March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Here, There, and Everywhere: 40 International Books for Young People

The United States Board on Books for Young People cites 40 international books for its 2011 honor list

slj1102_FTIbby_openerweb(Original Import)

In I Know Here, a young girl contemplates moving from northeastern Saskatchewan to Ontario: from rural to city life; from the known to the unknown. With her anticipated move, she joins a variety of characters from this year’s USBBY Outstanding International Books list who travel here, there, and everywhere. Their journeys take them from an airport (Oops!) to boarding schools (Fatty Legs and Wishing for Tomorrow) to a Jewish ghetto (Once) to Vietnam (Noodle Pie) to Pakistan (Thunder over Kandahar) to Ethiopia (Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk) to Israel (Cry of the Giraffe) to Australia (Stolen) to the Moon (The Boy Who Climbed into The Moon) and even to a planet with two moons (Monsters of Men). As readers accompany them on these journeys, they too leave the here they know and venture into unknown territory. Literary journeys expand readers’ intellectual and emotional worlds, helping them gain understanding of global situations and insight into the human condition. The “here” they know becomes broader through outstanding international literature.

When choosing books for the 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books honor list, the committee was charged with selecting books of high literary and artistic merit. We were also to look for books that introduce American readers to outstanding artists and writers from other countries, help American children see the world from other points of view, provide a perspective or address a topic otherwise missing from children’s literature in the U.S., exhibit a distinct cultural flavor, and are accessible to American readers. We considered both content and presentation, which, along with literary and artistic quality, included originality or creativity of approach, distinctiveness of topic, uniqueness of origin, and qualities that engage and appeal to children.

The current list is the result of the committee scrutinizing nearly 300 books submitted by these publishers and culling what we considered to be the 40 most outstanding international books for children and teens. Past USBBY Outstanding International Books honor lists can be found at

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Kindergarten-Grade 2

ARGUETA, Jorge. Arroz con leche: Un poema para cocinar/Rice Pudding: A Cooking Poem. illus. by Fernando Vilela. Groundwood. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-0-88899-981-8. Canada.
In this tale told rhythmically in both Spanish and English, a young boy gathers and mixes the ingredients for rice pudding. Strong black outlines complement warm colors and playful drawings add to the story’s effective simplicity.

CROZA, Laurel. I Know Here. illus. by Matt James. Groundwood. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-0-88899-923-8. Canada.
A young girl who lives in a tiny Saskatchewan community tenderly reviews her world as her family prepares to move to the big city of Toronto. Bold acrylic and India ink illustrations celebrate “here.”

DUBUC, Marianne. In Front of My House. tr. from French by Yvette Ghione. illus. by author. Kids Can. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55453-641-2. Canada.
A child’s imaginative journey beginning in familiar surroundings magically expands to the world–real and imagined–beyond. An uncluttered format, used to focus on colorful illustrations and limited text, is likely to promote critical thinking while encouraging further flights of fancy.

GRAHAM, Bob. April and Esme, Tooth Fairies. illus by author. Candlewick. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4683-7. Australia.
April and Esme, tiny modern-day tooth-fairy sisters, bravely set out on their first assignment—a dangerous night flight to collect a child’s tooth. Enchanting illustrations contrast life inside the family’s miniature thatched cottage and the larger world.

PRAP, Lila. Dinosaurs?! illus. by author. NorthSouth. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-7358-2284-9. Slovenia.
Barnyard chickens find it hard to believe that they are related to dinosaurs, but when the facts are presented to them, they embrace their heritage. In each bold, warmly colored spread, the chickens joke, ask good questions, and learn an astonishing amount of up-to-date science about dinosaurs.

The Tree House. illus. by Marije Tolman & Ronald Tolman. Boyds Mills/Lemniscaat. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-806-6. The Netherlands.
In this imaginative wordless picture book, a huge tree houses a polar, a brown bear, and other animals that arrive and read together one-by-one after a downpour. Simple blocks of colors highlight the animals. This is the perfect book to inspire creative storytelling.

Grades 3-5

ALMOND, David. The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon. illus. by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick. RTE $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4217-4. UK.
Supportive parents, eccentric neighbors, and a very tall ladder help young Paul test his theory that the moon is really a hole in the sky. He discovers unexpected personal courage and new friends in this whimsical and humane adventure.

