See y’all in Texas

Kids Books Without Borders is moving!

As some of you know, especially those of you who have requested books from Kids Books Without Borders in the last few months, we are moving from Bloomington, Indiana to Waco, Texas this August.

Where is Waco, TX? It is located between Dallas and Austin.

It is a big move for us to go from the Midwest to Texas. I grew up in France and Tim grew up in the Chicago area. During our married life, we have lived in the Chicago area, in Ithaca, New York, in South Bend, Indiana and in Bloomington, Indiana for the last 24 years with a few sabbatical years woven in – one year in St Andrews, Scotland and one semester in Oxford, England.

After teaching at Indiana University for 24 years, Tim has decided to take a position in the philosophy department at Baylor University. Since making the decision to move in late January, life has been crazy – decluttering, deciding what to keep and what to take with, preparing our house for sale, deciding whether to buy a place in Waco or rent for a year (we decided to rent), hiring a moving company etc. and in the midst of all of this, helping our middle daughter move to Delaware where she started a doctorate in physical therapy program at the University of Delaware. We were also helping our younger daughter decide on a college (she decided to go to Indiana University). In a few weeks, we get Lindsay settled in the dorm here in Bloomington, then drive down to Waco.

Our house here in Bloomington sold quickly so the movers have packed up our house and are storing everything down in Texas until our arrival. It has been a crazy ride and we will be glad when life returns to normal. By normal, I mean, no boxes and no major decisions – but we realize things will be different. For me, having grown up in France, I view this as another cross-cultural experience and I anticipate the culture shock that will come.

How does all this affect Kids Books Without Borders? We actually moved all 6,000 books (plus our own large collection). I overheard one of the packers from the moving company saying: "It's like packing up a library!". I will set up shop again down in Waco, and hopefully, be functional again and ready to fill orders in September. Until then, I can respond to inquiries and send out the information about my ministry, but cannot fill orders as all my books are in boxes and stored in Texas. I apologize to all those who are home for just a few weeks and were hoping to take back books.

When we tell friends and family about our move and we mention Waco, the first response is always "That's where Chip and Joanna Gaines live". I must admit, I had not seen the show or heard of them prior to our visit to Waco in January, so we had to get up to speed. Due to the popularity of their HGTV show "The Fixer Upper", Waco now has over 10,000 visitors a week, visiting Joanna's home decor store The Magnolia and their adjacent bakery. Chip and Joanna are also planning to open a restaurant called the Magnolia Table this winter.

As a result of this show, tourism and Waco's housing market is booming. The downtown area of Waco is also undergoing drastic change with a multi-million dollar revitalization project along the downtown waterfront area, involving water-front apartment complexes, retail space, restaurants, hotel, park and as well as transforming the popular downtown farmer's market. So we will be arrive in Waco in the midst of all these changes.

We are a bit apprehensive, but feel this is where God is leading us at this stage of our lives. We joke that we are taking the whole "empty nest" stage of our marriage literally! We view this as a new adventure, and pray that God will open up new opportunities to serve him in this community.

What next for Kids Books Without Borders?

I am also praying that God would bring others along side me there who share my vision for Kids Books Without Borders. As I receive more and more requests, I am aware that I need help to continue this ministry. The first step is that I plan to apply to become an official non-profit organization, thanks to a generous donations from my home church here in Bloomington. I also need to expand my donor base, both financial and book donations to be able to stay afloat. We pray that as we settle there, we can find a home church that can come along side me in this ministry, as our church, The Evangelical Community Church, here in Bloomington has done over the years. I am so grateful for their support over the years.

Thanks for your patience with all the upheaval – it has meant that orders have taken longer than usual to get out, that I have gotten way behind on responding to emails – my apologies ! It has also meant I have neglected my website and blog – I hope to get that back up and running as well this Fall, continuing my series on Third Culture Kid children's book authors, as well as share with you other books that have particular interest to your third culture kids, both picture and chapter books. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, since we are on the subject of moving and many of you are going through or have gone through that same experience, check out books for your third culture kids on moving on my website. Go to then search for "books on moving and transitions for TCKs". There are some great books out there to help your children through those transitions.

See y'all in Texas where it's hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk!


Anne Sibley O’Brien

Anne Sibley O’Brien – Part 4 of series on third culture kid children’s book authors

Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted a blog entry!!! These last few months have been a whirlwind of book orders going out around the world. In 2016, Kids Books Without Borders has sent out over 4,000 books to more than 32 countries. It has been a joy to provide books to so many families.


