We all use mirrors and windows everyday – mirrors to let us see ourselves and windows to help us see the world around us.
We can use these terms when we’re talking about stories for children and young adults. (And for adults too – but that’s a topic for another time!)
Our youth need mirror books that help them process their own experiences, that help them gain a better picture of themselves and their places in the world. Many books for children and young adults are mirror books.
What I love is discovering window books, books that help youth understand and value the experiences of people in other countries, other cultures. A well-written novel can help children understand how people in another culture process their worlds, interact with friends and family, learn, play and love. Through books, they can travel and make global friends.
Want to expand your family’s awareness of the wonderful diversity of people around the world? Search out window books and take your children on a wild, wonderful world journey.
To get your started, here are some of my favorite novels for children and teen that offer windows into other cultures:
- Al Mansour, Haifaa - The Green Bicycle - Based on a movie directed by the author, this is a depressing yet hopeful look at an eleven-year-old girl who dreams of buying a bicycle in Saudi Arabia. Ages 11+
- Atinuke - Anna Hibiscus – First in a series of well-written, engaging short chapter books set in an unnamed African country, probably Nigeria as that's where the author is from. I love the character Anna Hibiscus! Ages 6-9
- Dumon Tak, Bibi - Mikis and the donkey - A sweet story about a Greek boy who befriends his grandfather's working donkey and helps improve the donkey's lot in life. Ages 6-10
- Kelkar, Supriya – Ahimsa – A young Indian girl whose mother becomes a freedom fighter must face her own prejudices. A rich, child-like picture of India’s fight for independence. Ages 8-12.
- Krishnaswami, Uma – Book Uncle and Me – A short simple chapter book set in India about the power of one girl and of people working together. Ages 6-9
- Nye, Naomi Shihab - Habibi - A Palestinian-American girl moves with her family to Israel and befriends a Jewish boy. An excellent novel written by a Palestinian-American author. Ages 11+
- Nye, Naomi Shihab - The turtle of Oman - Third grade Aref doesn't want to move to the US for three years while his parents study there. His grandfather helps him build memories of his homeland, Oman, even as he prepares him for the move. A universal theme in a particular setting.
- Perkins, Mitali - Bamboo people - Told from the viewpoints of two teenage boys: a Burmese boy forced into the army and a Karenni boy who wants to fight for freedom. Great redemptive message! Ages 11+
- Perkins, Mitali – You Bring the Distant Near – For slightly older kids, this is my favorite book by one of my favorite authors. A saga about three generations of a Bengali family who immigrate to America. Strong women deal with love, faith and culture. Ages 14+
- Wenxuan, Cao – Bronze and Sunflower – Translated from Chinese. A city girl is adopted by a poor rural family when her father dies. Their love carries them through tragedy and hardship. Sweet without avoiding hard realities. Ages 9-12.