By Holly Johnson
This week, I continue sharing international books that readers will enjoy by highlighting several picturebooks. Revisiting USBBY’s 2017 “Outstanding International Books,” I want to point out several works that span experiences and interests that will be sure to touch all readers regardless of age or grade. While I discuss these books in grade level order as noted on the OIB List, I know these books are not only appropriate for all readers, but will delight them as well.
Starting from the PreK-2 list, the list includes books from Australia, the U.K., India, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, and France. One book, thoughtfully humorous, is The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro. Two young people with differing interests and talents become friends and use their interests to expand the point of view of the other. With humorous illustrations, and a winning list of the pros and cons of being a frog, readers will be encouraged to laugh, but also think about their own pros and cons of their ways of engaging the world.
Several books on the list for 2017 address expansion and recognizing that new people and new experiences help all of us to learn about the world. Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha (translated from Portuguese by Lyn-Miller-Lachmann) chronicles a young reader’s development recognizing the letters and words within his environment. Madalena Matoso’s bright and expressive illustrations invite the very young to explore the lines and squiggles in their own lives. Through such discovery they will find the words all around them.
A final book I want to point out from the PreK-2 list is especially for those of us who find the world moves a bit too fast. Hurry Up, Henry by Canadian Jennifer Lanthier is a wonderful book about young Henry who doesn’t like being late, but he doesn’t like to hurry either. There are wonderful things to see and experience when we slow down and take our time! This is a must read for everyone, and wouldn’t it be lovely if we talked about our fast-paced world and how slowing down might be good for all of us?
Moving from the PreK-2 List to the Grades 3-5 List, are three books that are sure to engage. The first, Who Built That? Bridges: An Introduction to Ten Great Bridges and Their Designers by Didier Cornille, is from France, and a truly delightful and inspiring book. Illustrations of the bridges are meticulous and the information shared about each bridge informs a particular theme and unique perspective. Part of a series that includes two other books: modern houses and skyscrapers, readers will want to collect all three while anxiously waiting for the next architectural study!
Bob the Railway Dog: The True Story of an Adventurous Dog by Corrine Fenton hails from Australia and takes readers along the rail lines in Australia when they first began. Bob, a friendly dog that “adopts” one of the rail workers expands his territory as he befriends other workers along the lines. Fenton’s fun and informative book will encourage readers to expand their interest in Australia, railways, and the amazing relationships between dogs and people. I think they will also be interested in reading about Greyfriar’s Bobby from Scotland and Hachi from Japan once they get their fill of Bob.
Finally this week, I want to introduce you to A Year in Our New Garden by Gerda Muller. From Germany, the author was born in The Netherlands and has spent most of her life in France so readers get a European sense of a home within the city. The books showcases the interests of the family — from insects to flowers, and birds to vegetables — in ways that can inspire readers to create their own garden. Both beautiful and informative, this is an engrossing picturebook wonderfully illustrated by Muller herself.
These picturebooks are only a taste of the works on the OIB List for 2017. While assigned to grade levels, no one should be completely directed by those levels. These books have something to offer any reader who is curious about the world, about people and about new ways of thinking about the world. And because these books are from all over the world, they open the door to authors and illustrators we may not have had an opportunity to know before.
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