I wanted to start off the new year with another third culture kid children’s book author that I have come to love: Anne Sibley O’Brien.
Anne’s art and writing is a celebration and love of the world’s diversity of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I would love to someday see an exhibit of her artwork, how she lovingly paints children of all races with tenderness and warmth, as a mother would depict her own children. Anne works primarily in watercolor, watersoluble pastel, and brush and ink.
Anne Sibley O’Brien (1952-) is a third culture kid who moved to Korea with her family (Anne has 2 older brothers and a younger sister) when she was 7 and spent the rest of her childhood there.  

Anne Sibley O’Brien is a children’s book creator who has illustrated thirty-two picture books, (14 of which she also wrote) including Jamaica’s Find and six other Jamaica titles by Juanita Havill, picture books about a young African-American girl, her life in her family and her community.  

She has also illustrated Talking Walls and four other titles by Margy Burns Knight. In Talking Walls, Knight and O’Brien explore notable walls the world over as both symbols and vehicles for cultural connection. Titles by Margo Burns Knight include:

Talking Walls (1992) an exploration of walls around the world, from the Great Wall of China to Aborigine All Art in Australia. Includes 14 different walls. (For ages 8-11)


Talking Walls – The stories Continue (2003) The exploration of walls from around the world continues in this sequel, with another 17 walls from Hadrian’s Wall in England to the fence surrounding the Isla Nebraska home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Both these books are a great introduction for children about culture and history around the world. A map in the back of the book shows the location of each wall. These two books would make a great unit for homeschooling. (For ages 8-11)
Inside the cover of Talking Walls – The stories Continue, Anne describes her painting on the cover:

“Students in Kent Clady’s sixth grade class at the John Marshall Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana, studied walls in a social studies unit, with the book Talking Walls as their focal point. As a community service project, they offered to repair the entrance wall at a nearby apartment complex. The sixth graders worked hard, scraping and painting the wall. The residents of the apartment complex were so pleased with the students’ work that they contacted local T.V. stations and even invited the sixth graders to use their pool at the end of the school year for a cookout.”

Africa is not a Country (2002). In this non-fiction book about Africa, the author describes the daily life in some of its fifty-three nations on the African continent. A great book to introduce children to that part of the world and our many Western misconceptions. (For ages 8-12)

Welcoming babies – (2003). Welcoming Babies shows the diverse ways we treasure new life around the world, focusing on the routines and rituals of a child’s first year. A beautiful show case for Anne’s love of babies. A celebration of babies around the world! (Ages 5-8)

Who belongs Here? An American Story (2003)

Based on a true story of a young boy fleeing war-torn Cambodia, this story highlights our need to better understand and accept others who are different from us. This book can lead to a great discussion on immigration, refugees, compassion and tolerance, a topic in center stage right now.  (For ages 8-13)

Anne with her son, Perry

She has also co-written After Gandhi – 100 Years of Non-Violent resistance with her son Perry. This non-fiction book won the Maine Literary Book Award.

I would encourage you to check out all the books mentioned above, in addition, I will highlight three other favorites here:

A Path of Stars written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien (for ages 5-8)

If you have ever grown up in another country, now just a distant memory, if you have ever loved and lost, then this book will bring it all back to life, both visually and emotionally. Anne Sibley O’Brien has captured some of those poignant memories of love and loss, scooped them up and painted them in vibrant and warm colors for children to understand and empathize with. This book was inspired by the stories of her friends Vaensa and Peng Kem, who were born in Cambodia and had to leave the country because of the war.


I’m new Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Being the new student in a classroom is difficult enough, but when the child comes from another culture and speaks a different language, it can be extremely stressful and lonely. Three youngsters enter a new school—Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia—and each one experiences the feeling of not fitting in. But as they begin to share their own gifts with the classroom, they begin to start to feel accepted and affirmed.

I love her paintings of the culturally diverse classroom, painted in watercolors on a white background. A great book for third culture kids, who can identify with these children and the initial emotions of loneliness and grief, but also learning to fit in and making new friends. (For ages 4-7)
Whether readers are new themselves or meeting those who are new, there are lessons to be learned here about perseverance, bravery, and inclusion, and O’Brien’s lessons are heartfelt and poetically rendered.”Kirkus Reviews

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong – The Robin Hood of Korea (2006)

This book won the Aesop Award and the Asian-Pacific American Award for Literature, and was named to Booklist’s “Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth 2007.” I must admit, as someone having grown up with French graphic novels, I was quickly drawn into the story and rooting for Hong Kil Dong, as he struggled to find himself and use his gifts to help others. Filled with historical and cultural details, as well as action, magic, and adventure, this story of Hong Kil Dong, will appeal to reluctant readers, and lovers of graphic novels, and is a great introduction to Korean folklore and history. (For grades 3-5)

While Library of Congress places this book with graphic novels, it stands on its own as a traditional tale. Its possibly the first novel written in the Korean alphabet. OBrien has done her homework, using sources in Korean and English and researching her images to display the culture and time period accurately. Her references are well explained and documented…”

Fun Facts about Anne Sibley O’Brien 

Anne was 7 years old, when her family moved to Korea. Her parents moved the family there to fulfill their lifelong dream of serving as medical missionaries. In an interview, she talks about her adjustment to Korea:

I’m sure that there was considerable adjustment for me as a young child, losing one world and encountering a completely new culture and country, but children take their cues from their parents, and mine framed the whole thing as a grand adventure.”

