Global Literature and History List 2021

The KU Area Studies Centers would like to share a list of literature and activities from various world regions, to utilize in the classroom with your students. Happy reading!! 


Multicultural and Social Justice Books - Curated Booklists Teaching for Change has carefully selected the best multicultural and social justice books for children, teens, and educators on 70+ topics. 


Pairing the K-12 Common Core Exemplar List with Global & International Literature  

 The  Globalizing the Common Core Exemplar List ( created by the  Worlds of Words (WOW) International Children’s and Adolescent Literature Library, provides suggested pairings of fiction and nonfiction global literature with the  CCSS exemplar list. 





For a full list of recommended books (50+titles) by age group, please go to:  


For lesson plans and activities for Breaking Stalin’s Nose and The Safest Lie, please go to:  


Albanian Folktales and Legends: Selected and Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie. A collection of folktales and prose versions of some of the best-known Albanian legends, including the adventures of Muja and Halil and their band of mountain warriors, and the exploits of the great Scanderbeg, the Albanian national hero who freed large parts of the country from Turkish rule in the 15th century (ages 12-18 - Albania). 


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysFifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life – until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from their father, Lina and her mother and brother are sent to a Siberian work camp. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive? An international bestseller, a #1 New York Times bestseller and a film Ashes in the Snow (ages 12-17 – Lithuania). 


Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. The moving story of Sasha, a ten-year-old boy in Stalin-era Moscow, a loyal communist and soon-to-be Youth Pioneer, whose father is arrested by the secret police. Sasha must grapple with losing his parents, becoming homeless, and his conscience – namely, whether to continue to be loyal to Stalin. This novel won multiple awards and is great for a Cold War/Russia social studies or language arts unit (for ages 9 and up – Russia).  

For free lesson plans and student handouts, go to:  


The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse. Newbery medalist Karen Hesse tells a harrowing, true account of a Jewish girl’s involvement in the Resistance during WWII and our passionate will to survive (for ages 7-10 – Poland). 


Croatian Tales of Long Ago by Ivana Brlić-MažuranićEnter a world of mysterious woods, towering mountains, cloaks of dazzling gold and doting grandfathers. Heroes face the darker realities of life, and yet conquer and win the day (for ages 5-13 - Croatia).  


The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years by Chingiz AitmatovSet in the vast windswept Central Asian steppes and the infinite reaches of galactic space, this powerful novel offers a vivid view of the culture and values of the Central Asian peoples (ages 14-18, Central Asia). 


The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. Read the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded – the downfall and murder of the Romanovs – Russia’s last royal family, the plight of Russia’s peasants and their eventual uprising, and the rise of the Bolsheviks to powerPhotographs and compelling primary-source material bring it all to life (ages 12-17 – Russia). This superb history won over 20 awards! Find the Educator Guide on the author’s website 


Flowers for Sarajevo by John McCutcheon. Young Drasko is happy working with his father in the Sarajevo market. When war comes, Drasko must run the family flower stand alone. When the bakery is bombed, twenty-two people are killed. A cellist comes every day for 22 days and plays the most heartbreaking music, to remember each victim of the bombing. Inspired by the music, Drasko is inspired to help make Sarajevo beautiful again. Based on real events of the Bosnian war. The story includes the CD in which Vedran Smailović 

performs the melody that he played to honor those who died in the Sarajevo mortar blast.   


Fairy Tales of Eastern Europe by Neil Philip. Tales from traditional folklore of Eastern Europe. Whether the setting is a poor cottage deep in the forest, a small village, or a king’s court, each story reveals the routines of family and community life, and a humorous perspective on people and their affairs (ages 8-12). 


Happy Days by Miro Gavran. Two 11-year old boys, who are best friends, want to become brothers. One of them has only a father, and the other has only a mother. The young heroes set up many opportunities for their parents to get to know each other, in the hopes of leading them to get married. A delightful story about children who want to have a whole family (ages 9-13 - Croatia).  


The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson. An extraordinary retelling of the Russian Baba Yaga myth. A 12-year-old girl, Marinka, would like a real friend – not a house with chicken legs! That’s not easy when her grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead in the afterlife. In her pursuit to find a real friend, she breaks all the rules with terrible consequences. It then becomes Marinka’s job to find her lost grandmother and take a dangerous journey to the afterlife (ages 8-12 – Russia). 


