spent what little money they had on a map of the world instead of on food. After getting over his initial anger and disappointment, young Uri developed a fascination with the map, at first for the bright colors, and then for the details that would spur his artistic imagination, as he dreamed of far-away places he could visit vicariously. The artist’s whimsical pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations show the places in the child’s imagination coming to life as he flies over continents, picturing what they would be like. An author’s note at the end includes a photograph of the author at age seven, as well as two drawings he did while he was a child: a map of Africa, drawn when he was ten, and a marketplace in Turkestan, drawn when he was 13. All in all, it’s a wonderful tribute to Shulevitz’s father who obviously understood that sometimes it’s more important to nourish the soul than the body. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite and Baba Wague Diakite Age range: 4-7 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Amina’s family is visiting relatives in Mali, and she’s hopeful that her loose tooth will fall out before they have to return home to Oregon. In Mali, her father explained, children who lose a tooth are given a chicken by the African tooth fairy. Amina is thrilled when she wakes up one morning and discovers a space where her tooth used to be. Later that day she finds not one chicken but two—a hen and a rooster—under a calabash gourd. Soon the hen has laid eggs, and just before Amina leaves for America the first chick hatches. “When you come back,” her uncle tells her, “your chicks will be old enough to lay eggs for you.” Marvelous details of the time Amina spends with her extended family—things they do, foods they eat--enliven this story grounded in her appealing first-person voice. Penned by teenager Penda Diakité, about her younger sister’s experiences on one of their family trips to Mali, the picture book is illustrated by Baba Wagué Diakité, the father of both girls. Using his trademark medium of hand-painted ceramic tiles, the elder Diakité’s richly hued artwork also features his trademark elements of whimsy. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth Age range: 12-16 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble In a spellbinding story, one girl’s struggle to determine her own future plays out against the backdrop of India’s fight for independence as a nation. Twelve-year-old Leela is widowed before she even has a chance to move in with her husband and his family. Now, the tradition of her caste dictates she will spend a year “keeping corner.” Head shaved, she is not allowed to leave home. For the rest of her life, she will be a widow. Leela’s older brother is outraged: Leela’s future should not be sacrificed to tradition. India is changing, he tells his parents. Under the leadership of Ghandi, people are finding the strength and inspiration to stand together and defy the status quo in the name of justice. Leela is her parent’s beloved youngest child. They are devastated by what has happened, but they also believe that following tradition is a way to protect both Leela and their family. But they do agree to let Saviben, the principal of Leela’s school, come into their home and give Leela lessons. Saviben encourages Leela to read the paper, to think about what is happening in India and the larger world. Leela begins to understand she can be part of something bigger—part of the intoxicating changes happening in her country—but it’s all dependent on convincing her parents to let go of their fears. Kashmira Sheth’s storytelling is steeped in evocative descriptions of place and time, and peopled with vivid, complex characters in a rich, multilayered novel. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
La Lînea by Ann Jaramillo Age range: 13 and older Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Fifteen-year-old Miguel and his thirteen-year-old sister, Elena, have been waiting to join their parents in California for years when they finally set off from their small, impoverished Mexican village. Neither teen knows what a harrowing journey they are about to undertake. Because they will be crossing the U.S. border illegally, the obstacles they face on both sides are huge and often deadly. In their own country, there is the threat of soldiers as well as bandits, who attack the trains on which the would-be immigrants desperately cling, riding atop the cars. And then there is the desert crossing. In those desperate heat-dazed days, a fellow immigrant who had become Miguel and Elena’s protector dies of thirst and sickness, while their guide is shot by self-appointed militia members patrolling the U.S. side of the border. Miguel and Elena made the journey to change their lives, and it changes them in ways they could not have imagined. Ann Jaramillo is a middle school teacher in a Texas border community. She wrote La Línea for her students, many of whom have made journeys that parallel Miguel and Elena’s. Her timely novel reminds readers that human hearts and hopes and dreams cannot be defined or restrained by laws or politics. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
Nicholas and the Gang by Rene Goscinny, Jean-Jacques Sempe (Illustrator) , Anthea Bell (Translator) Age range: 8-12 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Originally published in France in 1963, the Nicholas stories by René Goscinny have been loved by generations of readers in that country. The first book, Nicholas, was published in the United Sates in 2005 (U.S. edition: Phaidon Press). Nicholas and the Gang continues the escapades of this French schoolboy and his friends, who are endearingly and enduringly childlike (and perhaps, more specifically, boy-like, a matter of very important distinction to them all) even as Nicholas’s observations on the ways of both children and adults will make readers of all ages laugh out loud. The humor in the stories is often straightforward but there is also a delicious playfulness in Nicholas’s innocent accounting of events that reveal the ironies and absurdities of the adult world and the social dynamics of children. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