When they first arrived in Korea, her parents were dismayed to find out that they would be living in a missionary compound, with barbed wire around it. Two years later, when Anne was 9, her family managed to persuade the mission to allow them to live in a Korean house, in an all-Korean neighborhood. This began her total immersion into the culture and language, as well as the beginning of lifelong relationships with Koreans.


When they arrived in Korea in 1960, seven years after the end of the Korean War and the partitioning of the peninsula into North and South Korea, they witnessed the devastating affects of war on the country and it’s people. Poverty and sickness was everywhere and it was not uncommon to see children dressed in rags, begging in the street for food.


When Anne was in 5th and 6th grade, she would often go after school to the hospital where her father worked. There, in the children’s wing, were children sent over from local orphanages, who needed medical care. They were short-staffed and Anne remembers spending many hours, holding and playing with these babies, who would all reached out their arms to be held, when she would walk into the ward.


Illustration by Eloise Wilkin

Anne and her family always loved books. Anne’s home was always full of books (see special note below). She was especially drawn to classic illustrators such as Eloise Wilkin, Robert McCloskey, Garth Williams, and Jesse Wilcox Smith. Her favorites stories were fairy tales, books about fairies, and any books with children and babies in them.

A favorite memory of her childhood in Korea include vacationing with Korean friends in the mountains, eating a picnic of kim-bap and swimming in the icy cool streams, with misty mountains and rocky sea coast, and terraced rice fields as a backdrop.

Anne returned to the United States to attend Mount Holyoke College where she majored in art. She spent her Junior year in Korea at Ewha Woman’s University. There was studied Korean history, culture, folklore and painting.

She currently lives on Peaks island in Maine with her husband. She has 2 grown children, a son, Perry and a daughter, Yunhee whom was adopted from Korea. Yunhee is the inspiration and model for her illustrations in Brianna, Jamaica and the Dance of Spring written by Juanita Havill.

Korean traditional wedding costume

When Yunhee was married, the family held a Japanese wedding ceremony for Yunhee and her groom with the help of the Korean American community in Maine.

 Anne was recently honored by the Maine Library Association with the lifetime achievement Katahdin Award for her body of work.

In addition to creating books, she has been involved for many years in diversity education and leadership training. Anne Sibley O’Brien is one of the founders of I’m Your Neighbor, an organization that promotes children’s literature featuring “new arrival” cultures.
She also has a blog “Coloring between the lines” ( where she explores issues of race and culture in children’s literature. On her blog, Anne shares a list of children’s books and resources from a workshop she gave called “Books as Bridges: using Children’s Books To Talk about Race”. She offers a great selection of titles – check it out at
Special side note:


Anne mentions in her interview with Tarie on her blog “into the wardrobe” ( that she would receive books from the US when they lived in Korea. Anne says:

“Once or twice a year, we got to order used books from a church warehouse in the States. We checked them off on a master list, mailed off the order, then waited months for the package to be delivered by sea mail to discover whether or not we’d gotten the ones we’d wanted. Books were precious. “

I was excited to see that other ministries have also done what Kids Books Without Borders (and Bookends International, and others I am not aware of) does now. Katherine Patterson, in her autobiography, Stories of my life, also mentioned that there was a woman who sent books to their family in China and that is was like Christmas when they received the box of books.

Quotes from Anne

My career creating multicultural children’s books is a direct response to my childhood in Korea, which kindled in me a fascination for the beauty and glory of human differences, and a passion for the truth that, across our differences, we are all one human family. We belong to each other. That’s what I’m trying to get to, through all my work.

“Growing up in Korea meant belonging to a place I did not belong, being of a place I was not from, being welcomed and loved by people who were not “my” people. Somehow, culture shock and the sense of dislocation always felt more intense when I returned to the U.S., to the place I supposedly belonged, to the place I was from, to “my” people. ”

When our daughter joined our family by adoption from Korea, and my husband and I were raising her and her white brother, I knew that having diverse books, lots of them, depicting all kinds of people, was essential to their wellbeing and development of healthy identities. In different ways, they both needed to see both themselves – and others – reflected in the books they read.”

