Monday, May 13, 2013

Preschool Reading Around the World: Europe

The books below were technically read during First Daughter's kindergarten year, but I wanted to continue posting about them along with the books we read the previous year when she was in preschool. It still counts as preschool, too, because Second Daughter (age four) listened in when she was interested.

I thought I would coordinate our world reading with First Son's Extreme Environments studies, but in the first term he was reading about Africa, which we covered the last year. So we started with Europe instead.

As I've mentioned before, the purpose of these treks around the world through picture books is not to convey a great amount of facts or history, but rather to give a feel for another country or culture through wonderful books. I sought to select books that were wonderful merely in and of themselves. I was limited by our library, though, so these are not necessarily the best picture books set in Europe. Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments. I tend not to buy books just for our reading around the world, but I am not afraid to ask our library to make a purchase.


Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline is a beautifully illustrated book set during the time of tulipomania in the 1630s. This is the only book we read during this study that I actually purchased; the rest were all from the library. I wrote about this book already as one of my favorite picture books. (Holland)

Hans Brinker by Bruce Coville, illustrated by Laurel Long, is an adaptation of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. I don't usually like adaptations, but this one condenses the story nicely for younger children. The illustrations are absolutely lovely. They make me want to rush off to Holland and ice skate in beautiful dresses. (Holland)

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony L. Manna and Soula Mitakidou, illustrated by Giselle Potter is a retelling of Cinderella. My girls enjoyed it. (Greece)

Little Rooster's Diamond Button retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Will Terry, is a retelling of a folktale in which a rooster exacts revenge on a greedy king who steals a diamond button. The children love this book. (Hungary)

How Mama Brought the Spring by Fran Manuskhin, illustrated by Holly Berry, begins on a wintry day in Chicago when a young girl hears the story of how her grandmother brought spring to Minsk. This is a delightful story to read with young girls (or anyone who likes to bake or cook with a parent or loved one). It includes a recipe for blintzes which Kansas Dad made with First Daughter. The kids were indifferent to them, but they just don't appreciate anything novel at a meal. Kansas Dad and I thought they were delicious and decadent. I love the illustration of the batter on the tablecloth "like sunflowers against a blue sky." (Belarus)

The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C. M. Millen, illustrated by Andrea Wisnewski, is set in an Irish monastery at the advent of the illuminated manuscripts. It's an imaginary story, but one so wonderfully illustrated it should not be missed. It's one of my favorite picture books. (Ireland)

The Famous Nini: A Mostly True Story of How a Plain White Cat Became a Star by Mary Nethery, illustrated by John Manders, is an imaginative tale of a cat who become a national celebrity in Venice. It's a wonderful book with charming illustrations. We all enjoyed it. I particularly liked how each of the cafe's visitors left feeling better because of this little cat. Isn't that what we all should do? (Italy)

Adèle and Simon by Barbara McClintock is the original book that led to Adele and Simon in America, one of my favorite picture books. Simon, of course, loses all his belongings as he and his sister wander through Paris after she picks him up from school. It's wonderfully illustrated and encourages children to closely peruse the illustrations as they search for all of Simon's things. My children love this book! (France)

Chasing Degas by Eva Montanari follows a young ballerina through the streets of Paris as she chases after Degas who has accidentally taken her bag. Along the way, she meets many of the impressionist artists that lived in Paris at the time. A few pages at the end introduce the reader to some famous works of art and a bit about impressionism. We'll be reading this again next year as we study Degas. (France)

Katje the Windmill Cat by Gretchen Woelfle, illustrated by Nicola Bayley, is based on the true story of a cat who saved an infant in a cradle during a great storm on St. Elizabeth's Day in 1421. A sweet story, great illustrations, and a little history and culture mixed in. Highly recommended. (Holland)

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Big Surprise by Maj Lindman is my favorite of the Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr books. In it the boys exchange their own labor to skilled workers who create a gift for their mother. It's an easy book for young readers to read themselves (or aloud to mama). (Sweden)

Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra by Stephen Costanza imagines a young orphan girl whose poetry inspired Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. It's a wonderful book to read as you're studying Vivaldi (as we were) or before listening to The Four Seasons. This book also has some of my favorite illustrations of all the ones we read this term. (Italy)

More posts on what else we read during the year are coming. I'm very thankful I still have Second Daughter and Second Son to justify my continuation of this kind of reading around the world, though I haven't decided yet what our focus will be next year.

Other Posts on Reading Around the World with picture books

2011-2012
Africa
Asia
Central and South America

1 comment:

  1. Jill, have you read any of the Little Bo books by Julie Andrews? I think there is Little Bo (England), Little Bo in France and Little Bo in Italy. They are more of a picture chapter book but Little Bo is a cat who experiences all sorts of adventures with his owner. And of course, Julie Andrews is just a fabulous author. (We love her Very Fairy Princess stories too). We use these as a read a-loud book but Hannah has read them on her own as well.

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