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
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
Close Your Eyes (Tanca els ulls)*
Victoria Pérez Escrivá (text), Claudia Ranucci (ills.) Thule Ediciones, Barcelona, Spain, 2009
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.