Bi-cultural identity is a treasure. It’s challenging because people who are not bicultural have no idea what it’s like to be torn between two cultures, two places, two ways of being in the world, but there is so much richness. And I think that those of us who are caught between also have the gift of being a bridge and able to be insightful about both cultures.”

                                              Quote from interview By The INNERview With Host Susan Lee MacDonald

                                           (See full interview at

Sally Lloyd-Jones – Part IV of my series on third culture children’s authors

Sally Lloyd-Jones – Part IV in my series on Third Culture Kid Children’s authors

I’m so excited to introduce you to yet another third culture kid children’s author: Sally Lloyd-Jones. Sally is a New York Times bestselling children’s book writer. Her books include How To Be A Baby… By Me, the Big Sister’, Gold Book Award winning, ‘The Jesus Storybook Bible’ and the Christian Book of the Year ‘Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing’. She has also written a Christmas storybook Song of the Stars – A Christmas Story (2011).

She was born in Kampala, Uganda and raised in East and West Africa. She also attended a boarding school in the New Forest, England, her passport country. Her father was employed by Shell.

Sally was once told that there are two types of children’s books authors: the ones who are around children, and the ones who are children inside.

It kind of freed me, because I think I know I’m that second one,” she said. “And I can still write from that place, because my childhood is so vivid.”

Her books

  • Little One We Knew You’d Come (2006)
  • Handbag Friends (2005)
  • How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister (2007)
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible (2007)
  • Old Macnoah Had an Ark (2008)
  • The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas! (2008)
  • Time to Say Goodnight (2009)
  • Being a Pig Is Nice: A Child’s-Eye View of Manners (2009)
  • How To Be a Baby, by Me, the Big Sister (2009)
  • Lift the Flap Bible (Lift-the-Flap Book) (2010)
  • Baby’s Hug-a-Bible (2010)
  • How to Get Married, by Me, the Bride (2010)
  • A Child’s First Bible (2011)
  • How to Get a Job by Me, the Boss (2011)
  • Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story (2011)
  • Tiny Bear’s Bible (Children’s Bible) (2012)
  • Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing (2012)
  • Skip to My Lou, My Darling (2015)
  • Baby Wren and the Great Gift (2016)

I will just highlight a few of her books here. I highly recommend both the Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, although her other picture books listed are also well-written and perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

The Jesus Storybook Bible – Every Story Whispers his name by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago

This Bible storybook has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and has been translated in more than 15 different languages. Rather than give you my take on this unique and award-winning storybook Bible, here is, in Sally’s own words, her background and philosophy behind her storybook Bible:

I was a Christian from an early age but for some reason I thought the Bible was mostly telling me what I should do so God would love me. And of course it does have rules in it but that’s not why we have the Bible, because if we could do it then why would Jesus have come. And I somehow missed that. I grew up with this vague sense of God not being pleased with me. I knew I wasn’t getting things right so I thought, “God must not be pleased with me.” So it was very works based. And so when I was working on “The Jesus Storybook Bible” my passion was for no child to come away feeling that way, because the Bible is not about what we’re supposed to be doing so that God will love us, it’s about what God has already done because He does love us. And that changes everything.
I encourage you to get a copy of this storybook Bible and read it for yourself. You will laugh, you will cry, you will encounter anew a God who came to redeem us through Jesus, the one who is center of this great story of salvation. (Although recommended for children 4-7, I recommend it for all ages, from birth to 100+ – As C.S. Lewis says: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”)

Thoughts That Make My Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago

A devotional companion to The Storybook Bible, this book includes 101 devotional thoughts on faith, history, science, drawing on teachings from the Bible as well as from heroes of the Faith. Written for children grades 1 through 4, this is a perfect book for family or one-on-one devotions with your child. Written in conversational style, with lots of questions and answers and stories, this devotional is sure to spark further discussions and dialogue about God, and faith, with your child(ren). The illustrations by Jago enhance and add a new dimension to Sally’s fresh and insightful thoughts that not only make our heart sing, but help us (and our child) experience the presence of God in our daily lives.

At the bottom of each devotional thought is the biblical passage on which the poem is based. At the back of the book, there is a section titled “Bibliography and sources – (or more things to think about)” where she lists the places she found the quotes used in specific devotionals. She also adds other books and quotes that have inspired and encouraged her.

Song of the Stars – A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones with paintings by Alison Jay

During this season of Advent, I wanted to highlight her Christmas storybook, published in 2011, Song of the Stars – A Christmas story. (for ages 4-7) The entire universe awaits, with anticipation and joy. The story begins:”The world was about to change forever. And it almost went by unnoticed …” From the smallest woodland creatures to the great white whales in the deep, all creation awaits his coming. And when he does come, the animals all gaze down at him in wonder. Alison Jay’s vibrant illustrations of animals and nature are stunning. A fresh and original perspective on the birth of Christ.

