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Read Around the World with These 30 Children’s Picture Books

read around the world

Are you and your kids ready to read around the world? Must-read children’s picture books offer passports to fantastic destinations all over the planet. They introduce kids to new cultures and experiences and inspire them to be good global citizens. With this in mind, check out our read around the world book list organized by continent. These children’s books let your kids take a trip around the world from the comfort of your home.

Books About Africa for Kids

1. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

Giraffes Can’t Dance introduces kids to African wildlife through the unlikely tale of Gerald, the giraffe. Gerald doesn’t believe he can dance because of his gangly neck, wobbly legs, and four left feet. As other African wildlife hit the dance floor—including cha-cha-ing chimpanzees and waltzing warthogs—Gerald despairs that he’ll never follow their lead. But when an affable cricket chirps a morale-boosting song, Gerald decides to give it another try.

Africa for kids

2. Konte Chameleon Fine, Fine, Fine! by Cristina Kessler and Christian Epanya

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 2nd grade

In Konte Chameleon Fine, Fine, Fine!, Konte Chameleon enjoys his vantage point atop a wild red orchid. But when he looks over his shoulder, he’s shocked to notice his entire body has turned scarlet. What to do? Konte Chameleon goes on a quest to “fix” his problem. He seeks help from Dr. Jalloh, a wise rabbit. Dr. Jalloh helps Konte Chameleon realize that his color-changing skill is unique and useful, especially during an unwanted visit from Khadi Python.

3. The Storyteller by Evan Turk

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

The Storyteller weaves a fascinating tale of Morocco’s folkloric past. Rich with stunning metaphors and steeped in ancient traditions, the imagery of water abounds, symbolizing not only a life-giving force but also the power of storytelling itself. Just as the characters in the book need water to survive physically, so they need folktales to nourish their souls and enrich their cultural identity.

4. The Water Princess by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel, and Peter H. Reynolds

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

The Water Princess introduces us to an Africa of limitless skies and warm earth, the picturesque kingdom of Princess Gie Gie. Yet, clean drinking water remains a daily struggle for the inhabitants of her village. We are invited along as Gie Gie and her mother make the daily overland trek to collect water. Then, they transport it in heavy pots atop their heads back to the village. As she boils the murky liquid, Gie Gie dreams of a new well near the village, providing easy access for all to crystal-clear drinking water. Inspired by the childhood experiences of model-turned-activist Georgie Badiel of Burkina Faso, the Georgie Badiel Foundation now works to make clean drinking water a reality for African villagers.

children's storybooks about Africa

5. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through third grade

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai describes the real-life heroine who fought to reverse deforestation in her native Kenya. After leaving her homeland as a young girl, she returns as an adult to find her once lush homeland laid bare. Instead of despairing, Wangari digs in, replanting the trees of her native land. Wangari’s story teaches valuable lessons about hard work, perseverance, and the difference that one inspired person can make.

6. My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa

Ages 5 and up, preschool through 2nd grade

My Father’s Shop takes us deep into the mysterious world of Moroccan souks or marketplaces. We’re introduced to the owner of a rug shop and his son, Mustafa. Mustafa’s father tirelessly works to teach his boy a variety of foreign language phrases so that Mustafa can help out in the shop. But mischievous Mustafa has other plans.

7. The Butter Man by Elizabeth Letts, Ali Alalou, and Julie Klear Essakalli

Ages 6 and up, 1st through 4th grade

The Butter Man highlights one of Morocco’s most unique and iconic cultures, the Imazighen or Berbers. It also underscores a heartwarming relationship between a daughter, Nora, and her father as he reminisces about his childhood in Morocco. Sharing bittersweet memories, Nora’s father describes his early days living in the High Atlas Mountains and some of the challenges his Berber family faced, including famine. With plot elements similar to Jack and the Beanstalk, the tale culminates in the return of rain and an end to the famine.

kids books about Africa

Books About Asia for Kids

8. Hush! A Thai Lullaby and Peek! A Thai Hide-and-Seek by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade

Ages 3 and up, preschool through 2nd grade

Hush! A Thai Lullaby tells the story of a young mother trying to keep her baby asleep. But the animal noises of the Thai jungle threaten her infant’s nap. Written in a charming rhyme, the mother asks the animals of the forest, one by one, to stay quiet while her little one naps. The sequel to Hush! A Thai Lullaby, Peek! A Thai Hide-and-Seek tells the story of a lost little girl searching for her way back to her father. Along the way, the girl meets a wide assortment of animals.

Thailand for kids

9. The Man Who Caught Fish by Walter Lyon Krudop

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

Based on a Thai folktale, The Man Who Caught Fish describes the story of a stranger with an uncanny ability to catch fish. He pulls up fish after fish to the amazement of locals who never bring in a full catch. What’s more, the stranger surprises expectations with his ethic “one fish, one person.” He generously gifts his catch to locals, one fish (and person) at a time. When the king demands the fisherman fill his basket, the stranger sticks to his rule. This book teaches valuable lessons about generosity, humility, and Thai culture.

