In our second term this year, I selected books for our Preschool-Reading-Around-the-World reading time to coordinate loosely with our island jungle studies, so I focused on books set in Australia, New Zealand, and Hawai'i. (I'm not sure I managed to get a New Zealand book; I had one selected and then the library got rid of it before I requested it for our study.)
I often asked First Son (third grade, age 9) to read this aloud to the girls (ages 6 and 4). That way, he was able to add a little more context to his extreme environments studies and, most importantly, had an excuse to read a book he might have thought was too young for him but that he really enjoyed.
The Singing Snake by Stefan Czernecki and Timothy Rhodes, illustrated by Stefan Czernecki, is a retelling of an Australian folktale in which a snake cheats to win a singing contest. The illustrations are evocative of aboriginal Australian art and the moral is worthy.
Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo by Alison Lester tells of a young boy who accompanies his parents to Arnhem Land in Australia, the home of Aboriginal people. While his parents are working at a hospital, Ernie is making friends and learning about his new home. There's a helpful list of definitions at the end. This is a bright, colorful, fun book that tells a lot about Arnhem Land. My children loved this book.
Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, is one of my favorite picture books so of course we had to read it.
Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pamela Lofts, is a delightful book telling of the rescue of a wombat captured by a dingo by a variety of other Australian animals. First Son and First Daughter were laughing out loud at this book.
Wombat Goes Walkabout by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Christian Birmingham, tells of a young wombat separated from his mother. In seeking her, he meets lots of different Australian animals and learns just a tiny bit about each one (and how they are different from wombats). In the end, his particular skills save some new friends who help reunite him with his mother. The illustrations are quite realistic of the animals of Australia. We also read Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, which is more of a silly counting book. The kids enjoyed it, but I didn't like it as much as Wombat Goes Walkabout.
Over in Australia byMarianne Berkes, illustrated by Jill Dubin, is based on Over in the Meadow, which is one of my favorite picture books, but in some ways it is even better. In addition to the rhyming stanzas with appearances by Australian animals, pages at the end of the book include lots of information on Australia's environments and lots of animals. The illustrations are collages, colorful and beautiful. There's a note at the end on creating your own collages. And there's more - tips from the author on activities for the book (though we didn't do any of those ourselves, many look fun) and even the music for the song. There are a lot of books that extend Over in the Meadow, but this has to be one of the best.
Toad Overload by Patricia Seibert, illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis, tells about the introduction of cane toads to Australia. I don't usually choose non-fiction books for our reading-around-the-world, but this one is both interesting and accessible. Who doesn't like reading about huge toads? I liked providing a book that might prompt some thought on the ways humans change and interfere with environments and this book does not automatically condemn people.
Polly Hopper's Pouch by Louise Bonnett-Rampersaud, illustrated by Lina Chesak-Liberace, is a sweet story of Polly, a kangaroo who wonders about a lot of things, especially why she has a pouch. She eventually discovers what fits perfectly in her pouch. It's a perfect story for little ones, especially little girls.
Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester is like a journal of the journey of a family around their home continent of Australia. The children "miss" the winter term of school, but it's clear to any homeschooling family that they learn much more than they would have in a school. It's a marvelous book for learning a bit about Australia and encouraging your children to beg for a year-long journey of their own country. First Daughter in particular thinks this would be a fantastic idea.
No Slippers by Mary Braffet is a cute little story of a young girl who can't keep track of her slippers (sandals). It's set in Hawai'i and was sent to us by a dear friend who grew up there, so it's special to us.
The Island-below-the-Star and Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves written and illustrated by James Rumford are both beautiful stories imagining the discovery of Hawai'i by the first inhabitants. Rumford creates stunning artwork and it's always a joy to share his illustrations with children. The stories are a little long, so I allowed the children a choice of one of these to read. Personally, I like Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves better, but they are both wonderful.
Georgia in Hawaii by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a beautiful picture book about an artist and her painting. This book makes me want to return to Hawai'i more than any other we read. The illustrations are done in a style similar to Georgia O'Keeffe's. It would make a nice complement to an artist study as well our journey around the world.
Grandma Calls Me Beautiful by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee, is the lovely book of the love between a grandmother and her granddaughter. It is set in Hawai'i and the life of the islands permeates the book. There's a nice glossary and some explanations at the end, but it would be impossible for any child to miss the loving relationship.
Other Posts on Reading Around the World with picture books
Central and South America