Fun Facts about Sally Lloyd-Jones

  • The first book she ever read all the way through was ‘The Complete Nonsense” by Edward Lear. Sally Lloyd-Jones says:  ” I didn’t know you could have so much fun inside of a book. It was filled with limericks and drawings that Lear did himself.”  Note: I do have copies of The Complete Nonsense by Lear available to you if you are a family living overseas.
  • Another of her favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. She has read and enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia, but has also been influenced by his whole way of talking about faith.
  • Sally Lloyd-Jones is often mistakenly identified as a relative of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 – 1 March 1981) a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. She has been often identified as his daughter, or grand-daughter. Although, they share the same last name, Sally is not related to him.

  • British at heart, she loves tea and hot porridge
  • Sally now lives in an apartment in Manhattan, New York.
  • She loves running, cycling, taking photos, going on adventures, watching movies, and exploring New York City by bike.
  • She attends the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York. She says her writing has been influenced by the writing and teaching of Timothy Keller, who is the founding pastor of Reedemer Presbyterian Church.

Quotes from Sally Lloyd-Jones:

And one day, God would send another baby, a baby promised to a girl who didn’t even have a husband. But this baby would bring laughter to the whole world. This baby would be everyone’s dream come true.

― Quote from The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Whenever God talks to his children in the Bible, do you know what he usually says first?

“Hello”? “How do you do”?

No. He says, “Don’t be afraid!”

God must not want his children – even for a moment – living anxiously or afraid. He wants his children to trust him.

Are you worried about something today?

Is something frightening you?

God says to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you. I will help you.”

– Quote from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

For Advent:

I know, it’s already December 8th, but if you have not started an advent devotional or readings with your kids, I highly recommend Sally Lloyd-Jones advent reading plan using the Storybook Bible – the reading plan is available for free on her blog (
Wherever you are, may your advent season be filled with books, stories and especially a sense of anticipation and presence of God, as we remember and share the story of Christ’s birth and anticipate His return. May Emanuel, God with us, filled your hearts with His peace and His joy this Christmas season!
Merry Christmas!

Jean Little

Jean Little – Part III of the series on Third Culture Kids authors

After reading about Jean Little’s childhood and early adulthood, in her autobiography, Little by Little, as well as reading a selection of her children’s books, I have become very fond of Jean. If you asked me today, what author I would love to sit down with over a cup of tea or coffee, I would say, enthusiastically, “Jean Little!”

Why? You might ask. Well, I see someone who has had to deal with more than her fair share of struggles as a child and yet, has used her gifts and abilities to impact children as a teacher, a speaker and a writer. Jean, at the age of seven, had to deal not only with moving back to Canada from Taiwan and all the adjustments that come with that, but overcoming physical disabilities, loneliness and bullying in school.

After graduating from high school, and although she was legally blind, she went on to attend the University of Toronto. During this time, her father – who believed in her, encouraged her and constantly urged her to pursue her dream of becoming a writer – passed away. She somehow, managed to pull herself out of her deep state of shock and grief, and finish on time, to earn her BA in English language and literature.
In her early twenties, as she was teaching in a school for physically disabled children, she realized that there were virtually no books about children with disabilities. In most of her favorite childhood books that she would read to her class, any child with a disability was somehow “cured” and went on to live a normal life, such as Colin in the Secret Garden or Clara in Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Most of the children that Jean worked with would never experience a miracle cure and would struggle the rest of their lives. Jean decided to write such a book – her first book was titled “Mine For Keeps” about a child with cerebral palsy. Her first book, published in 1962, won the Canadian Children’s Book Award. Since then, Jean has published over 50 books. She has written novels, picture books, poetry, short stories, and two autobiographical books. Her book “His Banner Over Me” tells the story of her mother, Flora Little, who was herself a TCK from Taiwan – another incredible story of hardship, loss, and courage.