I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, Czechoslovakia 1942-1944 by Hana Volavkova, editor. Afterword by Vaclav Havel, famous Czech playwright and president15,000 children passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp and fewer than 100 survived. In these poems and pictures, we see the misery of these children, as well as their hopes, fears, and courage (ages 10-13).  


King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak. Young Matt was just ten-years-old when he became  

king. When three kings declare war on his kingdom, he decides to fight them and, although  

not an adult and perhaps because of this, he manages to make peace using his good nature  

and human compassion. One of the most beloved works of 20th century literature. (ages  


A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust by Albert 

MarrinThe moving story of Janusz Korczak, the heroic Polish Jewish doctor who devoted his life to children, perishing with them in the Holocaust. Korczak was a man ahead of his time, whose work ultimately became the basis for the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of the Child (ages 12-17 – Poland).  


Little Mole's Adventures from Spring to Winter / Bilingual English - Czech Book by Zdenek Miler. Czech/English stories about Mole and his adventures helping a little bird, saving flowers, making jam, and playing in snow. Little Mole or “Krtek” is a very popular animated character created by Czech animator Zdenek Miller (ages 5-8 - Czechia).  


Locomotive by Julian Tuwim. Featuring three original poems – Locomotive, The Turnip, and The Bird’s Broadcast from renowned Polish poet Julian Tuwim with beautiful illustrations (ages 4 to 10 – Poland).  


Maps by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski. One of the most famous books for children in Poland. This book of maps features places of historical and cultural interest, eminent personalities, iconic animals and plants, cultural events, and fascinating facts (ages 5-12). 


The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale by Jan Brett. Grandmother Baba makes white mittens for Nicki. When Nicki loses one mitten, the animals find shelter inside the mitten. The bear sneezes and the animals fly out of the mitten. The mitten sails up into the air and Nicki finds it. Lovely Ukrainian folktale adapted by Jan Brett (ages 4-8 – Ukraine). 


My Ukrainian American Story by Adrianna Oksana Bamber. Journey with the author as she shares her Ukrainian American experience. Explore a vibrant world filled with the customs, food, crafts, music and holiday traditions passed down from generations of Ukrainians (ages 4-8 - Ukraine).  


The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito. An inspiring account of nine-year old Anna Bauman, one of thousands of Jewish children rescued from the Warsaw, Poland ghetto. The novel’s inspiration is based on the life of Irena Sendler, who rescued more than 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto during World War II (ages 9 and up – Poland).   



The Story that Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper KramerThe story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989. Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, but danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life (ages 8-12 – Romania). 


The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly. When Joseph and his family seek refuge in medieval Krakow, they are caught up in the plots and intrigues of alchemists, hypnotists, and a dark messenger of evil. Will Joseph be able to protect the great Tarnov crystal and the city from the plundering Tartars? Newbery Award winner (ages 8-12 – Poland).  


The Two Captains by Veniamin Kaverin. Based on the diary of Lieutenant Georgii Brusilov, who in 1912 organized an expedition seeking a west-to-east Northern sea route. It was later seized by ice and carried to the north of the Kara Sea. The expedition survived two hard winters. An amazing read about brave men, revolution, villians, suffering, the Arctic and love! One of the most popular works of Soviet literature (ages 14-18 - Russia). 


The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis. Based on the author’s experiences growing up in Prague, Czechoslovakia after World War II, and coming to the U.S. in the 1970s. This remarkable autobiographical picture book is about the making of an artist in a place where creativity was discouraged, free thought was considered dangerous and subversive, and the Soviet Union controlled the government and its citizens. A great book for explaining the difference between a democratic society and a dictatorship  

(ages 8-12 – Czechoslovakia).  


In the Wolf’s Lair: A Beastly Crimes Book by Anna StarobinetsAn elderly detective, Chief Badger, oversees an animal community and solves its petty crimes, from stolen pine cones to plucked tail feathers. His restless assistant, Badgercat, longs for some excitement — a desperate crime, a beastly crime! The brash youngster's hopes are realized when some croaking frogs reveal the shocking news of Rabbit's murder (ages 7-11 - Russia).  


