In the first term of reading-around-the-world, we read picture books based in Africa. Starting last November, we read books set in Asia as we read around the world. I realized as I typed up this list that I didn't group the stories at all based on their country. I tended to select books from our public library rather than our home library because one of the goals is to read new books along the way.
I also wanted to point out that there are probably hundreds of wonderful picture books we could have chosen. Almost all of these are treasures in their own right, without the need to fill a spot in our weekly reading spreadsheet. Please share any suggestions you have; I have a feeling I'm going to expand this subject for future preschoolers. (Have I mentioned I have a picture book problem? Kansas Dad is going to have to send me to a support group soon because we're running out of wall space for bookshelves.)
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack, a classic to start our journey. I remember listening to a cassette tape of this story when I was a young girl.
The Bee Tree by Stephen Buchmann and Diana Cohn is the story of a boy who makes his first climb of the bee tree with his grandfather. It is a great honor and a great responsibility. The ecological moral is not too overwhelming and the girls were surprisingly enthralled.
On My Way to Buy Eggs by Chih-Yuan Chen is a delight, pure and simple. I love it every time I read it.
Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim, which I recently received through the generosity of a PaperBackSwap club member, is one of my favorite books. It's the true story of a traditional Chinese family whose patriarch allows himself to think beyond tradition. I love how Ruby wishes for more but is obedient to her family. As always, my children love reading stories that are true stories.
The Day of Ahmed's Secret by Florence H. Parry is set in Cairo, Egypt, which (of course) is technically in Africa, but it seems to fit better with the feel and culture of Asia and the Middle East. It's a delightful story of a young boy who works hard all day in Cairo to help his family financially. As a mother, I'm a little sad to see a young boy working instead of in school, but the end of the story is sweet. It gives a wonderful glimpse of life in Cairo and displays only pride, not anger, at the hard life of the boy.
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland begins, "My grandmother saw the emperor cry the day he lost his golden dragon throne." On that day, she steals a lotus seed from the palace gardens. She treasures it for years, remembering the brave emperor. Later, during the Vietnam War, she flees with her children to America. She tells her grandchildren the story of the seed, but they do not understand. One of her grandsons buries the seed in the yard. She is distraught, but beauty and new life are triumphant. It's a poignant story of courage, loss, war and love of country, of home.
Kami and the Yaks by Andrea Stenn Stryer is one of my favorite picture books. Kami is a deaf Sherpa boy who finds a way to help his family despite his own fear and his father's disbelief. We also read All The Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet by Barbara Helen Berger on the same day, a beautifully illustrated book that retells a Tibetan parable.
The Leaky Umbrella by Demi is a fun little book showing a couple of silly boys walking about in the rain under a leaky umbrella. My girls laughed out loud.
Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond is a lovely story of a young girl who plants a cherry stone that surprisingly grows into a beautiful cherry tree. I think this is a lovely story and my older two both enjoyed it.
Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami is a wonderfully illustrated book showing a family and a city waiting for the monsoon rains. Be aware that it does mention Hindu customs and beliefs, including the mother dropping money before a statue. My children are well acquainted with discussions of idols thanks to our Old Testament studies so I was prepared for any questions.
The Story of Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman is a classic my children always enjoy. We read the revised edition which is more palatable to modern ears. Another version I like a lot (but which didn't seem quite so Asian) is Sam and the Tigers by Jerry Pinkney.
Night of the Moon by Hena Khan is a nice story of a young girl's experiences with Ramadan. We used this book as a way to talk a little about Islam and the Muslim faith. Talking about other faiths requires a fine line as we want our children to understand the Catholic faith as the one true faith but to recognize the good in other religions and to be always respectful of others and their beliefs.
Our last tour of the year is Central and South America, but I've had so much fun with this course we're going to continue next year with books about Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. Suggestions welcome!