Friday, September 5, 2014

Around the World in a Single Book - part 2: cultures in general

This post is the second in our series about books focused on world geography and world cultures. Part 1 focused on books about children around the world. This post will cover books that are focused more generally around cultures around the world. Part 3 focuses on books about languages and schools around the world.

Books about Cultures around the World


How People Live by DK Publishing and People Around the World by Anthony Mason. These very similar books are organized geographically. How People Live then focuses on different groups of people by culture, while People Around the World focuses on different groups of people by country or subcontinent. Both books share facts and photographs about people, their lives, and their culture.

How People Live has a great two-page overview about each continent with different facts and statistics. I usually start a new continent unit by reading through the facts and giving the students a chance to guess about the statistics (such as the most commonly spoken languages or the country with the highest population). It tends to build a lot of excitement for learning more about each continent.

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche. This book features fascinating cut-paper illustrations of houses around the world and throughout history. Each two-page spread contains a brief write-up about the house, its location, the time period, the types of materials used, and a fascinating fact. This could be a good resource for working on comparing and contrasting or discussing the influence of the environment on housing design and function. (The focus of a book like this is, of course, on houses that are unusual or unique, so it is worth adding to the discussion that many of these houses would not be considered typical for either the time or the location featured.)


This series of books by photographer Peter Menzel is a fascinating look at people around the world that is suitable for older children (perhaps late elementary school and up). Material World: a global family portrait is a series about families around the world who are photographed with the entire contents of their houses in a single image. Each family was chosen for their similarity to the statistical "average" family in that country. This is a fascinating, albeit painful, look at inequality and wealth around the world. What the World Eats follows a similar premise, photographing families around the world with a week's worth of food. (This is the children's version of Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.) Comparative information is provided about recipes and costs, as well as facts about the country. This book is again a stark reminder of food shortage and inequality around the world. Powerful books, but they may be a little too much reality for younger students.

Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris, photographs by Ken Heyman. This short picture book extolls the wonders of bread around the world, illustrated with photographs of children and adults around the world, as they make, sell, and eat bread in its many various forms. The text is very short and basic, which may make even middle elementary school kids think of this as a "baby" book, but it could work as a quick read aloud to generate conversation. (Again, same nitpick I have mentioned before, but the photographs are only identified as to country of origin in the back of the book, which is also where the captions are located.) This book is one in a series of "around the world" style books by this author-photographer duo. Other titles include Houses and Homes (Around the World); Hats, Hats, Hats; Tools; Loving (Around the World); and Shoes, Shoes, Shoes. (H/T Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.)

Be My Neighbor by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko. This book focuses on different aspects of neighborhoods and communities around the world. Each two-page spread features a different aspect including houses, schools, playgrounds, and many more. The text is a little bit generic and short, and the pictures are starting to look dated. This book would be a great concept for someone to update for older readers. (H/T Carrie at There is a Book for That.)

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.

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