Jean’s life story inspires me. I don’t know about you, but I need these “guiding lights” to whisper in my ear and urge me on, as I face struggles or difficulties: “Come on, Gail, look at Jean. If someone with all the struggles she went through, and all the losses and hurts can rise above and make an impact, so can you!” I want to say:

Thank you, Jean, for sharing your story and giving all us third culture kids, the courage to overcome and impact the lives of those around us.”
Books by Jean Little


  • Birdie for Now- 2002
  • Dancing Through the Snow- 2007
  • Different Dragons- 1986
  • Forward, Shakespeare- 2005
  • From Anna- 1972
  • His Banner Over me- 1995
  • Home From Far- 1965
  • Kate- 1971
  • Listen for the Singing- 1977
  • Look Through my Window- 1970
  • Lost and Found- 1985
  • Mama’s Going to Buy you a Mockingbird- 1984
  • Mine for Keeps- 1962
  • One to Grow On- 1969
  • Rescue Pup- 2004
  • Somebody Else’s Summer- 2005
  • Spring Begins in March- 1966
  • Stand in the Wind- 1975
  • Take Wing- 1968
  • The Belonging Place- 1997
  • The Birthday Girl- 2004
  •  The Jean Little Collection- 2001
  • Willow and Twig- 2000 (young adult book)


  •  Hey World, Here I am- 1986
  • I Gave Mom a Castle- 2003
  • When the Pie was Opened- 1968

Picture books

  • Bats About Baseball- 1995
  •  Gruntle Piggle Takes Off- 1996
  • I Know an Old Laddie- 2003
  • Jenny and the Hanukkah Queen- 1995
  • Jess was the Brave One- 1991
  • Listen, Said the Donkey- 2006
  • Once Upon a Golden Apple- 1991
  • Pippin the Christmas Pig- 2003
  • Revenge of the Small Small- 1992
  • The Sweetest One of All- 2008

Autobiographies and biography

  • Little By Little- 1987
  • Stars Come Out Within- 1990
  • His Banner Over Me – 1995 – fascinating story of her mother’s life, also a TCK.


Although I have not read all of her books, I have read many and I would like to highlight a few here:

From Anna by Jean Little (1972)

This is the story of Anna Solden, a visually impaired girl who moves from Germany to Canada with her family, as Hitler rises to power in the 1930s in Germany. From Anna is one of Jean Little’s most popular works and has many similarities with her own life story. I absolutely loved it! I think it ranks up there with my top 10 favorite chapter books. This is another great TCK story, as Anna and her family adjust to another language and culture, after living all their lives in Germany. I also liked that she tackled the issue of both cultural adjustments and living with disabilities not just in the school context but in family life. I highly recommend this book. (for ages 8-12)


The Belonging Place by Jean Little (1997)

This historical fiction novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century. A young Scottish girl, Elspet, is adopted an aunt and uncle after her mother’s death. The family, including Elspet eventually immigrate to Canada. The theme of the search to belong is prominent throughout the book, as Elspet struggles with belonging in her adopted family and the family adjusts to their new home in Canada. If your kids like the Little House on the Prairie books, this is a must read. (for ages 8-12)

Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little

After being abandoned at the age of 4, Min has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. Now a week before Christmas, she finds herself at the Children’s Aid office. Her foster mother no longer wants to care for her. She has no family, no birthday, no idea of where she came from. Jess Hart, a former Children’s Aid doctor, can’t take it anymore. She storms in and announced to the social worker that she is taking Min home with her for the holidays. Min, both grateful and fearful, slowly begins to allow Jess into her heart and life. A moving story perfect for Christmas, both for an older child to read on their own or as a family read-aloud. (for ages 9 and up)

Lost and Found by Jean Little

The short novel with a big punch, this is one that after reading it, I thought, wow, that one I should add to my list of books on moving. This is the story of a young girl who is not excited about moving to her new home, and having to make new friends. An lost dog and his needs brings her out of her shell. I love the ending. (For age 6-9)


Little by Little by Jean Little

In this first of her two autobiographies, which starts off with her life in Taiwan, Jean shares of her joys and struggles as she deals with change and her visual disabilities. I won’t summarize her life, there are way too many amazing stories but I will say: read this book! I will also include a short excerpt to wet your appetite – this is my favorite part of the book:
Jean describes, in this chapter, how she had to ride the streetcar home from school one day on her own. Since she didn’t recognize her street corner and couldn’t hear the driver clearly announcing her stop, she missed her stop and rode all the way to the end of the line, before the bus driver noticed her. He did take her back to her stop, she got off and ran home, into her mother’s arms, sobbing. Her mother held her, then told her to go get ready for bed. She brought her dinner up to her on a tray. Jean asked her mother to read to her. She adds: “I needed a story to come between me and the difficult things that had happened“. (I love that!). Her mom summoned her siblings then opened a book and began to read:
When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody said she was the most disagreeable looking child ever seen. It was true too.”

Jean, in Little by Little, goes on to explain:

“I laid down my spoon. From the first sentence, The Secret Garden seemed especially mine. I did not wonder what Mary Lennox looked like. I knew. She looked exactly like me…. I had make two journeys that day, one to the end of the streetcar line and one to Misselthwaite Manor. I never cared to ride to the end of the line again, but over and over I would return to that vast and mysterious house. And always, when I got to the long walk, Mary herself would be waiting to take me through the door to the secret garden.”  

