Early chapter books can provide a great window into other cultures for newly independent readers. The books below are all different from each other in terms of cultural background of the protagonists and/or the cultural background of the author. I would love suggestions from readers on others they’ve read and enjoyed along similar lines. All of these are worth reading; some are better “literature” than others, but all are fun reads.
**A couple of these books are just now coming out; they will take a while to trickle down to your local library, but I know one little girl who will be getting a copy of Lulu come her 7th birthday this October. ☺**
The No. 1 Car Spotter
I’ve written about both the Anna Hibiscus books before and The No. 1 Car Spotter. Both are stellar books: great read alouds for the kindergarten age group and great first independent reads. Illustrated, full of real depth, and a fascinating look into contemporary urban Africa (Anna) as well as rural Africa (Car Spotter). This would be a wonderful way to help build an awareness of the fascinating continent of Africa.
Freddie Ramos is Hispanic, although his Hispanic culture doesn’t enter the story much. Still, he uses words like zapatos, lives in an apartment, and in general would fit right in with many Hispanic families who now reside in America. I reviewed the 4th in this series: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash.
Lulu and the Duck in the Park
I wish we had more books like this!! Lulu is a black girl; this series is British. Therefore, there is no real mention of her skin color in the books. The Brits don’t seem to have the same issues we do in America with this particular racial tension (black/white). The book is well written (there are more in the series–please, American publishers, bring the rest!), and school age girls will fall in love with Lulu regardless of their own ethnic background.
An Indian-American young boy lands on the early chapter book scene. Funny and quirky like so many early chapter book protagonists, this young guy does refer to his family’s Indian heritage–particularly in the food scene. A fun introduction to the bi-cultural issues many families in our country face. **Review coming**
The Year of the Dog
This is a slightly more advanced chapter book than the others on this list; you might save it for the end if you choose to read through these. The protagonist of this book is a young Taiwanese-American girl, and much of the book centers around her developing awareness of both cultures. Like others on this list, this is just the first of a series.
Snake and Lizard
Not a book about people, Snake and Lizard is highly entertaining and this duo hails from Australia. A fun introduction to this continent’s wildlife, the circle of life is in full force here. Good news for Snake and Lizard fans: there are two in this series…so far.
The White Elephant
Run-Run is a poor young boy in Siam who owns an elephant. He is given the dubious gift of a white elephant from the prince…and you’re not allowed to work a white elephant like his other (gray/brown) elephant. Run-run must figure out how to feed this new white elephant in this historical fiction narrative set in Southeast Asia.
What multicultural early chapter books are we missing?