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Exploring Books from Around the World Activities



These activities are suitable for KS1 and KS2 and provide some general ideas of ways in which you can explore and use books from other countries. Some of the suggested books were featured in our ‘Reading the Way’ research report in 2015. These titles are in their original language while many of the other suggestions are books that have been published in English in the UK.


Exploring Books from Around the World Activities, RtW2, Jan18



Illustration Activities 

  • Provide a range of books from other countries in their original language giving an initial introduction to world books, showing the diversity of formats, styles and illustrations.

  • Divide the children into groups giving each one a selection of books to look at. Ask them to concentrate on the illustrations rather than the text. Provide each group with an Illustration Activity sheet (see example pdf template below). 

  • Once the groups have looked through the selection of books they have been given ask them to choose three titles (could be just one) in order of preference (first, second and third choice) that they particularly like and one that they don’t like (if applicable).  Then ask one child from each group to say briefly what they liked (or didn’t like) about each of the books that they had chosen. 

  • Some great books to inspire art activities include Alphadoodler by Polish illustrator Bajtlik (an activity book that brings the letters of the alphabet to life) and books by Hervé Tullet such as The Scribble Book and Art Workshops for Children which includes zany ideas for creating a field of flowers, a big traffic jam or painting music – a sort of artists’ musical chairs.

  • Provide the class with a huge sheet of paper, or lots of flipchart-size sheets stuck together, and encourage them to scribble random shapes and patterns on it. Challenge children to turn it into a giant picture, with each child adding their own ideas to transform each scribble into something meaningful.

Illustration Activity Sheet



Writing Activities

  • Create a book about countries of the world.  Each child can take responsibility for a page, writing and drawing all they can about a country, including words in the relevant language(s) and incorporating different textures and fabrics.
  • Find inspiration from the book MAPS by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.
  • Encourage children to create their own interpretations of stories by studying the illustrations. Using books which are either in their original language or translated into English with the text blanked out, challenge children to add speech bubbles, or write their own narrative. The children need to work as a team and agree that one member be responsible for writing down any ideas.  One member of each group to give brief feedback on how the activity had gone and how easy or difficult they had found it. 


  •  Encourage children to recognise that language can be beautiful/interesting even if they cannot understand every word.
  • Ask if any of them speak another language or can say a few words in another language.  Read brief extracts from books in their original language.
  • Encourage children to think about how important (or not) it is to be able to understand the words.


Suggested Books:


Close Your Eyes (Tanca els ulls)*
Victoria Pérez Escrivá (text), Claudia Ranucci (ills.) Thule Ediciones, Barcelona, Spain, 2009
Language: Catalan 

Two siblings describe the world in entirely different ways. One uses logic to explain exactly what he sees to his brother, who is blind. His brother, in turn, uses his senses to describe the same things, offering a whole new perspective on each item. 

Lorenzo’s Saucepan* Isabelle Carrier
La petite casserole d’Anatole
Editions Bilboquet, France 2009
El Cazo de Lorenzo, Editorial Juventud, Spain, 2010; Il Pentolino di Antonino, Kite Edizioni, 2011

Lorenzo’s has to drag a saucepan round with him wherever he goes. Often he finds himself in difficult situations and sometimes people don't understand him. This is book with a metaphorical approach to how we can each learn to cope with our own specific challenges.

Read a Book with Me*
Quer ler Um Livro Comigo?)
Lawrence Schimel (text), Thiago Lopes (ills.)
Callis Editora, Brazil, 2014
Language: Portuguese 

Read a Book with Me has a simple message: Antonio is already able to read but he wants to share his favourite book with someone, however everyone is too busy.  With strong illustrations set in a cultural context, the encouragement of reading, adults spending time with children sharing a story and a book that features a visually impaired character but is not about being blind.

Sara’s World (È non è)*
Marco Berrettoni Carrara (text), Chiara Carrer (ills.) Libri per Sognare, Kalandraka, Italy, 2010
Language: Italian 

Sara doesn’t relate to other people or her surroundings and her behaviour is disconcerting for everybody, especially her family. Sara's form of disability isn't specified and the reader is only presented with the narrator's viewpoint of his sister. The story is carried by powerful illustrations, a mix of collage and pencil, which bring the narration to life.


She and the Others (Elle et les autres)*
Nahla Ghandour (text), Janna Traboulsi (ills.)
Le Port a jauni, France, 2011
Language: French
First published as Heya Huma Hunna by Al Khayat al Saghir, Lebanon, 2010 

A two-chapter story featuring a character with a physical disability (depicted pictorially by the girl having a 'key' in place of one of her legs).  The first chapter is written from the perspective of another girl and shows how she observes the new arrival in school before they start to become friends.  The second story is written from the disabled girl's viewpoint and shows how she is forced to find her own solutions for the everyday challenges she encounters, such as how to get into class at the same time as the rest of her peers. 

