Monday, June 7, 2010

Little Nippers Top 10

Little Nippers Top 10
by Michelle Berg

After recently discovering Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern, I embarked on a mission to find equally engaging stories that represent other cultures. What I found was so many wonderful stories that it was hard to choose a favorite! Each of the books listed below are all equally wonderful. Perfect for at home during story time or for a social studies unit in school. The following picture books all offer an excellent way to introduce kids to other cultures:

10.   Katie in London
Written and illustrated by James Mayhew. Ages 4-8. Katie in London has become one of my children’s favorite books. After one of the Trafalgar Square Lions mysteriously comes to life, brother and sister take an adventurous ride through London. They discover the Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. This magical tale will charm children and rouse their curiosity!
9.   Off We Go to Mexico!
Written by Laurie Krebs. Illustrated by Christopher Corr. Ages 4-8. Take a tour of Mexico with this lively rhythmical story. Children will delight in the turquoise seas, the amazing pyramids and the monarch butterflies. All represented with a playful, folk-art approach. This book is a great teaching tool. The rhyming verse and colorful artwork are coupled with Spanish vocabulary on each spread. All vocabulary words are depicted in the illustrations allowing teachers and parents to teach Spanish with ease!
8.   We’re Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey through Egypt
Written by Laurie Krebs. Illustrated by Anne Wilson. Ages 4-8. “Climb aboard the river boat! We’re sailing down the Nile.” Laurie Krebs rhyming prose, once again, takes us on a journey to discover this distant and enchanted land. And what an amazing voyage it is! We see Kitchener’s Island, Giza’s Pyramids and the legendary Sphinx among others. Perfect for a social studies unit, this book is chock-full of information; the meaning of Gods and Goddesses; the history of ancient Egypt; mummies and the mystery of Egyptian scripts! With informative notes at the end, kids, parents and teachers will become the authority on Egypt!
7.   A South African Night
Written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Ages 2-5. A South African Night begins with a portrait of Johannesburg; there is a bustling city full of people and skyscrapers. Turn the page, however, and you will discover a very different Africa. For, at sundown, in Kruger National Park (just 200 miles away) the animals begin to stir. There are zebra’s, lions, leopards and even a black mamba snake! Children will marvel at the stark difference between the two worlds. Isadora’s brilliant use of watercolors makes this book a treasure!
6.   The Flying Bed
Written by Nancy Willard. Illustrated by John Thompson. Ages 4-8. This fairytale set in Florence, Italy is about a young baker who has inherited his father’s bakery but lacks the ability to bake. His icings were lumpy, he skimped on ingredients and even his fresh bread tasted stale. Soon, customers began to go elsewhere and he and his wife had barely any money to live on. Until one day, Guido enters a strange new shop and is offered a bed for free! This is no ordinary bed, however, as the couple discovered the very first night when the bed jumped out the window and flew them to the Master Baker in the sky. Here they are given magical yeast that will help Guido be the best baker in town. Guido eagerly accepted the yeast with a promise never to reveal the secret of his success to anyone. Time passed by, and unfortunately success became overshadowed by greed. When the young baker’s integrity was tested he failed. The story ends with hope for another chance. One main criticism of this book is that the text is too lengthy but I’ve found that reading a few pages a night keeps the audience interested. This is an enchanted story complete with exquisite paintings that give the characters life and an accurate description of the streets of Florence.
5.   14 Cows for America
Written by Carmen Agra Deedy in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah. Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Ages 8-12. This is a story of empathy and kindness that may move you to tears. 14 Cows for America is based on a true story about the Maasai people who live in a small village in Kenya and their compassion towards Americans after the attacks of September 11th. Kimeli Naiyomah, a Maasai warrior, returns home from New York City with news of the attacks. Upon hearing his story, the villagers are prompted to offer America 14 cows to help heal the suffering of our nation. To the Maasai, a cow is the symbol of life and it is their hope that through this extraordinarily kind gesture Americans will find comfort and peace. “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”
4.   The Empty Pot
Written and Illustrated by Demi. Ages 4-8. When it is time for a Chinese Emperor to name his successor, he decides that the best way to choose his heir is by a simple test. One day he gave all the children in the land a special flower and proclaimed “Whoever can show me their best in a year’s time will succeed me to the throne.” Well, the seeds were all cooked so it was impossible for any of them to grow! A year later, all the children greeted the Emperor with their great pots of beautiful flowers except for a little boy named Ping who offered only an empty pot. Pings honesty was rewarded and he was crowned as the new Emperor. This book not only has a great message but the illustrations beautifully represent Asian culture.
3.   Tikki Tikki Tembo
Retold by Arlene Mosel. Illustrated by Blair Lent. Ages 4-7. This is an old Chinese folktale that continues to be loved by children and adults everywhere. It is a story about a little boy who lived in China. As a first born son he was given the long, honored name, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, which meant “the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world”. As time went by, however, his family (and all of China) discovered that there was danger in having such a long name! One afternoon, he fell into the well and his little brother literally became out of breath attempting to get help since his name had to be spoken in its entirety. This silly, spirited, very long name is repeated throughout the book, which makes it delightful to hear. This book is adorable!
2.   Pippo the Fool
Written by Tracey E. Fern. Illustrated by Pau Estrada. Ages 4-8. This book takes place in Florence, Italy and is based on the true story of Renaissance architect and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi. Filippo is an odd duck. He spends his time designing “peculiar machines no one needed and sketching outlandish structures no one wanted to build.” The townspeople did not take him seriously. In fact he was known throughout Florence as Pippo the Fool. Until one day there was a contest. The powers that be wanted to build a dome over the great Cathedral; the Santa Maria del Fiore. No one knew how to build this dome, not even the greatest of architects. However, after weeks of preparation, hard work and determination, Pippo the Fool entered the contest and won the respect of all of Italy! A truly inspirational story! When my children discovered that the story was true, they were amazed and began sketching structures that they could build!
1.   When Africa Was Home
Written by Karen Lynn Williams. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Ages 4-8. When Africa was Home is a beautiful story about a small boy who lived in Africa until one day his father’s job was over and the family had to return to America. Peter, the main character, missed Africa deeply. In this book, Williams vividly describes the beauty of Africa in all its splendor; the delicious sticks of sugarcane; the brightness of the night sky and anthills that are so big children can actually slide down! It describes the warmth and kindness of the people and their fast musical language. In fact, the whole story is told in this eloquent and lyrical way, tying in actual words from the Chichewa language. This book makes me want to pack my bags and move to Africa today!
Michelle Berg is a publisher and author for Little Nipper Books. Please visit our website

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Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

Given your international reading list (which I love!) you might like a recent post of mine about children's literature from around the world:

Tracey Fern said...

Thanks for putting me in such wonderful company! I love all these books.

Medea said...

Wow, I love these books, thanks for introducing them. My wallet isn't that happy though!