Jean Little
Little by Little is for ages 9 and up – a great book for adults too

Her autobiography continues in The Stars Come Out Within – also a great read.


His Banner Over Me by Jean Little

This book tells the story of Jean’s mother, Flora Millicent “Gorrie” Gauld. She was also born in Taiwan to missionary parents, but spent much of her life with relatives in Canada, separated from her parents. She became one of the nation’s first women doctors and a missionary herself. The books is a powerful reminder of the great sacrifices early missionaries made, including many years of separation from their children. A must read! (For ages 9 and up)

Facts about Jean Little


  • Jean Little was born in 1932, in Formosa, now called Taiwan.
  • Shortly after her birth, doctors discovered that she had scars over both her corneas that caused severely impaired vision and crossed eyes.

  • Jean’s parents were Canadian doctors serving as medical missionaries under the United Church of Canada in Taiwan. Jean has two older brothers, Jamie and Hugh and a younger sister, Pat.


  • The Little family returned from Taiwan to live in Canada in 1939 when Jean was 7. In Toronto, she was placed in a classroom for visually impaired children, a classroom where she flourished and felt accepted. They moved to Guelph in 1940, where she entered a mainstream classroom and although she did well academically, she struggled to make friends and was often teased or ridiculed by her classmates. Reading became her passion and her escape from loneliness and hurt.
  • She is one of Canada’s most successful children’s authors and the first to deal extensively with issues of disabilities.
  • Her own struggles as a partially sighted individual are reflected through her characters, who often deal with physical disabilities, or confront psychological difficulties involving fear or grief.
  • Jean writes her books using a talking computer that reads back the writing letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence or the entire file.

  • She has a retired seeing-eye dog named Ritz and a new one named Pippa, with whom she travels. Her and her sister also have other pets, including a talking great parrot named Henry Huggins.
  • Jean has written 50 books and has recieved numerous awards, including the Canada Council Children’s Literature Award and the Matt Cohen Award in celebration of her writing life.
  • When not writing, Little keeps abreast of her audience by working with young people in the church, schools, and community.

  • Favorite children’s books include The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.





  • She now lives in Guelph, Ontario with her sister Pat.

Quotes by Jean Little


Miss Happiness and Miss Flower

Rumer Godden
Third Culture Kids children’s authors series – part 2

Rumer Godden (1907-1998) is a British author, who grew up in India. She is the author of over 60 books, both fiction and non-fiction, 30 of those books were written for children. Nine of her works have been made into films. Her children’s books reflect many of the struggles and emotions that third culture kids face, often through the lens of a doll.
Children’s books by Rumer Godden

  • 1947 The Doll’s House
  • 1951 The Mousewife, a children’s book
  • 1952 Mouse House
  • 1954 Impunity Jane: The Story of a Pocket Doll
  • 1956 The Fairy Doll
  • 1958 The Story of Holly and Ivy
  • 1960 Candy Floss
  • 1961 Saint Jerome and the Lion (retelling of the legend in verse)
  • 1961 Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
  • 1963 Little Plum, the sequel to Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
  • 1964 Home is the Sailor
  • 1967 The Kitchen Madonna
  • 1969 Operation Sippacik
  • 1972 The Diddakoi (also published as Gypsy Girl) winner of the Whitbread Award.
  • 1972 The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle
  • 1975 Mr. McFadden’s Hallowe’en
  • 1977 The Rocking Horse Secret
  • 1978 A Kindle of Kittens
  • 1981 The Dragon of Og
  • 1983 Four Dolls
  • 1983 The Valiant Chatti-Maker
  • 1984 Mouse Time: Two Stories
  • 1990 Fu-Dog
  • 1992 Great Grandfather’s House
  • 1992 Listen to the Nightingale
  • 1996 The Little Chair
  • 1996 Premlata and the Festival of Lights
  • 1984 Thursdays Children

In this post, I would like to highlight two of Rumer Godden’s books that I recommend (although I have read many others, including The Fairy Doll, The Doll’s House, Impunity Jane and The Woman Who lived in a Vinegar Bottle (picture book). Her children’s books are filled with lively dialogues, so they would make great read-aloud stories. Although many of her books feature girls or dolls as main characters, Impunity Jane: The Story of a Pocket Doll, is about a boy who keeps a doll in his pocket and takes her on his many adventures, a dream come true for Jane, who loves nothing better than to sail down a river or climb trees.

