5 children’s picture books celebrating storytelling from around the world. Lose yourself in beautiful artwork and touching stories.

I am always keen to feature traditional tales from around the world.  Stories often passed down by mouth, generation to generation, perhaps with variations to them depending on the storyteller and always unique to the cultures, the landscapes and the people that inhabit them.   You can learn so much from these stories – lessons in life and lessons about the lives of others living far off, in the farthest places.   To me they are always enchanting.

Tales of Wisdom and Wonder, retold and narrated by Hugh Lupton, illustrated Niamh Sharkey   A beautiful collection of tales from around the world brought to life by Hugh Lupton’s narrative and Niamh Sharkey’s artwork.   The stories are thought-provoking, quite often astonishing and always life affirming.  Lupton has dug deep into old anthologies or simply heard the stories from friends who have in turn heard them from someone else.   Whatever the source, Lupton has sought to be “true to the spirit of the tales, and to all those countless tellers who have carried them before me.”    The stories are: Monkey and Papa  God (Haitian), The Curing Fox (Cree, Native American), The Pedlar of Swaffham (English),  The White Rat (French), The Blind Man and the Hunter (West African), Fish in the Forest (Russian) and The Shepherd’s Dream (Irish).  Age 5+

A page from The Blind Man and the Hunter (West African)

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret, written by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin    Ahmed is bursting to tell his family a secret.  But first he has a whole day of errands and jobs to do  in the bustling streets of Cairo.  “My donkey pulls the cart I ride on.  I have many stops to make today”.  Ahmed is very proud of the work he does, carrying big, heavy bottles of fuel to people’s houses.   But he has a secret he is even more proud of and he can’t wait to finish his work and hurry home.   Sharing Ahmed’s busy day is so exciting – hearing the sounds, taking in the rich colours and the details of the buildings in and around Cairo and meeting all the people he sees along the way.   Age 4+

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, paintings by James Ransome   Clara is a slave on Home Plantation.  When she arrived at the plantation aged 12 years and all alone she was sent straight to work in the cotten fields.   Rescued from this unforgiving work by her Aunt Rachel (“she wasn’t my for-real blood aunt“), who teaches her to sew, Clara becomes a seamstress up at the Big House.  Clara overhears talk of Canada and the Underground Railroad – they “is people who been helpin’ folks get there, secret-like“.  But how to get there?  How to get across the Ohio River and to the Underground Railroad?   Using her newly acquired sewing skills, Clara starts a quilt and by using scraps of fabric together she fashions her own secret map.  And as she sews she traces each stitch, each piece of fabric, over and over in her mind, providing an imprint of the whole journey.   Ransome’s paintings are vivid and full of the light of the landscape – hot yellow midday skies contrasting with the blue of the creek and the green of the swamp.  At the back of the book is a wonderful project idea to make your own neighborhood map using a large sheet of construction paper and lots and lots of craft materials – buttons, wool, string, bottle tops, old magazines and newspapers, dried noodles, peas or beans.  Age 6+

"Don't worry, Aunt Rachel. I got the memory of it in my head."

The King and the Kiang, story by Mariam Karim-Ahlawat, art by Shalini Biswajit   This is a tale of a young girl who lived in the valley of Yumthang, deep within the Himalaya mountains of Sikkim.   It is said that her mother left her in the rhododendron flowers that cover the valley where she drank of their nectar and so grew up with blazing red hair and eyes of deep pink.  Her name is Kunzang and she speaks to no one.  But she is often seen riding her kiang (wild ass) with its flowing mane, as red as her hair.    One day, a powerful King and his army arrive and stay in the peaceful and beautiful valley.  Upon glimpsing Kunzang, the King is at once mesmerized by her and her steed.  He orders their capture.  And as they are led away, the weather changes, storm clouds gather and thunder shakes the valley….. A beautiful tale of nature and of leaving well alone.  Biswajit’s illustrations are magical, quite impressionistic in their style with no detail on the faces and with colours that capture the Himilayan hillsides.  Age 5+

Mukand and Riaz, written and illustrated by Nina Sabnani     This very moving story is set against the backcloth of partition between India and Pakistan in 1947.  Mukand and Riaz are best of friends, sharing life together, cricket, scrapes, eating their favourite buns from the bakery at the market, helping each other with their work.  Riaz even wants to share Mukand’s cricket cap but Mukand will not let Riaz wear it.  When he wears his cap Mukand feels he can do anything.   Then everything changes.  English soldiers appear on the streets, their schoolteacher doesn’t come into school one day and Riaz tells Mukand he must hurry home to his family.  Their country is no longer one but two – India and Pakistan –  and Mukand’s family must leave.  Mukand’s family board a ship to India and as it departs, Mukand takes off his favourite cap and throws it to Riaz.  They never meet again.  This book is based on the memories of Nina Sabnani’s own father and is a heartbreaking reminder of the loss of friendships and homes in war.  The applique illustrations are beautiful, colourful and textured.  Age 6+

 

 

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