Uncle Fedya, His Dog, and His Cat by Eduard Uspenski. A classic Russian children’s tale, translated into English. When he cannot convince his parents to let him keep the talking cat that he found, Fedya runs away and sets up housekeeping with the cat and a talking dog. (ages 8-10 – Russia).   






Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (for older readers) 


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba (for young readers) 


Desmond and the Very Mean Word: A Story of Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu (for young children) 


Gizo-gizo: A Tale from the Zongo Lagoon by Emily Williamson (for young children) 


Granddad Mandela by ZaziZiwelene and Zindzi Mandela (for young children) 


Kaffir BoyAn Autobiography – The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane (for high school readers). 


Miriam’s Song: A Memoir by Mark Mathabane and Miriam Mathabane (for high school readers)  

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola (ages 5-8). 


Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson (for young children).  


Shaka Rising by Luke Molver (for older readers) 


The Storyteller by Evan Turk (for young children) 


Trouble in Timbukutu by Critina Kessler (ages 9-11) 


Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai (for high school readers). 





For East Asian books for K-12, the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia selects their top books each year and you can find the list here, along with some great topics: 


Personally, I highly recommend two fiction books by Josanne La Valley about life for Uyghur teenage girls for grades 7-9: 


Factory Girl and The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley. The Vine Basket tells of a Uyghur girl's struggle in a land dominated by the Chinese communist regime. 


For younger children, these books about the relationship between humans and the environment are an interesting way to connect discussions about history and culture to science: 


Teaching Japan Through Children's Literature 


Teaching East Asian Literature Workshop Archive 

Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee (ages 8-12 – North Korea). The harrowing story of a twelve-year-girl and her brother’s escape from North Korea to a new life in South Korea.  


At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins (ages 9-12)Thismiddle-grade chapter book unearths one of China’s top archaeological finds of the last century. Miniature servants, mysterious silk paintings, scrolls of long-lost secrets, and the best preserved mummy in the world (the body of Lady Dai) are just some of the artifacts that shed light upon life in China 2200 years ago. Illustrations include archival photographs as well as gorgeously rendered illustrations of Lady Dai's life. 


We're Riding on a Caravan by Laurie Krebs and Helen Cann (ages 5-8).  Explore the world of stunning silk, delicious spices and exotic trade locations in this rhyming tale about a Chinesefamily’sjourney along the Silk Road, the trade route that runs thousands of miles throughAsia.  





The Secret Footprints by Julia Alvarez (Author), Fabin Negrin (Illustrator): The Dominican legend of the ciguapas, creatures who lived in underwater caves and whose feet were on backward so that humans couldn't follow their footprints, is reinvented by renowned author Julia Alvarez.  


Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat  (Author), Leslie Staub  (Illustrator): A touching tale of parent-child separation and immigration mixing Haitian folklore and Haitian Creole in the narrative.  


Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng: Mexican food has a long and delicious history — from warm tortillas to filling bean soup to vibrant guacamole. In this story, Jorge Argueta brings one of these these beloved dishes to life through poetry and easy-to-follow recipes. 


Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh: Skeletons and skulls often make an appearance in Mexican art, but they aren’t meant to frighten, per se. Rather, on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), skeletons, or calaveras, can be found doing all sorts of things thanks to artist and creator José Guadalupe Posada. 


Rene Has Two Last Names / Rene tiene dos apellidos by Rene Colato Lainez  (Author), Fabiola Graullera Ramirez (Illustrator): An engaging bilingual picture book about a boy's clever efforts to help his classmates understand a Latinx cultural tradition.  


Perfect for: 4-8 year olds 


Firefly Summer by Pura BelpréAn idyllic journey to rural Puerto Rico a century ago is told through the voices of three young people facing the challenges of approaching adulthood. 


Perfect for: 9 and up 


On the Pampas Library Binding by Maria Cristina BruscaAn account of a little girl's idyllic summer at her grandparents' ranch on the pampas of Argentina 


Dreamers bYuyi Morales: A celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. It’s the story of finding your way in a new place, of navigating an unfamiliar world and finding the best parts of it. In dark times, it’s a promise that you can make better tomorrows.  A parallel Spanish-language edition, Soñadores, is also available. 


Islandborn by Junot Díaz, Leo Espinosa (Illustrator): Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination's boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.  



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