The best books to open your child's eyes to cultures from around the world

Who am I?

I moved to New York City for school when I was 18 years old and found myself surrounded by people from all over the world. Every fourth person in New York City is an expat. It was fascinating to me and since then I have lived in three countries and done months-long artist residences in Morocco and Ireland. I also read books and stories about cultures from around the world and am particularly enchanted by Africa. Currently, I live on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the city of Mazatlán and have written two children’s books about Mexico. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Andy and the Mask of the Dead

What is my book about?

Andy and the Mask of the Dead is an enchanting story of a mischievous young boy who finds himself invited into another world. A world of dancing ghosts, roses, and marigolds. A world that celebrates the past and the people who’ve moved on. Andy draws you into his discovery of the magical Mexican holiday of “Dias de Los Muertos” Day of the Dead). It’s the perfect way to expand your child’s world through rhymes and art.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Lion Lights: My Invention That Made Peace with Lions

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Why did I love this book?

12-year-old Richard is a Maasai boy in Africa who is tasked with protecting the cattle from the lions. This is the story of his incredible invention of surrounding the boma (the farm) with twinkling lights to scare away the lions that he salvaged and tinkered together. It’s an astonishing tale and a window into the life of a young boy in Africa. I personally love reading books about Africa and am restraining myself by only including one book from this magical, and mysterious continent on my list. 

By Richard Turere, Shelly Pollock, Sonia Possentini (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lion Lights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Richard Turere's own story: Richard grew up in Kenya as a Maasai boy, herding his family's cattle, which represented their wealth and livelihood. Richard's challenge was to protect their cattle from the lions who prowled the night just outside the barrier of acacia branches that surrounded the farm's boma, or stockade. Though not well-educated, 12-year-old Richard loved tinkering with electronics. Using salvaged components, spending $10, he surrounded the boma with blinking lights, and the system works; it keeps lions away. His invention, Lion Lights, is now used in Africa, Asia, and South America to protect farm animals from predators.


Book cover of Our Favorite Day of the Year

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Why did I love this book?

Musa learns about holidays all over the world during his first year of school. His friends share their favorites from Eid al Fitr (Morocco) to Las Posadas (Mexico). A great book about exploring diversity and it comes with a special calendar in the back to celebrate with your kids at home. Musa reminds me of some of the children I met during my art residency in Morocco. 

By A.E. Ali, Rahele Jomepour Bell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Favorite Day of the Year as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

A heartwarming picture book following a group of boys from different backgrounds throughout the school year as they become the best of friends.

Musa's feeling nervous about his first day of school. He's not used to being away from home and he doesn't know any of the other kids in his class. And when he meets classmates Moises, Mo, and Kevin, Musa isn't sure they'll have much in common. But over the course of the year, the four boys learn more about each other, the holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and what they like about school. The more they…


Book cover of Baby Snack Time

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Why did I love this book?

This book is full of amazing looking little treats. It seems impossible that author Judy Li could make learning Mandarin as much fun as she does with this book. The illustrations are carefully drawn and fit the theme and at the end of this book you’ll be loading your child into the car for a trip to the Asian market and spend the afternoon taste testing some exotic snacks (one of my favorite activities!) 

By Judy Li, Grace Kelly Zhang (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Baby Snack Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Baby Snack Time” is a bilingual board book written in English and Mandarin with pinyin, a Romanization system created for readers to learn Mandarin pronunciation. This book is perfect for children ages 1-6, during a child’s prime time for language development. “Baby Snack Time” celebrates Asian culture with nostalgic snacks that many Asian family households grew up with. It’s a treat for both parents and children.


Book cover of Anya's Secret Society

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Why did I love this book?

The illustrations are marvelous and the story is a peek into what it’s like for a child that is different in Russian culture. As a left-handed child she is forced to write and do nearly everything with her right hand except draw. This is the author’s personal story and you can see from the art that her drawing is amazing. I added this book to my list as Russia tops the headlines these days and remembering that children in Russia are just children with their own stories to tell feels important. Also, it’s an incredible book. 

By Yevgenia Nayberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anya's Secret Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Left-handed Anya draws with great passion . . . but only when she's alone.

In Russia, right-handedness is demanded--it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya's creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret.

Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.


Book cover of Goodnight Ganesha

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Why did I love this book?

This book has truly beautiful art by Poonam Mistry. I find Indian and Hindu culture fascinating and this book brings it to you through the eyes of a child (or two children I should say as it’s about siblings). There is a glossary of Hindu terms in the back which I do appreciate. It is written almost as an Indian tribute to Goodnight Moon which is of course a classic.

By Nadia Salomon, Poonam Mistry (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Goodnight Ganesha as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A gorgeously illustrated goodnight story that celebrates the nighttime rituals of two young children visiting their grandparents in India.

As nighttime falls over the city, two children visiting their grandparents in India find there's so much fun to be had! Whether it's listening to epic stories or observing rituals in the puja room, there are many moments that make this time together special.

In this beautiful, rhyming ode to bedtime, the only thing more universal than getting ready for bed and saying goodnight is the love between children and their grandparents.

"Nadia Salomon’s Goodnight Ganesha reminds readers that saying goodnight…


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By Laurie Woodford,

Book cover of Unsettled

Laurie Woodford

New book alert!

What is my book about?

At the age of forty-nine, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and leaves her life in upstate New York to relocate to Seoul, South Korea. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English in Asia evolves into a nomadic adventure.

Laurie spoon-feeds orphans in Ethiopia, performs 108 bows at a Buddhist mountain temple, walks shelter dogs in Peru, milks goats in Fuerteventura, and gets lost in Mexico, all the while navigating dating at midlife.

After four years of traveling, Laurie’s return “home” becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, and then struggles to reconcile her need for freedom with her longing to feel settled.

Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

What is this book about?

At the age of forty-nine, driven by an urgent restlessness, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and relocates to Asia. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English overseas, evolves into a nomadic adventure as Laurie works and volunteers in South Korea, Ethiopia, Peru, Spain, and Mexico. After four years of traveling, Laurie's return "home" to the U.S. becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, who challenges her to reconcile her life of fierce independence with her longing to feel…


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