Reading Around the World: 10 Books for Kids with International Stories

By reading books with an international focus, your child can gain a deeper understanding of the diverse and complex world outside of the United States. The following list includes stories set throughout the world, including the jungles of Peru, an Israeli hospital and an African village.

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the dreamer pam munoz ryan

#1 The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan

With illustrations by Peter Sis, Ryan creates a fictionalized version of poet Pablo Neruda's childhood in this book aimed at middle school children. The young Neruda, going by his given name of Neftali Reyes, is a keen observer of the world. His boyhood fascination with nature transitions into a teenage interest in the plight of Chile's indigenous Mapuche population.

zahrah the windseeker nnedi okrafor-mbachu

#2 Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okrafor-Mbachu

Steeped in African tribal culture, this novel centers on Zahrah, a young girl who was born with locks of hair entwined with living vines. In addition to her unusual hair, Zahrah is able to call the wind and fly, a power she uneasily begins to understand. In order to save a friend who receives a snakebite, Zahrah must undergo a journey in which she begins to master her talents.

the ear, the eye an the arm nancy farmer

#3 The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

This adventure novel is set in the year 2194 in Zimbabwe. Three children of the military ruler leave home and explore the land around them. They encounter both incredible wonders of technological development and downtrodden, bleak slums. Along the way, they're pursued by bumbling detectives, kidnapped by gangsters and accused of witchcraft.

journey to jo

#4 Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story by Beverley Naidoo

In this short novel, Naledi and Tiro's baby sister gets sick, prompting the pair to set out for Johannesburg for help. Along the way, they learn about the effects of apartheid. For example, they need passes to travel and suffer harassment from the police.

samir and yonatan daniella carmi

#5 Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi

Samir is a young Palestinian boy who shatters his knee in a bicycle accident. Now, for the first time, he leaves his home in the Occupied Territories for a Jewish hospital so an American doctor can help him. While there, he learns about the Israelis, including Yonatan, a boy with an injured hand.

the village that vanished ann grifalconi

#6 The Village That Vanished by Ann Grifalconi

Told in the style of folklore, this book for young children describes how the inhabitants of an African village elude slave traders. The villagers raze their huts and till the ground in order to make the area appear to be inhabited by a lone woman. Meanwhile, the villagers escape along a hidden path.

shabanu daughter of the wind suzanne fisher staples

#7 Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Shabanu is a Pakistani girl who lives among camel-dealing nomads. The looming arranged marriage of Shabanu's older sister, as well as her own, fills Shabanu with apprehension. After a disaster of her making strikes, she's forced to curb her independence and seek peace of mind.

go and come back joan abelove

#8 Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove

This novel follows two American anthropologists who go to live with the Isabo people, a small tribe in the jungles of Peru. Conflicts between the cultures arise, with the American women being perceived as mean and foolish by the villagers. Ultimately, the book teaches about the Americans beginning to understand the people with whom they're living.

the breadwinner deborah ellis

#9 The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

While living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana is forced to pretend to be a boy in order to support her family. After her brother dies in a land mine explosion and her father is imprisoned, Parvana acts as a reader for the illiterate. She witnesses the harsh and sexist laws of the Taliban, who forbid women from attending school or traveling without an escort.

revolution is not a dinner party ying chang compestine

#10 Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Set in 1972 China, this autobiographical novel follows eight-year-old Ling, the daughter of two doctors. Her family's tranquil life is disrupted when a Communist officer, Comrade Li, moves into their apartment. The oppression of the Communists begins to cause havoc as Ling's friends disappear, her father is arrested and she is harassed at school.

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