Stories Ring the World: Beginning an Exploration of Our Diverse World

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Stories Ring the World:

Exploring Our Diverse World with New and Notable International Books

Carolyn Angus & Nancy Brashear

22nd World Congress on Reading

San José, Costa Rica July 30, 2008

For our exploration of “stories that ring the world,” we have developed text sets (groups of books that are conceptually related by theme or topic, by genre, or in another way), focusing on the United States Board on Books’ Outstanding International Books (OIB) but also including other recently published international books. For the books in the text sets, we have suggest teaching ideas that engage elementary and middle school students in reading, conversation, research, and writing. The resources listed on page 15 will be useful in expanding these text sets with other international books.

The annual USBBY Outstanding International Books lists highlight excellence in books for children originally published outside of the United States and subsequently published in the U.S. The first three honor lists (representing books published in the U.S. in 2005, 2006, and 2007) were selected as being representative of the best of children’s literature from other countries—books that introduce American readers to outstanding artists and writers from other countries, help them see the world from other points of view, and provide a perspective on or address topics otherwise missing from literature in the United States. Under these criteria some of the books exhibit a distinct cultural flavor, but others have no cultural specificity. Additionally, these books are evaluated in terms of the criteria used to identify excellence in literature regardless of country of origin: artistic and literary merit, originality or creativity of approach, distinctiveness of topic, and appeal to children.

Some strategies to emphasize the international nature of a book:

—Mention where the book was originally published; locate the country on maps.

—Provide some information about the author and the illustrator, including their native countries (and where they live now if different from their birthplaces).

—Talk about the language in which the book was first published. Write out the title of the book in the original language, if different from the language you speak. Learn a few words or phrases that relate to the book. (If your native language is English and you are reading a book that was first published in another English-speaking country, identify terms, idioms, or other language-related items that are different from what you customarily use.)

—Locate the country in which the book is set on maps.

—After reading the book, discuss any distinctive cultural characteristics.

Stories Ring the World: Beginning an Exploration of Our Diverse World

Under the Spell of the Moon serves well as a book with which to begin an exploration of our diverse world.

Aldana, Patricia (Ed.). Under the Spell of the Moon: Art for Children from the World’s Great Illustrators. Trans. by Stan Dragland. Groundwood, 2004. (Canada) K-Gr 2.

—For this collection, 32 international renowned contributors were asked to illustrate texts of their choosing. An artist’s selection is presented in both his/her own language and in an English translation.

And the Winner Is...

Major international book awards are important selection resources. Here we are featuring recent winners and nominees of some of these prestigious awards who also have books on the USBBY Outstanding International Books lists.

Hans Christian Andersen Awards (International Board on Books for Young People)

The Hans Christian Andersen Awards are presented every two years by IBBY to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important and lasting contribution to children’s literature. Each IBBY National Section may nominate an author and an illustrator. A list of all winners is available on the IBBY website ( The 2008 nominees are profiled in a special issue of IBBY’s journal: Coghlan, V. & Parkinson, S. (Eds.). (2008). The Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2008. [Special issue]. Bookbird, 46(2).

— You can develop a text set focusing on Hans Christian Andersen Award winners or one based on books by nominees for a particular year (for example, the most recent award year, 2008). Here we include some books by authors and illustrators who have had books on the Outstanding International Books lists to get you started on developing a text set using either strategy.

­ Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration

Roberto Innocenti (Italy) won the 2008 Hans Christian Award for Illustration. The other finalists were Isol Misenta (Argentina), Svjetlan Junakóvic (Croatia), Adolf Born (Czech Republic), and David Wiesner (US).

Robert Ingpen (Australia) received the 1986 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration. Ingpen illustrated Ziba Came on a Boat, which is a 2008 Outstanding International Book.

Lofthouse, Liz. Ziba Came on a Boat. Illus. by Robert Ingpen. Kane/Miller, 2007. (Australia) Gr 3-5. 2008 OIB

—While making a difficult journey across a seemingly endless sea on a small boat crowded with other refugees, young Ziba remembers the life she has left behind and dreams of a new land in which she will be welcomed and can live without fear.

—The country Ziba has left is never specifically named in the text. Although some readers may be able to identify the region from clues in the text and illustrations, the country is identified as Afghanistan in the dedication and the author information on the book jacket. After reading the story, share this information with students. Then reread the story and have them watch for clues in the text and illustrations to identifying Ziba’s home country.

