Usborne consultants are similar to other direct sales consultants (Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware) in that you can host a party, they come to your home and demo some books, and you all end up with new goodies. Their catalog is comprised mostly of Usborne books, Usborne games and activities, and a selection of books in partnership with Kane-Miller.

Where Usborne really shines, in my humble opinion, is in their partnership with Kane-Miller. Oh, the books Kane-Miller brings to us! Mining the far reaches of the globe, they are the folks we have to thank for some truly amazing, wonderful books from other countries. Below are some of the ones I’ve “met” this past year. If you are invited to an Usborne show sometime in the next few months, keep these titles in mind. I own many of them (some bought from Usborne shows, some through amazon), and recommend them highly. I’ve also found many of these at my local library–so keep an eye out for them! (Some I’ve already reviewed more at length; some I will review in days to come)

Waiting for Winter
Sebastian Meschenmoser

This marvelous, beautifully illustrated picture book with an early-reader-level text hails from Germany originally. This is one of my all-time favorite picture books of the past year. And my kids are quite enamored with it, too. Some forest animals who usually sleep through the winter are waiting for the first snowflake to fall…but they don’t really know what they are looking for….

Snake and Lizard
Joy Cowley (author), Gavin Bishop (illustrator)

Frog and Toad grown up and hailing from Australia! Snake (girl) and Lizard (boy) are best friends in the standard seemingly-incompatible-at-first-glance way that is often found in beginning readers. In this early chapter book, occasional colorful illustrations offer a little punch to an often hilarious series of adventures. The circle of life happens here; bugs and other small creatures are eaten, snake and lizard fight and have to make up, and along the way, they learn how to be friends.

Anna Hibiscus
Atinuke (author), Lauren Tobias (illustrator)

One of our all-time favorite early chapter book series in this house, Anna Hibiscus books are about a little girl named Anna Hibiscus who lives in Africa with her large family (including her twin brothers!). Great stories, fascinating insights into another culture, and good reminders of some things we all need to learn are found in this series of 4 books. Atinuke lives in Wales but grew up in Africa.

The No. 1 Car Spotter
Atinuke (author), Warwick Johnson Cadwell (illustrator)

By the same author of the Anna Hibiscus books, this series about a boy nicknamed No. 1 Car Spotter takes us to rural Africa (as opposed to Anna Hibiscus’s city life). In similar fashion, Atinuke gives us more great stories, more fascinating insights into another culture, and more good reminders of some things we all need to learn.

Cranky Paws and other Pet Vet books
Darrell and Sally Odgers

This simple early chapter book series is for those kids who love animals. Cute stories, little word box definitions, and lots of animal love will engage newly independent readers who aren’t ready for more complex stories and/or who have lots of pets at home. From Australia.

Crocodile Attack, Extreme Adventures Series
Justin D’Ath

Oh my goodness… if you want near death experiences every chapter, harrowing rescues, man v. wild scenarios, and a cliff hanger before the super-human finale, then this is the series for you. Perfect for upper elementary and middle grade boys, this is a fun series for reluctant readers who need a fast-moving plot to keep them going.

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