FROMENTAL, Jean-Luc. Oops! tr. by Thomas Connors. illus. by Joëlle Jolivet. Abrams. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-8749-4. France.
A slippery bar of soap sets up a series of transportation disasters as a family tries to rush to the airport. An engaging graphic design and bold colors define the frenetic energy in this oversized delight set in Paris.

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GARDNER, Lyn. Out of the Woods. illus. by Mini Grey. Random House/David Fickling Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-385-75154-4; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-385-75156-8. UK.
The motherless Eden sisters fall prey to the evil Belladonna who needs the heart of the most beautiful maiden in the kingdom to survive. This stand-alone sequel to Into the Woods reworks familiar fairy tales and myths into a rich fantasy-adventure mix reminiscent of Joan Aiken and Charles Dickens.

GRAVETT, Emily. The Rabbit Problem. illus. by author. S & S. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-1255-2. UK.
In a multilayered look at rabbits and math, one lonely rabbit sends out an invitation in January and by the end of the year he is no longer lonely. The population has expanded, Fibonacci style. A calendar format and superb paper engineering showcase humorous illustrations and suggested activities.

HIRSCH, Odo. Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool. Kane/Miller. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-935279-65-5. Australia.
The now-impoverished Bell family must provide a Gift to the town in gratitude for the estate they were given long ago or forfeit their property. Evocative descriptions of place and characters and compelling moral issues regarding money, gifts, and status invite spirited discussion.

HOLE, Stian. Garmann’s Street. illus. by author. Eerdmans. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8028-5357-8. Norway.
Garmann is bullied into lighting a match and inadvertently starts a fire in the parched yard of his neighbor and friend-to-be, the scary, unkempt Stamp Man. The extraordinary collage illustrations showcase the boy’s fears and subsequent sense of security as the friendship develops.

JORDAN-FENTON, Christy & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Fatty Legs. illus. by Liz Amini-Holmes. Annick, dist. by Firefly. Tr $21.95. ISBN 978-1-55451-247-8; pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55451-246-1. Canada.
Ignoring warnings from friends and family about the cruelty of life at the convent school, Olemaun, renamed Margaret, is determined to leave her beloved home in the High Arctic so she can learn to read. This firsthand account is told through the remembered eyes of childhood.

LANGRISH, Katherine. The Shadow Hunt. HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-111676-6. UK.
After running away from the Abby where he has lived since the age of six, Wolf rescues what appears to be a small child, in reality an elf, being chased by Sir Hugo and his dogs. This carefully crafted fantasy is true to its medieval time period.

LIGHTFOOT, Gordon. Canadian Railroad Trilogy. illus. by Ian Wallace. Groundwood. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0-88899-953-5. Canada.
Magnificent chalk pastels bring to life the iconic Canadian song that chronicles the building of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. Wallace deftly imagines the people and places affected by this major event in Canadian history.

MCKAY, Hilary. Wishing for Tomorrow. illus. by Nick Maland. S & S/ Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0169-3. UK.
Having left her boarding school, Sara Crewe leaves behind her friends and tormentors. Shy Ermentrude narrates the transformations in the girls’ lives as they begin to resist the confines of others’ narrow, uncaring vision for them. The pen-and-ink sketches add a special touch to a delightful story.

MITTON, Tony. The Storyteller’s Secrets. illus. by Peter Bailey. Random House/David Fickling Bks. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-385-75190-2; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-75191-9. UK.
Captivating tales and legends, told by a traveling storyteller named “Teller,” enchant Tess and Toby. Teller’s well-crafted stories are rendered in verse within a story told in prose. Black silhouettes illustrate Teller’s encounters with the children while black line drawings illuminate the stories.

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Grades 6-8

CLAYTON, Sally Pomme. Rama and Sita: Paths of Flames. illus. by Sophie Herxheimer. Frances Lincoln. Tr 19.95. ISBN 978-1-84507-672-6. UK.
This accessible and well-documented retelling of the Ramayana maintains a mythic tone as it details Rama’s quest to free Sita. The colorful collage illustrations reflect the story’s cultural importance in India and Southeast Asia.

