Seven brilliant books featuring different cultures

Published on: 18 May 2021 Author: Annabelle Sami

Llama on a Mission author Annabelle Sami loved reading about different cultures as a child, and writes about British Pakistani culture in her children's books. She shares her favourite books looking at different cultures, and explains how diversity in books is vital to building empathy in young readers.

As a child my favourite books were those set in a different country. I loved reading about different cultures and feeling immersed in a whole different world. As I got older, I realised that you don’t have to go to a different country to experience a new culture. For example, my books are all set in the UK, but feature British Pakistani culture in the narrative.

There are so many people from different cultures living in the UK, that it’s important to appreciate and learn about the diversity surrounding us. Reading books that feature different cultures, especially by authors who come from those communities, is a great way to teach kids about how diverse the world is. It also encourages understanding, empathy and connecting across difference.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

I loved this book as a child! Maia’s excitement to travel to her new, exotic home was contagious and ever since I’ve desperately wanted to visit the Amazon rainforest!

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby

This was my favourite children’s book of 2020. Inspired by the Arabian nights and set in an arabian-inspired, enchanted land, the magic of this story feels so real. I’m so excited to read the second book, Moonchild: City of the Sun.

Illustration from Journey to the River Sea by Eva IbbotsonIllustration from Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook

If you want a thrilling, can’t-put-it-down adventure that you just have to finish in one sitting, this is the book for you. Set in the jungles of Sri Lanka, I loved the strong-willed and brave main character, Chaya.

Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traore

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this new book and was struck by the attached author’s note that said, ‘Nigeria is full of magic, legends, culture, beauty, adventure, music, courage, pride, love and friendship.’ The novel certainly includes all of that and more.

Illustration from The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana FarookIllustration from The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

The specific culture and geography of the Himalayan foothills is brilliantly portrayed in this book. You can tell this story was written from the heart, especially the connection between the main character and her nanijee, in the form of the spirit bird.

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

This is a beautiful and magical story about self discovery. Set amidst the backdrop of a snowy Russian forest, the book weaves Russian folklore and fairytales into Yanka’s adventure to discover where she truly belongs.

Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

In the first book in the series, Billy Chan gets sent to ‘middle-of-nowhere China’ to learn more about his heritage, meaning the reader gets to learn along too. But the main draw of this book for me are the legendary warrior dragons and the epic quest that surrounds them! I want to bond with a dragon too!

Illustration from Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin TsangIllustration from Dragon Mountain by Katie and Kevin Tsang

Annabelle Sami is the author of Agent Zaiba Investigates and Llama Out Loud. Follow her on Twitter for updates on her latest book with illustrator Allen Fatimaharan, Llama On A Mission.

Topics: Features

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