The Shadows of Ghadames by Joelle Stolz Age range: 10-13 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Eleven-year-old Malika lives in Ghadames, Libya, at the end of the 19th century. As a Muslim girl just entering puberty, she understands that she will soon have to accept some limitations in her day to day life. She will no longer be able to run outside to greet her merchant father, for example, when he returns from one of his journeys. Instead, she must stay with the other women of her walled city who never travel further that the interconnected rooftops to which they are confined. But life among the women has its own pleasures, Malika begins to discover. She learns about some of the women’s rituals from her mother and her father’s second wife, Bilkisu, an independent free spirit who serves as a role-model for Malika. Bilkisu, in fact, lets Malika in on a secret: she is hiding a stranger, an injured man whom Bilkisu and Malika’s mother are nursing back to health, and he has agreed to teach Malika to read. French author Joëlle Stolz pulls readers into a fascinating time and place in a this superb novel peopled with memorable characters. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
Silent Music: A Story of Bagdhad by James Rumford Age range: 7-9 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Ali lives in Bagdhad and is passionate about learning to write Arabic. For him the calligraphy is not just about communication but also the beauty of the characters and what they represent. He likes other things, too, especially soccer, but the letters are what he loves most of all. “Writing a long sentence is like watching a soccer player in slow motion as he kicks the ball across the field, as I leave a trail of dots and loops behind me.” Ali’s hero is Yakut, a famous calligrapher who lived in Bagdhad eight hundred years ago. Then, as now, there was a war in Baghdad. And like Yakut, Ali writes to “fill my mind with peace.” A beautifully designed and written picture book from James Rumford is grounded in both small details—of Ali’s home and family—and big ideas, above all, Ali’s knowledge that there are easy words and hard ones, and “peace”—salam—is one of the hard ones to get right. Arabic characters grace the pages the book, incorporated into illustrations inspired by pictures taken in Iraq by photographers and American service personnel. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution by Moying Li Age range: 11-14 Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Moying Li adds to the small body of children's/young adult literature about growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Her memoir begins when she is four years old, during the Great Leap Forward that signaled the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. At first, her family and neighbors embraced the ideals enthusiastically. One of Moying's earliest memories is of the brick furnace her father built in the courtyard outside their house so they could contribute to building a new China by melting down unnecessary metal for construction material. After watching the stream of friends and relatives bringing their donations of household objects, Moying caught the revolutionary spirit and took it upon herself to donate some items from her grandmother's kitchen. Although her grandmother, Lao Lao, was obviously dismayed, she praised her granddaughter's spirit and generosity. This opening scene is representative of others in the book. She is surrounded by a family who loves her and who values education, and they are determined to survive. After her father is sent to a labor camp, he manages to smuggle a reading list home to Moying and her younger brother, so they can continue their education on their own, after their schools have shut down. The books she reads sustain her through the long years of struggle. As Moying grows, so, too, does her understanding of what's going on around her. In addition to providing a first-hand account of life in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution, the author also weaves in stories from her parents' and grandparents' pasts. Most intriguing of these are the stories about Lao Lao, her intelligent and strong-willed grandmother who, at age three, refused to let her aunt bind her feet, and who was educated in a time when few girls were. What we can see in Moying's story is that Lao Lao was a tremendous influence and inspiration in her life. And Moying’s strong sense of self and thirst for education seem to have come directly from her grandmother. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers Age range: 12 and older Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Robin Perry is the nephew of Richie Perry, the main character in Fallen Angels (Scholastic, 1988) who fought in the Vietnam War. Now more than 30 years later, Robin has enlisted in the service and has been sent to Iraq. Readers follow him through the first few months of the war, a time when most Americans still believed that it would be over in a few months. Robin has been assigned to a Civil Affairs unit which serves as a liaison between the military and the civilians. Initially, he is very optimistic about his duties, but when he sees they can't really take away the grief, fear, and anger the Iraqi people live with on a daily basis, he begins to take a more realistic view of his role, something that soon extends to American military in general. As with Fallen Angels, Myers is at his best at depicting the developing relationships, both good and bad, among the young soldiers in the same unit. He also is good at depicting the sheer terror and confusion the young soldiers feel most of the time in a battle where it's not clear who the enemy is. Robin's letters home put an upbeat spin on everything that's going on, eerily echoing the official reports that were coming from the field in a time when soldiers were among the first to recognize that they were be in Iraq for a long time. ©Cooperative Children's Book Center
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle Age range: 12 and older Buy from Amazon | Barnes & Noble Publisher's Description: It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not tree. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her. Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? Acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created another breathtaking portrait of Cuba.