COATES, Jan L. A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk. Red Deer. pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-0-88995-451-9. Canada.
Based on the true story of Jacob Deng’s flight from southern Sudan, this vivid account of one Lost Boy who walked barefoot and faced obstacles for months is an exciting read. Jacob’s hope and strength come from stories and his mother’s belief in the future.

DE GOLDI, Kate. The 10 p.m. Question. Candlewick. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4939-5. New Zealand.
Frankie is always worrying. In particular, he wants to understand why his mother never leaves the house, but the topic is off-limits in his quirky family. Sydney, a smart and outspoken new girl, forces him to face the realities around him. This powerful and universally appealing story is both hilarious and heartfelt.

DIAKITÉ, Baba Wagué. A Gift from Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood. illus. by author. Groundwood. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-0-88899-931-3. Canada
An author/illustrator chronicles the education he received when he was sent to his grandparent’s Malian village before he started school in the city. Short stories, folklore, and parables drawn from his childhood add authenticity to the memoir. His original artwork also provides a strong sense of lived experiences.

GLEITZMAN, Morris. Once. Holt. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9026-0. Australia.
The son of Jewish booksellers in Poland, Felix leaves the safety of the Catholic orphanage where his parents left him to warn them of the danger from the Nazis. Felix’s naïveté and child’s-eye view of the atrocities he witnesses make this Holocaust story particularly affecting.

MACLEAN, Jill. The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. pap. $11.95. ISBN 978-1-55455-145-3. Canada.
Prinny Murphy does her best to come to terms with loneliness, an alcoholic mother, and school bullies in this sensitive story set in a Nova Scotia outpost. The description of how real books, especially Virginia Euwer Wolff’s Make Lemonade, revolutionize Prinny’s attitude toward reading and influence her life is moving and poignant.

TRUUS, Matti. Departure Time. tr. by Nancy Forest-Flier. Namelos. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-60898-087-1; pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-60898-009-3. The Netherlands.
Two stories, one of a girl who arrives at a hotel run by a fox and a rat, and another of a girl mourning her father’s death and dealing with guilt, are beautifully intertwined. This surreal yet appealing story works as a mystery, with numerous clues scattered along the way.

MCCAUGHREAN , Geraldine. The Death-Defying Pepper Roux. HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-183665-7; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-183666-4. UK.
Pepper Roux’s malevolent aunt predicts that he won’t live beyond his 14th birthday. After turning 14, Pepper seeks to evade death by donning delightfully implausible personas and embarking on outlandish escapades throughout 20th-century France. His encounters with unforgettable characters add to the story’s appeal.

MILLARD, Glenda. A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. Holiday House. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2264-7. Australia.
Escaping a war-torn city, Skip, a homeless boy, creates a makeshift family with four other refugees who survive under dire circumstances. Poetic and engaging, this is a story of sacrifices and hope within the haunting setting of an abandoned amusement park.

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MITCHELL, Adrian, retel. Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. illus. by Alan Lee. Frances Lincoln. Tr $22.95. ISBN 978-1-84507-536-1. UK.
Using poetry and prose, Mitchell retells 34 of Ovid’s versions of the Greek myths. Through his elevated tone and poetic yet highly readable language, the author conveys the majesty of these myths. The softly realistic illustrations add to the appeal of this excellent introduction to classical mythology.

NEWBERY, Linda. Flightsend. Random House/David Fickling Bks. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-385-75203-9; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-75205-3. UK.
After her mother suffers a miscarriage, 16-year-old Charlie moves to a rural English village that feels like the ends of the earth to the teen. The theme of coming to terms with the past and moving forward is explored with insight and sensitivity in this novel with a strong sense of place.

NORCLIFFE, James. The Boy Who Could Fly. Egmont USA. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-1-60684-084-9. New Zealand
In this moving, magical fantasy, an unhappy, abandoned boy meets Michael, one of a succession of loblolly boys. Although each child is eager to exchange a miserable life for the freedom of flight and invisibility, each comes to wonder if one prison has been exchanged for another.

