Around The World in 80+ Children's Books

By Marianna Vertsman, Adult Librarian
July 22, 2014
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL)
Collage of four children's book covers

Summer is here and with it comes the joy of getting away from it all. While we research our destinations with some assistance from guidebooks, children don't really have that option. Unless you are lucky enough to travel to a small number of selected destinations covered by the wonderful Lonely Planet Not For Parents Guides, your younger traveling companions will be deprived of any guidance. This does not have to be the case. Books on this list offer young travelers a great opportunity to explore new cultures through a colorful world of illustrated picture books . They can introduce  children to the rich cultural heritage  of your international destinations.

Even if your pilgrimage to a dream destination is entirely imaginary, picture books  can offer kids an introduction to a wonderful world of armchair travel. If you can't take your child to another country, visiting cultural institutions and ethnic neighborhoods throughout New York City can have similar benefits. How lucky are we to reside in a city that offers unparalleled opportunities for cultural exploration? The Museum of the Chinese in America or Asia Society could be visited in conjunction with your favorite Chinatown landmark or Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. A trip to El Museo del Barrio can be combined can with a quick lunch at Cuchifritos or Cabana. New Yorkers have always been known for their special appreciation of cultural differences. Let's keep this tradition going!

Young girl looking at the camera while reading Foreign Affaris

My criterion for inclusion was rather narrow, as this list was originally compiled for a specific class of students at PS 59, Beekman Hill International. Located in close proximity to the United Nations, Beekman Hill  is a perfect microcosm of a vibrant global village. In selecting books for a specific location ,  I attempted to cover that country's customs, folklore, traditions, cuisine, art, fashion, cultural attitudes to childhood, as well as famous historical figures. Artistic and literary merits of the book, as well as its current availability were taken into consideration. Given a wide variety of children's reading levels, as well as the indisputable appeal of picture books to readers of all ages, I would recommend this list to children from kindergarten all the way to middle school.

Many versions of the story of Cinderella (Persia, China, Egypt, Korea, South Africa, the Caribbean, Mexico, Ireland, India, France and Russia) are part of this reading list. Reading several versions of this familiar fairytale can help kids identify differences in another country's way of life, while simultaneously affirming our cross-cultural bond of being human.

There is a separate list of nonfiction titles that readers may find helpful while traveling with a child. Travel, or the promise of it in the future, offers unique educational opportunities. International travel can introduce a child to the splendors of past and present civilizations. It can foster an appreciation of cultural differences and offer a newfound perspective on life at home. A better understanding of foreign relations is an added benefit of international travel.

We would love to receive book recommendations for this list from readers of all ages.

Have a nice trip! Bon Voyage! Счастливого пути ! 잘다녀오십시오! Hyvää matkaa!    よい旅を    Καλό ταξίδι! Góða ferð سفر خوش

Selected Children's Travel Nonfiction


Book cover for Possum Magic

Caribbean Islands

Book cover for Cendrillon

Czech Republic

Book cover for The Wall by Peter Sis





Book cover for The Day of Ahmed's Secret


Book cover for The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard by Gregory Rogers



Book cover for The Cat Who Walked Across France


Book cover for Fantastic Adventures of Baron Munchausen


Book cover for What's Your Angle Pythagoras?



    Book cover for Tales from Old Ireland



    Book cover for Madeline and the Cats of Rome






    Book cover for Frida

    New Zealand


    Book cover for D'Aulaire Book of Trolls



    Book cover for Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave



    Book cover for Pippi Longstocking illustrated by Lauren Child