Zitti’s Cake Shop (La pasticceria Zitti)*
Rosa Tiziana Bruno (text), Ambra Garlashcelli (ills. La Margherita Edizioni, Italy, 2011
Language: Italian 

Zitti’s Cake Shop features an outstanding pastry chef who is deaf.  He mixes a secret ingredient into his cakes that leave his customers lost for words. The book explores the extraordinary properties of food as a form of communication because understanding does not always need words. (See 'Using Zitti's Cake Shop Activities)


Books in English

There are plenty of books listed on our website that can be used for activities but here are a few suggestions.

Translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak
Tate Publishing 

Alphadoodler by Polish illustrator and graphic designer Bajtlik received a special mention for the Bologna Ragazzi Award (non-fiction) in 2015, and you can see why.  With stylish typography and striking graphics this is an engaging activity book that brings the letters of the alphabet to life. Bajtlik’s innovative creation has some fabulous art ideas as well as a novel and fun way to learn the alphabet. 

Art Workshops for Children
Hervé Tullet
Translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone
Phaidon, 2015 

This is a teachers dream. These innovative art activities from renowned best-selling French illustrator Hervé Tullet have been tried and tested around the world with groups of children in classrooms, libraries, museums, art galleries and community centres. Whether its splotches and splashes or spilled paint Tullet will show you how to turn it into a masterpiece. 

The Clever Mouse
Anahita Teymorian
Translated from Persian by Azita Rassi
Tiny Owl Publications, 2015 

This charming story by Iranian author and illustrator Anahita Teymorian is about a mouse who is full of his own self-importance.  The illustrations are so expressive against the rich, lush colour background that is imbued with symbolism.

The 5 Misfits
Beatrice Alemagna
Translated from Italian
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2016 

A quirky tale about Five Misfits who live together and who never feel like doing anything, nor do they amount to much in life. Alemagna’s unique collage artwork captures the individuality of the characters and the message about difference, tolerance and identity. 

Fox and Goldfish
Nils Pieters
Translated from Dutch by Greet Pauwelijn
Book Island, 2016

Fox and Goldfish are the best of friends but Fox knows that Goldfish is very unwell.  Before it's too late he wants to show his friend the world and ensure they spend as much time together as possible.  Fox takes Goldfish on an amazing journey beyond the fishbowl.  Flemish author and illustrator Nils Pieters has created a beautiful and timeless picture book about loss, a celebration of life and having wonderful memories.

Goodnight Mr. Clutterbuck
Mauri Kunnas
Translated from Finnish by Jill Timbers
Elsewhere Editions, 2017 

Mr. Clutterbuck is blissfully unaware of his sleepwalking reputation in the town.  Shy and mild-mannered when awake, he is completely different by night, often being the accidental instigator of chaos. Finnish author/ illustrator Mauri Kunnas’ hilarious story is accompanied by riotous illustrations – a definite modern classic.

Gus’s Garage
Leo Timmers
James Brown (English text)
Gecko Press, 2016 

Gus's workshop is full of paraphernalia; everything is kept because Gus knows that there will be a use for them one day.  The vibrant artwork of Gus's incredible wacky inventions by Belgian author/illustrator Leo Timmers make this a stunning picture book.

Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Big Picture Press, 2013 

Explore the world with this beautifully crafted, sumptuously illustrated book of 52 detailed maps. Here you will find not only geographical features such as the capital city, flag, population, size and language, but also interesting facts about each country’s native animals and plants, places of interest, iconic personalities and specific characteristics that reflect their identity. Children can travel the globe immersed in these pages. There is also a MAPS Activity Book  (2014) and MAPS Poster Book (2015).

One House for All
Inese Zandere (text), Juris Petraškevics (ills.) Translated from Latvian by Sabine Orzola
Adapted by Lawerence Schimel
Book Island, 2017 

Raven, Crayfish and Horse are all best friends. Now grown up they are anxious not to be separated so decide to build a big new house where they and their families can all live together. A universal story about the importance of friendship from Latvian author Inese Zandere with gentle child-like illustrations from Juris Petraškevics that are full of vibrant playfulness.

The Scribble Book
Hervé Tullet
Translated from French
Tate Publishing, 2008 

An activity book for young children from the master of innovative and wacky art books, French author and illustrator, Hervé Tullet.  With simple instructions it provides a lot of fun and imagination for those children (and adults) who love to scribble.  The humour is infectious and the tasks are fun.  ‘Can you finish scribbling for me please? or ‘Oh Dear!’ This scribble is very shy can you give him some friends?’   It’s all here in this zany book that will make children giggle and enjoy getting their pencils scribbling.


*For more information about the books we used in our Reading the Way research in 2015 see Inclusive Books in Brief and Case Studies – Lorenzo’s Saucepan , She and the Others, Books Relevant to Visual Impairment and Zitti’s Cake Shop


For these activities we have chosen books used in the RtW projects as well as a selection of general books from our database. Wherever possible we have checked their availability to purchase through the the Amazon link from our website. All RtW books are listed under their original title.






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