REEVE, Philip. Fever Crumb. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-20719-5. UK.
London of 3000 AD comes vividly to life when Fever Crumb, an apprentice engineer, leaves her foster father to help an archaeologist with an important secret project. Fever uncovers many truths in this riveting book that stands alone or as a prequel to the “Mortal Engines” series.

REEVE, Philip. No Such Thing as Dragons. Scholastic. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-22224-2. UK.
Ansel, mute since his mother’s death, follows Brock, the skeptical dragon hunter, to a mountain village “beset by a dragon.” Brock captures the dragon, only to lose it, leaving Ansel to save a girl left as a sacrifice, the village, and the dragon.

STARKE, Ruth. Noodle Pie. Kane/Miller. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-935279-25-9. Australia.
Andy experiences culture shock during his first trip to Vietnam with his Vietnamese father. He also gains appreciation for his extended family, insight into his heritage, and understanding of his father’s deception about his personal and economic success after leaving Vietnam.

WALSH, Pat. The Crowfield Curse. Scholastic/Chicken House. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-22922-7. UK.
When 14-year-old William, a servant at Crowfield Abbey, rescues an injured hob, he becomes part of a horrible secret that the monks have hidden for hundreds of years. An exciting fantasy, the novel is based on legends of magic in the English woods.

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Grades 9-12

CHRISTOPHER, Lucy. Stolen. Scholastic/Chicken House. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-17093-2. UK.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian outback. Written as a retrospective letter to her kidnapper, this account of a lone captive in a strange environment describes the emotional and psychological relationship between the victim and her abductor.

DE VIGAN, Delphine. No and Me. tr. by George Miller. Bloomsbury. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-5990-479-5. France.
Precocious Lou, 13, decides to study a homeless teen for her school project. Her desire to help 18-year-old No, who lives on the streets of Paris, leads her to the eventual discovery that homelessness involves problems beyond her control.

MCKAY, Sharon E. Thunder over Kandahar. photos by Rafal Gerszak. Annick, dist. by Firefly. PLB $21.95. ISBN 978-1-55451-267-6; pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55451-266-9. Canada.
Two girls from dissimilar backgrounds form a steadfast, brave friendship in war-torn Afghanistan. British-born Yasmine finds adjustment to her new home easier with the help of Tammana. The gripping story reflects the strengths needed for day-to-day existence in present-day Afghanistan, especially for women.

MURRAY, Martine. How to Make a Bird. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-66951-1. Australia.
Mannie leaves her rural home for Melbourne where the pace of the city, a visit with her grandmother, and the truth about her mother help her realize her future is best at home. This is a thoughtfully crafted story of journeys both physical and metaphorical.

NESS, Patrick. Monsters of Men. (Chaos Walking Series). Candlewick. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4751-3. UK.
As a three-way war threatens to devastate their recently settled planet, Todd and Viola struggle against the leadership within the factions as they try to assert the importance of peaceful resolution. The action in this brilliantly conceived novel is gripping, but the relationships form the core of the story. This volume concludes the trilogy.

ORON, Judie. Cry of the Giraffe. Annick, dist. by Firefly. Tr $21.95. ISBN 978-1-55451-272-0; pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-1-55451-271-3. Canada.
Wuditu and her family are Ethiopian Jews whose deepest desire is to escape persecution in their village by fleeing to Israel and religious freedom. Wuditu’s harrowing journey and struggles provide an inspirational look at the lives of the Beta Israel.

WARD, Rachel. Numbers. Scholastic/Chicken House. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-14299-1. UK.
In this fast-paced thriller, Jem’s psychic ability enables her to see people’s date of death by looking into their eyes. Due to this unwelcomed gift, she leads an isolated, troubled life and avoids developing interpersonal relationships…until she falls in love with a boy named Spider.

Members of the 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books Committee:
Elizabeth Poe (chair), Morgantown, WV; Seemi Aziz, Stillwater, OK; Therese Bigelow, Chesapeake, VA; Kathy East, Perrysburg, OH; Annette Goldsmith, Los Angeles, CA ; Judith Lechner, Auburn, AL;Maria Salvadore, Washington, DC; Barbara Samuels, Houston, TX; Mary Wong, Peoria, AZ.