As a mom looking to expose my kids to world cultures, AND as an ESL teacher hoping to reach my students with stories from their homelands and characters that reflect their realities, I am always on the look-out for multicultural books. The “I See the Sun..” series is an excellent set of books that highlight the day-to-day life of children, in these modern cultures:
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Written by Peace Corps Volunteer Dedie King, published by Satya House Publications, and translated by native speakers, these bilingual picture books are authentic glimpses into life in countries and cultures that have been underrepresented in children’s books. The detailed illustrations are unique collages of photographs, drawings, and fabric that depict contemporary life in these cultures. Kids revel in finding the similarities (waking up and eating breakfast for example) and differences (food, language, traditions). Each book is bilingual, written in English and the national language, and added cultural notes and references have been added in the indices.
In I See the Sun in China (Mandarin/English), a little girl takes a ferry from her traditional village to visit her aunt in Shanghai. She marvels at the large modern city and the tall skyscrapers, and we get to learn about the meals they enjoy, the Tai Chi her grandfather does in the garden, the mah jong the people are playing in the park, and famous sights in Shanghai.
I See the Sun in Mexico (Spanish/English) takes us on through the day of a little boy whose father is a tour guide on a boat in the waters around Baja California. The boy gets to snorkle in the turquoise waters brimming with tropical fish and sea lions. Once on land they hike through the desert and find snakes and ancient rock drawings.
Faraway in the rural mountains of Nepal, a little girl gathers eggs and water buffalo milk with her sister, goes to school, and plays games in the bazaar with her friends. I See the Sun in Nepal (Nepalese, Devanagari/English) takes place under the peaks of the Himalayas, and reflects the ordinary activities of a child in this farming culture.
In another story with a rural setting, I See the Sun in Afghanistan (Dari, Afghan Farsi/English), we learn about cultural traditions related to eating, schooling, and sleeping, and see a girl’s typical day in Afghanistan. With gentle reminders of the war, we witness a girl’s realization that family really is the most important.
We shadow musically talented Anton in I See the Sun in Russia (Russian/English). This little boy happily helps out his parents when needed, and practices violin cheerfully, since one day he wishes to play at a famous theatre.
Finally, in I See the Sun in Myanmar, the little girl as the main character leads a more simple life of meals with rice balls and flower chains. I love glimpsing into her home and meals, to see what types of food and rituals she has on a daily basis. Also interesting is the tradition of metta, a Buddhist practice of saying phrases of loving-kindness that Aye Aye whispers about others to herself throughout the day:
May you be healthy and strong
May we be happy and peaceful
I loved the concept of this series, and would use them with my children and students to facilitate discussions about world cultures, different alphabets and writing systems, foods, and activities. What a great springboard for conversation!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day is January 27th. Lots of great titles about diverse characters. If you’re in need of titles, pop on over there and check it out
Visit the other Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015 Sponsors:
Bronze Sponsors: Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author FeliciaCapers, Chronicle Books, Muslim Writers Publishing, East West Discovery Press.