As readers learn about the traditions and values of other cultures through books, we come to see that people of the world are more similar than they are different.
“Grandfather Ghandi” by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, Illustrated by Evan Turk, 2014, Atheneum Books, ages 7-12.
Peace in the world and in our hearts was the central message of Mahatma Gandhi of India. In this picture book, Gandhi’s twelve year-old grandson, Arun, feels anything but peace as he struggles with school and lashes out at friends. His grandfather helps Arun understand the ways anger can work for good or ill. Gandhi’s words carry meaning across cultures and serve to remind people of the ways humanity is connected.
“Red Kite, Blue Kite” by Ji-li Jiang, Illustrated by Greg Ruth, 2013, Hyperion Books, ages 7-12.
A look to the sky will find Tai Shan’s red kite, and his father, Baba’s blue kite dancing across the sky. When Baba must leave their home, Tai Shan and Granny Wang watch for Baba’s blue kite each evening, from the labor camp where he is being held. As Baba is persecuted for his beliefs, Tai Shan flies his red kite as a way to keep his father close to his heart.
“Deep in the Sahara” by Kelly Cunnane, Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi, 2013, Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 7-11.
The desire of children to be more grown up seems to cut across cultures, as shared in this story set in the Muslim country of Mauritania. A young girl, Lalla, wants to be like her mother and the older girls and wear a malafa, the colorful veil women wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. The captivating story gives insights into the culture and religion of Islam, while showing readers that the value of family is universal.
“The Blessing Cup” by Patricia Polacco, 2013, Simon & Schuster, ages 7-12.
Patricia Polocco, noted children’s author and illustrator weaves her family history and Russian heritage into many of her books. “The Blessing Cup” is the story of her great grandmother’s Jewish family and their forced exit from Russia with only a few belongings, including one prized possession. A magnificent china tea set, a wedding gift, brings anyone who drinks from it blessings of joy, love, a happy life. The story tells of the tea set’s travels to America with the family and being passed through the generations as a cherished family heirloom.
“Malala, Iqbal: Two Stories of Bravery” by Jeanette Winter, 2014, Beach Lane Books, ages 7-12.
This unique book tells the distinct stories of two brave children from Pakistan who stood up to inequities and each became an inspiration to the world. Malala shares her message that girls have a right to education in a country where the Taliban and other extremists limit the rights of girls and women. This opinion would prove to be dangerous for Malala and those close to her. At the age of Iqbal was sold into bondage by his extremely poor parents for $12 and was forced to labor for six years at the carpet factory for twenty cents a day. This brave young boy spoke out against child labor, and his views cost him his life. These inspiring young children should make young and old alike look for ways to bring equity to those in their classroom, school, and community.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler