Around the World ~ One Picture Book at a Time

Reading books about other places and cultures opens up a previously unknown world for children and adults alike.

Picture books have an added dimension:  a visual feast within their illustrations.

Sunny, colorful worlds. Quiet, dramatic worlds. Peaceful worlds. Chaotic worlds.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Giving Our Children the World, I want my children to be world travelers, even when we don’t have the ability to go far from home.

Travel is available to anyone with a library card.

The following is a list of beautiful picture books to help you get started on your journey.


A Small Tall Tale From the Far Far North by Peter Sis

Photo by Heidi Scovel

United States and Canada:

Anno’s U.S.A. by Mitsumasa Anno. If you have never traveled through one of Anno’s wordless picture books, you are missing a special adventure!
You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser. Another wonderful wordless picture book adventure, this time in New York City.
Song of the Swallowsby Leo Politi. A beautiful book introducing children to California’s centuries-old Latino heritage and Mission culture.

Mexico, Central and South America:

Mario’s Mayan Journeyby Michelle McCunney
Off We Go to Mexicoby Laurie Krebs
Erandi’s Braidsby Tomie dePaola

Mama and Papa Have a Storeby Amelia Lau Carling. Chinese immigrants living in Guatemala.


Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Yellow Sled (and other titles) by Maj Lindman
Flick, Ricka, Dicka Bake a Cake (and other titles) by Maj Lindman

The Boy Who Held Back the Sea by Thomas Locker

Photo from

Madeline in Londonby Ludwig Bemelmans
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. This collection of illustrated stories by the author of All Creatures Great and Small is a favorite in our home!

Anatole by Eve Titus. This Paris mouse will steal your heart.
Adele and Simonby Barbara McClintock. The rich illustrations make this book a treasure!
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Always a classic.

Photo by Heidi Scovel

The Story of Ferdinandby Munro Leaf

Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook: An Adventure in Veniceby Claudia Mauner and Elisa Smalley
Madeline and the Cats of Romeby Ludwig Bemelmans
Gabriella’s Songby Candace Fleming

Hanna’s Cold Winterby Trish Marx

The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse

Middle East:

Snow in Jerusalemby Deborah da Costa


Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami
The Drum: A Folktale From India by Rob Cleveland

A Carp for Kimiko by Virginia Kroll
I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi. An incredible introduction to Japanese life with lovely, bright illustrations.
Kamishibai Man (and other titles) by Allen Say. Beautiful quiet stories with subdued illustrations.

Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy

The Fire Keeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland


Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary Chamberlin
We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs
Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Musgrove
The Gift of the Sun: A Tale From South Africa by Dianne Stewart
The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence H. Parry. A boy on the busy streets of Cairo

Photo from


This is Australiaby Miroslav Sasek. Be sure to check out other titles in the author’s nostalgic children’s travel series.

For older children, find a list of chapter books organized by country here on my blog, Mt Hope Chronicles.

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and though distant, is close to us in spirit – this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Which picture books have taken you and your child on a memorable journey to another country?

About Heidi

Heidi documents Living Lovely at her blog, Mt. Hope Chronicles. There she celebrates (in words and images) her journey as wife, homeschooling mother of three rambunctious boys, photographer, book collector, and lover of the little things.


  1. We love pictures books and have gone many places while reading them. I can’t think of any favorite off the bat but I have a huge list of our favorite reads at, that include picture and chapter books.

    Check out my books on Goodreads:

  2. Thanks for this great post, Heidi–this list is fabulous and a great resource for us!
    .-= Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s last blog: Around the World ~ One Picture Book at a Time =-.

  3. I love this post, thanks so much. I am always looking for new books to get from the library! Too bad though that there were none about Canada…we live in Canada and we’re going to be studying our own geography this upcoming school year, but I can’t seem to think of any good storybooks that illustrate Canadian geography or culture. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know! 🙂
    .-= Laura @ Getting There’s last blog: A trip to Point Pelee. =-.

    • Naomi H says:

      William Kurelek has beautiful picture books taking place in Canada, from the prairies to the North. While the content isn’t particularly Canadian, Robert Munsch and Barbara Reid (amazing plasticine pictures) have great books. I haven’t read any of her books, but Maxine Trottier also has children’s picture books that look quite lovely. For older children, there is Ann of Green Gables and Naomi’s Road (story about a girl in the Japanese interment camps).

    • Hi Laura, I just reviewed M is For Moose: A Charles Pachter Alphabet in honour of Canada Day. I’m not sure how old your kids are but don’t let the ABC bit scare you off, there are a lot of interesting historical / cultural references here for elementary aged kids.
      .-= Erin Oakes’s last blog: Richard Scarrys Biggest Word Book Ever – Big- Busy and Full of Words =-.

    • Tara Focht says:

      Hi Laura
      We’re Canadian too and there’s quite a lot out there. A few we have in our home library, are Silver Threads by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, a folk tale about a Ukranian couple who emigrate to the Canadian frontier circa the First World War, The Cremation of Sam McGee, the Robert Service poem illustrated by Ted Harrison, and Wow Canada, which is a book that takes a fictional family on a coast to coast trip across Canada. There’s also The Kids Book of Canadian History and I’m pretty sure it’s part of a series of books published by a company called Kids Can Press. They seem to publish a lot of the Canadian children’s books I’ve seen. There’s a lot more out there, believe me, your local library or smaller local bookstores would probably be great resources for finding what you’re looking for. Also museum gift shops have some great books too. Best wishes with your search and have fun, there’s so much out there,

  4. Great list! For babies and toddlers, we love the Global Babies board book, which shows photos of babies from lots of different countries.

  5. Love your reading list as usual! Can’t wait to check some of them out.
    .-= jeana’s last blog: Weekly Wrap Up and The Summer List! =-.

  6. What a great list! We have read some of these. Anno’s stories being some of our favorite. Looking forward to putting these others on our reading list for the summer.
    .-= Rana’s last blog: Road Side Assistance, How May I Help You? =-.

  7. Great list! I love exploring the world with my kids through picture books too. For America, I would add:
    The Scrambled States of America
    How to Bake an American Pie

    For Japan:
    Basho and the River Stones
    Under the Cherry Blossom Tree
    A Carp for Kimiko

    For Africa:
    Various “Anansi” tales, several retold by Eric Kimmel

    If you get a minute, would you be willing to email me with hints on how to download book pics from Amazon at full size without the “Look Inside!” thingamajig? Thank you!
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: Hubble 3D! =-.

  8. GREAT list, but I wish you had categorized the “Africa” books by country, too.

  9. I’m so glad I came across this. My family is attending our city’s annual multicultural festival tomorrow and I was hoping to follow up our visit with books about other countries / cultures. I’ll check some of these out for sure.
    .-= Erin Oakes’s last blog: Richard Scarrys Biggest Word Book Ever – Big- Busy and Full of Words =-.

  10. I did a simple google search and typed in “Canadian children’s books.” I came up with this site:
    it’s called The Canadian Children’s Book Centre and has booklists of some of the more popular Canadian Children’s authors. The are lots of books involving culture and geography.
    I guess one can research what one finds interesting.

  11. Came across this post today! What an amazing picture book list you have here on this theme! Great work!

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Never miss a blog post,
PLUS get Jamie’s FREE ebook: