Reading about life far away from one’s own life can help teach tolerance, understanding and compassion for others that might seem different. Here are books as diverse as Cuba, China and Turkey that are enlightening for all ages.

N if you lived hereIf  You Lived Here, Houses of the World, by Giles Laroche, is a perfect way to introduce unique lifestyles, interests and symbolisms from throughout the world. Each open spread features a different house with one side completely filling the page. The opposite side features a quick summary of what life would be like living in that house. Also listed on every house is the house type, materials used, where this house is located, the date of when people lived there and an interesting fact related to the house. These masterly made pictures are intricately created by cutting, painting and gluing them into collages. Mr. Laroche is one of the best in the business!

N housethatbababuilt1The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China, by Ed Young, is about the illustrator’s life growing up in Shanghai. Back in the early 1930’s, Ed Young’s father needed a safe place for his family to live while his country was at war. He made a deal with a rich owner of land to build him a large estate if he and his family could live there for 20 years. The agreement was made and this amazingly creatively illustrated book recreates his enjoyable life growing up during a difficult time in world history. As the author states, I knew nothing could happen to us within those walls, in the house Baba built.

Tales From India: Stories of Creation and the Cosmos, by Jamila Gavin, and beautifully painted by Amanda Hale, is a thicker picture book as there are 10 stories in its contents. These stories retell some of Hindu’s most interesting and exciting mythology tales. As with mythological tales from other parts of the world, these stories involve good vs. evil and mythical beasts intervening along the way. Here is a window into India and stories told over hundreds of years.

N Good byeGood-bye, Havana! Hola, New York!, by Edie Colon, and illustrated by Raul Colon, is a wonderful teaching tool for families immigrating or moving to a different part of the world or country. The author, who is married to award-winner Raul, reinvents her young life moving from Cuba as 6-year-old Gabriella. The experiences, feelings and adjustments she makes along with her close-knit family in the United States is powerful, yet simply written. The elegant earth-tones illustrated throughout give off a feeling of a 1960’s era. Be sure to check out the Spanish translations and the author’s note found in the back of the book.

Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby, by Patricia MacLachlan, is breathtakingly painted by Elizabeth Zunon where she uses watercolor that completely covers the entire open spread. Here is a picture book that will enlighten as you read and see how different life is in this African country by the sea. Mama washes baby’s feet with water warmed by fire, carries baby on her back while working in the fields and looks across this African coast at the native moneys and zebras.

N orphanThe Orphan: A Cinderella Story From Greece, by Anthony L. Manna & Soula Mitakidou, and painted by Giselle Potter, is the Cinderella story with a bit of an interesting twist. A forlorn Cinderella visits her mother’s grave where she hears advice of not getting discouraged because her life will change. When Cinderella returns home she finds that Mother Nature and her children help change her situation in her mean stepmother’s house. This story is great fun to read out loud.

Handa’s Hen, by Eileen Brown, is from a favorite author of mine with her African “Handa” stories. This story, richly painted with colors that seem to jump off the page, has young Handa, who belongs to the African Luo tribe, feeding breakfast to her grandma’s black hen. Except the hen has suddenly gone missing. As she and her friend, Akeyo, set off to try to locate the hen, they encounter interesting native tiny creatures to count until they finally spy the hen – and a surprise.

N peoplePeople Around the World (Lift the Flap), by Pat Jacobs, is a board book that takes a youngster on a visit to a Middle Eastern market or a visit to a farm in Mid-America. By lifting flaps you learn more about the subject making learning fun. Each location is a full spread and painted completely. This is published by Kingfisher.

Good night, laila tov, by Laurel Snyder, and vibrantly painted by Jui Ishida, has a family on a nature outing where the brother and sister discover the beauty of the woods, seashore and fields. All the while their parents plant trees as a humble offering thanking for all they’ve received. This is a Jewish tradition and when the children go to bed their parents say good night, laila tov”.