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March 2014

Most popular children's books

Sometimes literary fiction is just too difficult to tackle when learning a foreign language (James Joyce’s Ulysses is not one for beginning English students). Children’s books may be the answer for foreign language students, as the language used is simpler and easier to absorb than complicated text.

In honor of InternationalChildren’s Book Day, held annually on the 2nd of April, we present a list of popular children’s books from and depicting cultures around the world.

Green Eggs and Ham (United States)

Dr. Seuss may be the greatest of all children’s books authors. Theodor Seuss Geisel published a total of 46 books for children during his lifetime, one of his most famous being Green Eggs and Ham. The story follows Sam-I-Am in his quest to get an unnamed character to try a fictional delicacy, green eggs and ham. The subject eventually samples the dish and loves it (spoiler alert), and learns that you shouldn’t judge something before you try it.

The Giving Tree (United States)

Shel Silverstein, one of the greatest American-poet-slash-children’s-book-authors, offers a touching tale about a tree that continues to give to its human friend during its lifetime. The story offers a lesson in self-sacrifice and friendship, as well as a reminder that we need a bit of nature in our lives. Also check out his poetry collections, Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic, among others.

Madeline (United States)

Adapted into numerous forms from television releases to feature length films, Madeline, is a story written by Austrian author Ludwig Bemelmans about the adventures of a little girl in Paris. Initially released in the United States in 1939, the story has since stretched across six subsequent books.

The Little Prince (France)

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince is not only a beloved children’s book, it’s also the most translated French book in history. A little boy embarks on an adventure across the universe, encountering the world and learning what it means to be an adult. Published in 1943 as a novella, it has since sold over 140 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling books ever released.

The Adventures of Tintin (Belgium)

Even if you’re not a fan of children’s books, you’ve likely heard of The Adventures of Tintin. Written by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi and first published in 1929, the epic series was most recently made into a computer-animated film by Steven Spielberg including actors Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Toby Jones. Tintin is a young Belgian reporter aided by his fox terrier who has grand adventures that touch upon elements of fantasy, mystery, political intrigue and science fiction, all doused with an ample serving of humor.

The Adventures of Pinocchio (Italy)

Made even more famous by Walt Disney’s animation masterpiece of an adaptation, The Adventures of Pinocchio is one of the most well-known stories in the world. The original Italian text, however, is quite different from Disney’s rendition. Pinocchio is much more rambunctious (imagine him tossing a mallet at the poor “talking cricket”). Slightly more edgy, the Italian classic is worth visiting for those who have yet to experience.

Sosu's Call (Ghana)

Meshack Asare's Sosu's Call is the story of Sosu, a boy who cannot walk but most save his village from rising waters. Through his heroism, he saves his village and gains acceptance despite his differences. The story won the 1999 UNESCO prize and IBBY's Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities award.

A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story (China)

By Yu Li-Qiong and illustrator Zhu Cheng-Liang, A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story is the touching tale of a reunion between little Maomao and his father who works far away. Winner of the Feng Zikai Chinese Children's Picture Book Award in 2009, the story is one that promotes the importance and strength of familial love.

The Firebird (Russia)

Jane Yolen and illustrator Vladimir Vagin present a graphical interpretation of the Russian folktale of The Firebird, complete with culture, ballet and music. Kostchei the Deathless, an evil wizard, abducts the princess and her nine maidens. Prince Ivan vows to save them, aided by the great Firebird.

The Moomins (Finland)

Tove Jansson's The Moomins series has long left Finland and settled into America in the form of a dubbed cartoon and lots of merchandise. The magical stories follow the Moomins of the fantastical world of Moominvalley. They embark on a number of adventures suitable for younger readers. The series of Swedish cartoons were first released in 1945. Today, a theme park known as Moomin World can be found in Naantali, Finland.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq (United States)

Touching on a more serious topic, Jeanette Winter's The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq presents the struggles of Alia Muhammad Baker, chief librarian of Basra's Central Library, in war-torn Iraq, a place where women have very little influence. Her efforts to save her community’s priceless book collection are depicted in this true tale. While set in Iraq, the English language book was published in the United States in 2005.

Do you read children’s books to improve your reading comprehension? What are your favorite books? Let us know on our Facebook page and be sure to “like” TELC English!