—Robert Ingpen’s exquisite paintings are the perfect complement to the lyrical text. Each doublespread illustration is a masterpiece. Note particularly how the use of color and texture reinforces the mood and tone of the story.

—Locate Afghanistan on a map of Southern Asia and a World map. What route would Ziba and her mother have taken to Australia?

Shaun Tan was Australia’s nominee for the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration. Tan’s The Arrival is a 2008 USBBY Outstanding International Book. The Arrival was also the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2007 Picture Book of the Year.

Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Illus. by author. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks., 2007. (Australia) Gr 6-8. 2008 OIB

—This wordless graphic novel captures the immigrant experience, particularly the isolation of a new arrival to a strange land where he knows no one and cannot speak or read the language. Tan blends historical and fantastical elements to give readers the feeling of being in a world where they cannot comprehend what is happening around them.

The Arrival would be an interesting introduction to a unit on immigration.

—The stunning sepia artwork and intriguing book design of The Arrival invite repeated readings.

Anthony Browne won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 2000. He wrote and illustrated Silly Billy, which was a 2007 Outstanding International Book, and My Mom, which was a 2006 Outstanding International Book.

Browne, Anthony. Silly Billy. Illus. by author. Candlewick, 2006. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2007 OIB

—Worrying about everything keeps Billy awake until Grandma gives him some Guatemalan worry dolls to tell his worries to. Billy sleeps well until he begins to worry about overburdening the tiny dolls with worries. His solution: create worry dolls for the worry dolls.

Silly Billy includes a note on customs associated with worry dolls. Learn more about worry dolls. If possible, show students some worry dolls crafted by Guatemalan artisans.

—Students can make or draw worry dolls and, just as Billy did, give them names.

—Guatemalan children place worry dolls under their pillows when they go to sleep. According to legend, when they wake up in the morning their worries will be gone. Ask students if they have a doll, a toy animal, or some other object that offers them comfort. Have them write a brief description of it and tell about an incident in which it helped them forget a worry, or have them make up stories about having a “worry” and sharing it with a worry doll.

Browne, Anthony. My Mom. Illus. by author. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2006 OIB

—A young narrator offers an affectionate, gently humorous, and definitely childlike tribute to his mother. The brief text, which incorporates similes and patterned language, is paired with Browne’s signature stylistic touches.

—Browne has two other picture book tributes to family members: My Dad (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001) and My Brother (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).

—After reading all three books, students will recognize the similarities in artistic style and book design used by Browne.

—This book was originally published in Anthony Browne’s native country, England, under the title My Mum. Students can do some research to identify what common terms children in various countries use to refer to parents and siblings other than by their proper names.

—Following the pattern of these books, students can write and illustrate stories about one of their family members.

—Extend your author/illustrator study of Anthony Browne by reading other of his many picture books.

Quentin Blake won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 2002. Blake illustrated Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, which was a 2006 Outstanding International Book.

Rosen, Michael. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. Illus. by Quentin Blake. Candlewick, 2005. (UK) Gr 3-5. 2006 OIB

—Prompted by the death of his teenage son, Rosen writes a heartfelt and deceptively simple book about handling his feelings of love, anger, and grief and moving on with life.

—Notice how Blake’s signature watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture the emotional tone of the story.

Blake, Quentin. Tell Me a Picture. Illus. by author. Millbrook Press, 2003. (UK) Gr 3-5.

—When Quentin Blake was appointed the first Children’s Laureate in the United Kingdom, he conceived the idea of an exhibition at the National Gallery in London that would combine great picture book illustration with great paintings. Tell Me a Picture is an A to Z celebration not only of paintings in the exhibit but of Quentin Blake’s own artwork.

—The painting for I is an illustration by the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen winner, Roberto Innocenti, from Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988) and the painting for Z is an illustration by the 1990 Hans Christian Andersen winner, Lisbeth Zwerger, from Wilhelm Hauff’s Dwarf Nose (North South, 1994).

Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing

Jürg Schubiger (Switzerland) won the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. The other finalists were David Almond (UK), Bartolomeu Campos de Queirós (Brazil), Brian Doyle (Canada), and Guus Kuijer (The Netherlands).

David Almond’s Clay (Delacorte, 2006) was on the 2007 Outstanding International Books list in the Gr 9-12 category. His short novel My Dad’s a Birdman is suitable for younger readers.

