Visiting South America – Through Picture Books…


While at a lunch party this weekend to celebrate the baptism of a very sweet baby boy, I connected with a friend who is an elementary school teacher in Milton, Massachusetts. She told me that her class will soon begin learning about South America, and asked if I could recommend  picture books to enhance their studies. After looking at Inly’s collection and consulting a few of my favorite sources, here are the books I suggest:


My Name is Gabriela/Me llamo Gabriela by Monica Brown (a picture book about the life of Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet, Gabriela Mistral)


Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains by Barbara Knutson (a very cute guinea pig named Cuy outwits a sly fox. Outfoxing a fox!! Ask the kids to find Cuy on the first beautiful two-page spread…)


Up and Down the Andes by Laurie Krebs (a rhyming story about descendants of the Incas traveling to celebrate the Peruvian Inti Raymi Festival. The illustrations are joyous – colorful, bright and vibrant.)


Dancing Turtle: A Folktale from Brazil by Pleasant DeSpain (A turtle who doesn’t want to end up in soup outsmarts a hunter by some quick thinking. Different versions of this story are told throughout South America.)


Jabuti the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale from the Amazon by Gerald McDermott (The visually arresting covers always draw me to McDermott’s retelling of trickster stories. This one involves a flute-playing tortoise, a vulture and the King of Heaven.)


So Say the Little Monkeys by Nancy Van Laan (Kids may recognize themselves in this story of a bunch of monkeys who are having so much fun that they don’t build a shelter from the rain.)


The Magic Bean Tree: A Legend from Argentina by Nancy Van Laan (A story of a boy, a carob tree, and a drought.)


The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry (A now classic picture book about a kapok tree that is guaranteed to capture children’s interest in the Brazilian ran forest. The Horn Book described Cherry’s book as  a “modern fable.”)


Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter (the story of Luis Soriano, a Columbian teacher, who loved to read so much that books were taking over his house – a familiar plight! He decides to share his book with the children who live in the mountains where there were no libraries. A warm and inspiring story.)

Of course, there are many nonfiction books about South America, including one that is written for children a bit older than my friend’s students, but with teacher support would be a terrific resource – Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin.

Leaving South America and entering the world of author Shannon Hale. Hale’s books are among the most popular in our Library, especially these two titles:



Hale will be at Buttonwood Books and Toys in Cohasset at 3:00 on Thursday, March 6. This is a great opportunity to get a signed book by one of the most popular writers for middle grade readers. Hale’s new book, Dangerous, is her first young adult novel.