10. The Last King of Angkor Wat by Graeme Base

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

The Last King of Angkor Wat tells of a dispute between the jungle’s animals. Tiger, Monkey, Water Buffalo, and Gecko fight over who will make the greatest king. To settle the argument, an ancient elephant suggests they race to the top of the hill. Set against the stunning backdrop of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, this story comes to vibrant life through colorful, action-filled illustrations.

11. The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope by Daryn Reicherter and Christy Hale

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

Winner of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Silver Medal for Non-Fiction, The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope tells the true story of Sophany Bay, a dancer and teacher, who flees the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields of 1970s Cambodia. In America, she establishes a dance school and becomes a counselor to other Cambodian refugees. Teaching traditional Cambodian dance represents her gift of hope to those forced by dire circumstances to grow up far away from their beloved homeland and culture.

Cambodia for kids

12. A Path of Stars by Anna Sibley O’Brien

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

A Path of Stars begins with Lok Yeay, Dara’s grandmother, telling her nostalgic stories about her life growing up in Cambodia. She tells of stars that glowed like fireflies, the plants and animals, and the brother she left behind. Lok Yeay dreams of returning to her homeland, but a phone call brings news that might prevent her from this. Dara remains determined to help her grandmother find happiness again.

13. Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer & Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom by Shiho S. Nunes

Ages 7 and up, grade 2nd through 5th

Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer & Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom includes nineteen tales drawn from ancient Chinese texts. The stories include plenty of adventure, witty lessons, and whimsical humor. Their simple yet profound teachings will stay with you and your kids for many years. Winner of the 2014 Aesop’s Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, these Chinese fables cover a wide range of themes that explore human nature.

14. Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris and Taeeun Yoo

Ages 8 and up, 3rd through 6th grade

Tua and the Elephant seeks to raise awareness about the plight of Asian elephants living in a refuge park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Tua is a courageous heroine motivated to save a young elephant from cruel handlers. To help the elephant, she visits the night markets of Chiang Mai, hides in a Buddhist temple, and makes a mad dash with the little pachyderm to the elephant sanctuary.

children's books about Thailand

Books About North America for Kids

15. Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza and Alyssa Bermudez

Ages 3 and up, preschool through 2nd grade

Lucía the Luchadora tells the big tale of a little Mexican girl named Lucía. Lucía longs to be a superhero and dances around the playground in her cape only to be told that “Girls can’t be superheroes.” Discouraged, she speaks with her abuela, who reveals the women in Lucía’s family have long participated in Mexican wrestling or the lucha libre tradition! With this knowledge, Lucía makes up her mind to stay courageous and fight injustice like her grandmother and great-grandmother before her.

Mexico for kids

16. Pine and the Winter Sparrow by Alexis York Lombard

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

Why do pine trees stay green all year? Why do they never lose their leaves? According to the ancient Cherokee legend recorded in Pine and the Winter Sparrow, it all started with a simple act of kindness. This spellbinding folktale draws readers into a world where trees and birds speak freely to each other. A lone pine tree provides winter shelter for a wounded sparrow. In return, the tree is blessed by the great Creator with evergreen branches. The lesson? No act of kindness goes unrewarded.

17. The Umbrella by Jan Brett

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

With its exotic Costa Rica setting, whimsical story of rainforest animals, and detailed illustrations, your kids will fall in love with The Umbrella. The tale begins when Carlos climbs into a massive cloud forest fig tree to catch a better glimpse of the rainforest’s many animals. While climbing, he accidentally drops his banana leaf umbrella to the ground. One by one, rainforest animals clamor to the umbrella piling on. Inspired by a visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest, this lighthearted tale provides a literary kid’s guide to Costa Rica.

18. Off We Go to Mexico by Laurie Krebs and Christopher Corr

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

From watching Monarch butterflies and grey whales to swimming in turquoise seas, Off We Go to Mexico brings this stunning family adventure destination to life for kids. It introduces children to useful Spanish words and phrases. It teaches them about local geography and wildlife, and it instills a deep appreciation in Mexican culture for kids. From colorful art to rhyming prose, your kids will adore this festive look at Mexico’s landscapes and culture.

children's books about Mexico

19. The Forest in the Clouds by Sneed B. Collard III and Michael Rothman

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

The Forest in the Clouds will bring the rainforests of Costa Rica to life for your children. They’ll discover the breathtaking beauty and splendor of this fragile ecosystem shrouded in mist. Receiving up to 10 feet of rain each year, the forest supports hundreds of different types of birds and species of butterflies. What’s more, your kids will learn about the many plants that make this magical spot their home, including gardens of epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants.

20. The Dead Family Díaz by P.J. Bracegirdle and Poly Bernatene

Ages 6 and up, 1st through 4th grade

The Dead Family Díaz takes place in Mexico and tells the story of Angelito, a little skeleton boy, who is terrified to visit the land of the living. He doesn’t want to see squishy human beings with their bulging eyes. When he realizes that his new friend happens to be a living, breathing little boy, Angelito flees in terror. But he soon realizes that despite their physical differences, the two little boys share much in common.