Almond, David. My Dad’s a Birdman. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick, 2008. (UK) Gr 3-5.

—Young Lizzie’s dad is a “birdman.” Dad believes he is a bird. He’s made himself a pair of wings, is eating like a bird, and has even entered the Great Human Bird Competition—and Lizzie is going to don wings and compete with him.

—Master storyteller Almond has created an original tale that is difficult to describe. My Dad’s a Birdman is sad and dark yet playful and joyful. It is a short, memorable story that celebrates the power of love, faith, and the imagination.

Guus Kuijer’s The Book of Everything was on the 2007 Outstanding International Books list.

Kuijer, Guus. The Book of Everything. Trans. from the Dutch by John Nieuwenhuizen. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks., 2006. (The Netherlands). Gr 6-8. 2007 OIB

—In this deceptively simple, powerful novel set in Amsterdam in 1951, 9-year-old Thomas’s deeply religious father is also demanding, manipulative, and abusive. With the help of a loving neighbor and Thomas’s chats with Jesus, Thomas and his mother and sister begin to take charge of their situation.

Margaret Mahy (New Zealand) received the 2006 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Mahy has written many picture books and novels for children and young adults. Down the Back of the Chair, a picture book, was a 2007 Outstanding International Book.

Mahy, Margaret. Down the Back of the Chair. Illus. by Polly Dunbar. Clarion, 2006. (UK) K-Gr 2. 2007 OIB

—In rhyming text, Mahy tells the story of a poor father who has lost his keys and can’t get to work. Two-year-old Mary advises Dad to “do what I would do” and look “down the back of the chair.” Jewelry, animals, and even one of the twins turns up in the chair, and their fortune is made when they discover the “long lost will of Uncle Bill.”

—Dunbar’s humorous illustrations and the rollicking rhythm of the text make this a great read-aloud choice. Young children will soon join in with the repeated “down the back of the chair” phrase.

Kate Thompson was Ireland’s 2008 nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Thompson’s The New Policeman is a 2008 Outstanding International Book.

Thompson, Kate. The New Policeman. HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2007. (UK) Gr 6-8. 2008 OIB

— Fifteen-year-old J. J. Liddy and all of Ireland are suffering from a lack of time. When J. J.’s mother requests the gift of more time for her birthday, J. J. starts on a quest that will lead to music, love, family, and ultimately the time for which he is searching.

—Each chapter of this fantasy ends with a traditional Irish tune. Invite a violinist to play some of these tunes, or play a recording of some traditional Irish folk music. You can listen to some Irish traditional music recorded by Kate Thompson with two friends on her website (

—J. J. learns that time is leaking from his world into the fairy world of Tí na n’Óg (“Land of Youth”), a place where time has no dominion. The story of Oisín in the Land of Youth is one of the most famous of all Irish tales. Retellings of the story can be found in many anthologies of Irish folklore.

Recommended titles:

Heaney, Marie. The Names upon the Harp. Illus. by P. J. Lynch. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks., 2000. Includes “Oisin in the Land of Youth” (pp. 80-91).

Levy, Una. Irish Fairy Tales & Legends. Illus. by Susan Field. Roberts Rinehart, 1996. Includes “Tír na n-Óg” (pp. 77-85).

McBratney, Sam. Celtic Myths. Illus. by Stephen Player. Peter Bedrick, 1998. Includes “The Land of Youth” (pp. 39-44).

The New Policeman, read by Marcella Rhiordan, is available as an unabridged audio CD (Recorded Books, 2007). The audiobook includes the traditional Irish tune at the end of each chapter.

— Thompson continues the story in The Last of the High Kings (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2008).

Mildred L. Batchelder Award (Association for Library Services to Children, American Library Association)

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award is presented annually to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States.

VIZ Media won the 2008 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for Miyuki Miyabe’s Brave Story, translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith. 2008 Batchelder Honors were awarded to Milkweed Editions for Jutta Richter’s The Cat: Or, How I Lost Eternity (originally published in German) and to Phaidon Press for René Goscinny’s Nicholas and the Gang (originally published in French).

Scholastic/The Chicken House won the 2003 Batchelder Award for Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, translated from the German by Oliver Latsch. Funke’s Igraine the Brave is a 2008 Outstanding International Book.

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