31 best international children’s books

April 2, 2014

For people who are interested in learning about other languages and cultures, reading children’s books is a great place to start for kids and adults alike! Not only do you get to know a country’s native folklore and characters, you will be exposed to simple words, sounds and lessons that are important to their history and ways of life. Today, International Children’s Book Day, is a great time to encourage your au pair to find some books she likes from her home country and to read them to your kids (with the understanding, of course, that you can join in anytime you want)!

International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) has been celebrated every year on April 2nd since 1967. It is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books all over the world. Each year a different country is nominated to sponsor the day, and they decide upon a theme and invite a native author to share a worldwide message with children as well as an illustrator to design a poster. This year, Ireland is the host. They chose Siobhán Parkinson as their spokesperson who said, “[…] the reader is just as important to the story as the writer. There is only one writer for each story, but there are hundreds or thousands or maybe even millions of readers, in the writer’s own language, or perhaps even translated into many languages. Without the writer the story would never be born; but without all the thousands of readers around the world, the story would not get to live all the lives it can live.”

We asked some of our recruitment country leaders to share some of their favorite children’s books to help your family and au pair get started. Here are the 31 books they recommend:



  • Manuelita, the turtle by Maria Elena Walsh – A little turtle travels to Paris to be a top model, but she realizes her real home is back in Argentina
  • The wolf and seven little goats – A great fairy tale that makes kids listen to their parents and be wise  about strangers


Australia and New Zealand

  • Possum Magic by Mem Fox – Tells the tale of two possums; one is invisible but soon gets fed up with that so to become visible again, they discover he needs to eat more food (cue a trip around Australia)
  • Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan – A dingo is wants to make wombat stew so asks other animals for advice; they in turn try to protect their fellow creature
  • Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles – Edward the emu is tired of being an emu so he spends time acting like other animals at the zoo



  • Tom Turbo by Thomas Brezina – Tom Turbo is a mountain bike who can talk, fly and do other cool things; he and his friends are little detectives and solve different mysteries
  • Die Knickerbocker-Bande by Thomas Brezina – Four friends solve different cases and help their friends in tricky situations



  • Reinações de Narizinho by Monteiro Lobato – A girl has many fantasies and adventures with friends in her grandma’s country house
  • O Menino Maluquinho by Ziraldo Alves Pinto – A little boy makes lots of messes but is adorable and full of joy



  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf – A group of goats are being hunted by a clumsy wolf



  • The Poor Old Lady by Rafael Pombo – A rich old lady has everything but complains about having nothing



  • The Ugly Duckling by H.C. Andersen – A little duckling suffers abuse from the others around him until he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of them all
  • Rasmus Lump by Carla and Vilhelm Hansen – The series tells the adventures of Rasmus Lump and his friends; they travel the world on board his boat Mary, which they build themselves
  • Orla Frøsnapper by Ole Lund Kirkegaard – Orla is a troublemaker and kids fear him, but one child finally stands up to him!



  • Muumi by Tove Jansson: A family of white, roundish characters with large snouts that  resemble hippopotamuses are a carefree and adventurous family live in Moominvalley; they have had many adventures along with their friends
  • Koiramäki by Mauri Kunnas: The books are set in Finland, featuring dogs with human-like characteristics
  • Uppo-Nalle by Elina Karjalainen: The main character, a teddy bear found underwater during a cruise along the river, has adventures with a little girl, her grandmother and their dog



  • Babar series by Jean de Brunhoff – An elephant’s mother is killed in the jungle, so he is adopted by an old lady who educates him; he starts a family and becomes the king of a city of “civilized” elephants
  • Mimi Cracra series by Agnès Rosenstiehl – A mischievous and imaginative girl has interesting things happening in her life all the time
  • Barbapapa series by Annette Tison et Talus Taylor – A family that can change form on will sensitize children to environment and animal protection



  • Pimpa series by Francesco Tullio Altan – Follows the adventures of a spotted dog



  • The Ugly Doll
  • The Three Wise Men



  • Chory Kotek by Stanisław Jachowicz – A sick cat eats too much
  • Rzepka by Julian Tuwim – A set of grandparents try to grow things in the soil



  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – Pippi is an unconventional, assertive 8 year old girl who lives in her special house Villa Villerkulla together with her horse and monkey
  • Sune series by Anders Jacobsson and Sören Olsson – Sune is a Swedish schoolboy, living in a house with his father, mother, big sister, and little brother; he is interested in girls and thinks he can charm them



  • A Horse-Faced Woman
  • The Blue Elephant


United Kingdom

  • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling – The story of the magical boy Harry Potter and his adventures at Hogwarts
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – A little girl Alice falls down a hole when following a white rabbit and ends up in her very own Wonderland


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