Favorite USBBY Outstanding International Books for All Grade Levels

By Holly Johnson

This final week of March, I will highlight a final few books to check out from USBBY’s OIB List. I shared all of the books on this list at the Tucson Festival of Books during the weekend of March 11-12 and really enjoyed talking with others who love books! I also reminded them of what I mentioned a few weeks ago about grade levels: Don’t let the grade levels noted on the OIB List deter you from checking out all of these books! There is something for everyone, and so many would work with young people across grade levels.

2017 OIB list, books for all grade levels

Jean Leroy’s A Well-Mannered Young Wolf hailing from France gives us a delightfully funny story about how a wolf’s good manners might get in the way of the nefarious objective of wolves often found in fairy tales. Pair this book with others about wolves, as well as actual stories about wolves, to allow young people to determine for themselves the behavior of wolves — and people. Maybe they are more well-mannered than we think! This picturebook in the PreK-2 list has great illustrations that complement the written text. A great, all-around fun book!

The list for 2017 had more books in the Grades 3-5 band than in any other grade level, and for good reason! Some of them were picturebooks, like Somos como las nubes/We are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta (discussed in a WOW Currents post by Susan Corapi) and Greenling by Levi Pinfold. These two books are a bit more contemplative and address more serious subjects than the books found in the younger grade band books. They are indeed thoughtful, and would serve as great conversation starters with elementary students. Take a look at the way immigration is address in Argueta’s book and conservation in Pinfold’s. And the illustrations are far from disappointing.

Other books in the Grades 3-5 list include Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami and Life According to Dani by Rose Lagercrantz. Book Uncle, a chapter book that takes place in India, is a wonderful example of how young people can make change in their communities. Such a wonderful story of agency! Life according to Dani can be read alone or as part of a set of books by Lagercrantz that chronicles a young girl’s life in Sweden. It is a lovely chapter book that will delight young readers and would make a great read aloud. There are several others on the Grades 3-5 list that you should check out. It is a wonderful list this year!

Moving from the Grades 3-5 list, I want to point out just a couple more from the Grades 6-8 list. Several books on this year’s list have strong female protagonists, and two are in this grade band. Longbow Girl by Linda Davies and The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff both come from the United Kingdom and bring us historical fiction with a twist. Both have elements of fantasy; who can resist a story about river witches or archery contests in a time slip? In addition, who can resist strong family bonds and great acts of heroism? These two books have both!

Finally, I want to really encourage you to take a look at the entire list for 2017 as well as all the lists from previous years. USBBY has been honoring international books for the last 12 years, and each list has remarkable selections from across the world and chosen with U.S. readers in mind. Check out USBBY’s website and ask your librarians for these books. They are such great examples of literature from around the world! And look for other books from around the globe — they have so much to teach us about the world!

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