21. The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini and Rachel Crandell

Ages 6 and up, 1st through 5th grade

The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure tells the story of the 54,000-acre Children’s Eternal Rainforest in Costa Rica. What started as an idea created by a handful of kids to hold a bake sale and raise money to protect the rainforest turned into an effort across more than 44 countries to raise enough funds to preserve the rainforest. Designated in 1987, it remains the largest private reserve in Costa Rica.

rainforest for kids

Books About South America for Kids

22. The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell and Connie McLennan

Ages 3 and up, preschool through 2nd grade

The Rainforest Grew All Around explores the circle of life in the rainforest, taking readers on a journey from the forest floor upwards to the canopy. The jungle comes to life for readers as they encounter creatures such as jaguars, leafcutter ants, emerald tree boas, and more. Kids will also learn about liana vines, bromeliads, kapok trees, and much more in this “I Spy” style introduction to the rainforest.

Amazon rainforest for kids

23. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

In The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest, Lynne Cherry presents a remarkable and moving story about a man who exhausts himself trying to cut down a huge kapok tree. Fatigued by his labors, he lays down for a nap. During his slumber, the inhabitants of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest come one by one to whisper in his ear. These include a boy from the Yanomami tribe who reminds the man that all life depends on the trees of the forest. These whisperings have a profound effect on the man.

24. Jabutí the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale by Gerald McDermott

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

Jabutí the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale takes us into the rainforests of Brazil, where Jabutí enjoys his status as the jungle favorite. Not only does he boast a smooth, shiny shell, but he plays beautiful songs on his flute. There’s more to Jabutí than meets the eye, though. Come along for the ride as McDermott brings to life the invincible trickster tortoise from the tribal lore of the Tupi-Guarani and other peoples indigenous to the Amazon.

25. The Sock Thief: A Soccer Story by Ana Crespo and Nana Gonzalez

Ages 4 and up, preschool through 3rd grade

The Sock Thief: A Soccer Story tells the whimsical story of a Brazilian boy named Felipe who wants to play soccer but doesn’t have a ball. When it’s his turn to bring a soccer ball to school, he develops an ingenious plan. Becoming the sock thief, Felipe raids his neighborhood in a quest to gather enough socks for a soccer ball. The 2016 recipient of the International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Children’s Book, you and your kids will treasure this charming read as well as learn a little Portuguese along the way.

Brazil for kids

26. Up and Down the Andes: A Peruvian Festival Tale by Laurie Krebs and Aurelia Fronty

Ages 5 and up, kindergarten through 3rd grade

Up and Down the Andes: A Peruvian Festival Tale couples lively rhymes with vibrant artwork. Little readers get a tour “up and down the Andes” from Lake Titicaca to the city of Cusco while following Peruvian children to the marvelous Inti Raymi Festival. The storybook includes helpful notes about the Inti Raymi and other festivals as well as facts about the Andes Mountains. Your children will be mesmerized by this joyous celebration of Andean culture.

27. Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon by Cathleen Burnham

Ages 7 and up, 2nd through 6th grade

Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon introduces us to 10-year-old Doyli, who lives on an island in the Amazon rainforest. Along with her family, Doyli works to save baby monkeys and release them into the wild. We learn about her daily tasks helping to care for her little patients. From sweeping to carrying water in a bucket, Doyli works hard to protect the monkeys in her family’s care. Her story shows that you’re never too young or too little to make a big difference in the world.

28. Capoeira: Game! Dance! Martial Art! by George Ancona

Ages 7 and up, 2nd through 7th grade

Capoeira: Game! Dance! Martial Art! explores the energetic practice of capoeira and its rich roots in Brazil. The book begins at the Madinga Academy of Oakland, where a group of girls and boys are learning the martial art’s acrobatic moves. From Oakland, the story heads to Brazil. In Brazil, we learn about capoeira’s 400-year-old history as a way for enslaved Africans and their descendants to express and defend themselves as well as preserve their culture.

children's storybooks about Brazil

29. If You Were Me and Lived in… Peru: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World by Carole P. Roman

Ages 9 and up, 4th through 8th grade

Looking for an exciting introduction to Peruvian geography, culture, and language? If You Were Me and Lived in… Peru focuses on kid-friendly topics such as school, games, family, and food, introducing kids to a whole new Peruvian vocabulary. They’ll learn what it’s like to shop at a textile market, celebrate Carnival by throwing water balloons, and learn about the history of Peru.

30. Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin

Ages 11 and up, 6th through 10th grade

Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Picchu describes the 1911 quest of a real-life Indiana Jones, Hiram Bingham. In search of the lost Incan city of Vilcapampa, Bingham makes an adventurous trek across massive mountains and through jungles filled with snakes and other wildlife. Everything changes for Bingham when he meets a seven-year-old boy whose family lives and farms Machu Picchu. The little boy leads Bingham to the site. Although not Vilcapampa, what the little boy reveals to Bingham will go on to be named one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu.

Peru for kids

Read Around the World Adventure

Where will you and your kids start your read around the world adventure? From Africa to Asia, North America to South America, reading popular children’s books from all over the globe will introduce your little ones to different parts of the world and new cultures.

At Our Whole Village, we craft transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we curate for curious families just like yours.

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