8 International books every child should read
Add a sense of adventure to bedtime stories with these classic children's books from around the globe.
Children’s books bring back joyful memories, providing kids with that much-needed escapism, entertainment and education from a young age. As parents will understand, passing on a love of books to our children is an important (and often daunting) task.
For those who want to approach this in a unique way, there are lots of international books that can help to broaden the literary horizons of our little ones and introduce them to fantastic and bizarre characters from every corner of the globe. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. Here, the experts at language learning app Babbel share a selection of their favourites from around the world.
Germany: Konstantin, by Gerda Wagener Vlasta Baránková
Originally written in German, this book follows a shy crocodile named Konstantin who finds a French horn in the jungle. The lonely reptile learns to play the instrument in secret but doesn’t realise that the jungle’s other inhabitants are hiding and listening to him play.
When Konstantin realises that others are watching he stops playing out of embarrassment, but the other animals all tell him how beautiful his music is and give him the confidence to share his gift.
In the end, the nervous and lonely Konstantin finally comes out of his shell and finds friendship through his music. This wholesome and heartwarming story encourages taking pride in what you do and having the courage to share it with others.
Japan: Everyone Poops, by Tarō Gomi
Everyone Poops is essential reading for any parent trying to tackle toilet training with their children. This book was written in Japan but has reached a global audience.
It begins by introducing the toilet habits of a range of animals, from elephants to mice and beyond, before moving on to explain that everyone has to use the loo. Designed to teach children that going to the toilet is nothing to be embarrassed about, the book helps kids to tackle potty training.
Naturally, it’s more for younger children and includes silly illustrations to make light of its subject matter. The widespread popularity that the book has amassed is proof of the title’s statement that some things are just universal.
Sweden: Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
Image via Wiki Commons
This text is renowned as a must-read for any young Swede. Originally called Pippi Långstrump, the story follows the title’s character, a superhumanly strong nine-year-old girl on her adventures with her friends Tommy and Annika.
Pippi is always ready to challenge the authority of grown-ups and has a love of animals, especially for her pet horse and monkey, who are usually by her side. It’s a great escapist story for any child imagining a world without limits. Pippi also provides a strong female presence in the story, which is often lacking in traditional children’s literature and fairy tales.
This is a great book for any children looking for an exciting and courageous protagonist that they can relate or look up to, teaching them not only to take the lead but to question the rules of the world.
Sweden: Pettson and Findus, by Sven Nordqvist
Image via Wiki Commons
Pettson and Findus is a series about the adventures of an old man, Pettson, and his cat, Findus, living in their ramshackle farmhouse in the countryside.
These stories are beloved in their home country of Sweden. Beginning usually with ordinary events, such as a camping or fishing trip, they contain lots of fantastical details of the small creatures that play tricks on Pettson.
The detailed illustrations of the book depict lots of these ridiculous antics in a way that will delight any child. These irreverent tales encourage finding joy in the little things in life, whether it is cooking or just enjoying the great outdoors.
Netherlands: Minoes, by Annie M. G. Schmidt
This Dutch book is about a cat named Minoes that miraculously turns into a woman after a chemical accident. Newly transformed, she wishes that she could return to her feline form, before forming a friendship with a local journalist, Tibbe. Minoes gives Tibbe new stories using her new-found knowledge of gossip amongst her fellow cats, and eventually, this friendship makes her realise that she wants to stay human.
Minoes is well-loved in the Netherlands because it adopts an entertaining tone of voice without being too juvenile or talking down to children. It’s full of fun characters to keep children entertained and provides heartening stories that teach about the importance of friendship. The book is also celebrated for its iconic illustrations by Fiep Westendorp.
France: The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
As one of the most translated books ever, The Little Prince is a classic in many nations beyond its native France. The plot revolves around a young prince who travels from planet to planet through space. He learns lessons about love, loneliness and friendship along the ensuing journey.
The book is a celebration of childlike imagination and clarity of thought, as it pokes fun at pretentious and hypocritical grown-ups, such as the king with no subjects or the geographer who has never travelled.
It may have been written for children, but The Little Prince includes enough reflection on complex themes to keep grown-ups entertained as well, making it a great choice for parents and children to read together.
France: The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
Image via Wiki Commons
One of the more famous titles on this list, having been adapted into countless films and TV shows, The Three Musketeers is an adventure novel written in France in 1844.
Its protagonist is a young man named D'Artagnan who leaves home to pursue his ambition of joining the Musketeers of the Guard. D'Artagnan is rejected at first, but in the end manages to befriend three legendary musketeers—Athos, Porthos and Aramis.
It is a must-read for any fans of swashbuckling adventures; the book is packed with duels, villains and heroism. At its core, this book teaches about the idea of friends showing solidarity in the face of adversity, as well as a buccaneering spirit to keep it entertaining.
Denmark: Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen
Even if you haven’t heard of Hans Christian Andersen, you will certainly have heard of his fairy tales. Stories like The Princess and the Pea and The Little Mermaid have become classics around the world. This book also includes other, more obscure fairy tales for children to discover and enjoy.
One of the more poetic stories follows a flax plant as it is turned from luxurious cloth into clothes and then eventually becomes paper in a book. However, the book falls into disuse and is burned, releasing thousands of little beings that live on as sparks in the embers. It is a sad story, but it also provides children with a gentle introduction to the idea of the life cycle.
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