“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” (Part Two)

September is almost over, and that means we need to complete our journey around the world before International Literacy comes to a close. Have a look at our previous post to see where we’ve been so far; from New York City to Antarctica, it’s been quite the exciting trip.

We’re ready to depart from Antarctica and head to another “A”: Africa. You won’t need your winter cloths any longer, because it’s hot, hot, hot on this continent! Our first stop takes us to a wildlife preserve in Kenya, where two unlikely friends live together in peace and harmony. Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship tells the tale of Owen, a baby hippo who was rescued following the December 2004 tsunami and befriended a 130-year old tortoise named Mzee in his new adopted home. The two are inseparable; they demonstrate that two very different creatures can forge a strong bond of friendship. Heading north on the continent, we reach the country of Mali and visit a little girl named Penda who loses her first tooth while visiting her extended family – something to which every kid around the world can relate. I Lost My Tooth in Africa recounts the author and his daughter’s experience on their “roots” trip to Mali and the special customs surrounding the African tooth fairy.

Continuing north, we cross into Europe and head to Paris, France, where we meet one of children’s literature’s most famous little girls, Madeline. The original series of books tells the story of Madeline, who lives in a traditional Parisian boarding school. Each book begins with the line: “In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines …” Later books recount Madeline’s travels around the world, including trips to Texas and Rome. From Paris (you can hop on your very own imaginary car of the Eurorail!) we travel to Venice, Italy, where we meet Gabrielle and her creative love of music. In Gabriella’s Song, Gabriella shows us that we can find music in everyday objects – ringing church bells, laundry drying in the wind – as she makes her way through the winding canals of Venice.

Prepare your Venetian gondola (you may want to outfit it with wings and an engine to make the trip a little faster) as we make our way across the rest of Europe and Asia until we reach Vietnam. Ten Mice for Tet is a great way to experience Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, and all the special ceremonies and customs associated with it. The book tells the story of ten talented mice from a small village who reenact ten scenes associated with the holiday as they get ready to celebrate. The vibrant colors, tastes and sounds continue as we travel to Tokyo, Japan to meet seven-year-old Mimiko. Mimiko guides us through her native city in I Live in Tokyo, where we learn all about the native foods, dress, customs and architecture throughout the year.

From Tokyo we cross the vast ocean to our final destination of Australia. Beginning along the northern coast, we encounter a very special spot Where the Forest Meets the Sea (which happens to be one of my childhood favorites).  The anonymous protagonist introduces us to a forest, rumored to be over one hundred million years old, along the sea, as we travel back in time and encounter now extinct animal species, plants and other beings. The sumptuous collages were produced entirely by hand from photographs, before the age of Photoshop and digital manipulation. This story raises important questions about humans’ impact on the planet and the negative consequences of our actions to the environment. As we travel south, we meet one of the species that could someday face extinction – the wombat. In Diary of a Wombat, we learn all about these cuddly creatures – what they eat, where they sleep, how they interact with their brothers and sisters – and how these clever little guys have trained their human neighbors!

We may have visited our last continent, but our journey is far from over. A book can take you anywhere in the world, back to the time of the dinosaurs, or light years ahead into the future—and beyond…even to the magical land Where the Wild Things Are.  Best of all, you can “spark up” all of these books with your Sparkup Magical Book Reader and take your journey to a whole new level!

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