The first one, The Story of Holly and Ivy, is an old favorite Christmas storybook, that my girls loved when they were young. It was written in 1958 and is illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It’s a classic tale of a lonely, orphaned girl searching for home, and a doll, longing to be held and loved – the two are drawn to one another on Christmas Eve, in a small town in England. A heartwarming-feel-good-happy-ending story that is sure to warm little hearts on cold winter nights at Christmas time. I try to keep this one in stock for families living overseas. The Story of Holly and Ivy is one of the books featured on my list of favorite Christmas books (for more on Christmas stories see my blog post “Christmas in July? 25 days of Christmas books“)


The second book, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, I happened upon recently in a thrift store, started reading it and couldn’t put it down. It’s a perfect book for third culture kids, adjusting to a new place and new culture, learning to have courage beyond their years, conquering fears, reaching out to ask for help, and making friends along the way. You can see in this book, the young 12-year-old Rumer, as she arrived in England from India, reliving the sense of loss and grief, the loneliness of leaving her home and family back in India. I also love the fact that the story is about two Japanese dolls. There is a focus on Asian culture, customs and values in the story. I also was drawn to the creative aspect of the story, as Nona works on designing and furnishing a home for her Japanese dolls, not just any doll house, but a Japanese style house where Miss Happiness and Miss Flower can truly feel at home. The book includes plans on how to build the doll house. There is a deep sense of closure as the book ends, with both the little girl and the Japanese dolls coming out of their state of grief and confusion, and finding a sense of belonging. Get ready for your child to bring out her old doll house and start a remodeling project or build her/his own doll house. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower is followed by a sequel, Miss Plum, which I also highly recommend.


As I mentioned, the theme of doll houses may prompt some remodeling. The picture above is of me playing with my doll house in France when I was 4. I still have this doll house. It is one of the few items that I kept from childhood. I have memories of playing with it with my younger sister, Renée. My siblings and I also used it as a fun house for our guinea pigs, Winnie and Yogi. My older brother Rob, added a doorbell and lighting from his electrical kit he received one Christmas. I had recently pulled it out of. storage for our extended family reunion. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, as well as Rumer Godden’s book, The Doll’s House, has inspired me to repaint and fix it up for children who come over (and perhaps for grandchildren we may someday have).

Do you have a dollhouse? or favorite dolls? (please share memories or photos in the comments)
Facts about Rumer Godden

  • Margaret Rumer Godden was born on Dec. 10, 1907, in Sussex, England. She was the second of four daughters of Arthur Leigh and Katherine Hingley Godden. The family moved to India when she was less than a year old.

  • In India, Rumer Godden and her family lived in Narayanganj, colonial India (now in Bangladesh), where her father worked for the Brahmaputra Steam Navigation Company. They would often spend time in remote river towns.
  • Until she was 12, Ms. Godden was largely educated by her family in a home that she later described as ”English streaked with Indian, or Indian streaked with English.”
  • When she was only seven, she wrote her autobiography.
  • Her and her sisters returned to England in 1920 to attend boarding school. It was a very difficult adjustment time and her and her sister were terrible homesick. They went to five schools in two years, finally settling at Moira House Girls School in Eastbourne. Rumer eventually trained as a dance teacher.
  • She went back to Calcutta in 1925 and opened a dance school for English and Indian children. Godden ran the school for many years with the help of her sister Nancy. During this time she published her first best-seller, the 1939 novel Black Narcissus.

  • Rumer Godden had many interests but her greatest were dancing, opera, Pekinese dogs, which she kept for most of her life.

  • The Doll’s House” was her first and perhaps best known of her nearly two dozen children’s books, appeared in 1947.


  • Rumer Godden had two daughters, Jane and Paula. She believed strongly in reading aloud to children of all ages. She read to her daughters at bedtime and often read aloud to them around the fire on a Sunday evenings.
  • Rumer, Jane says, had a wonderful rapport with children. For her grandchildren she used to hold dolls’ tea parties, with miniature invitations and tiny sandwiches. Everyone dressed up!
  • Her books for children, especially her doll stories, are filled with all the secret thoughts, confusions, disappointments, and aspirations of childhood.

Quotes by Rumer Godden

There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual . Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.” Quote from Rumer Godden’s autobiography A House With Four Rooms

Her description of the sights and smells of India: (excerpt from her memoir “Two Under the Indian Sun:

“…The feel of the sunbaked Indian dust between sandals and bare toes; that and the smell. It was the honey smell of the fuzz-buzz flowers of thorn trees in the sun, and the smell of open drains and urine, of coconut oil on shining black human hair, of mustard cooking oil and the blue smoke from cow dung used as fuel; it was a smell redolent of the sun, more alive and vivid than anything in the West.”

On the life of dolls:

It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose; they can only be chosen; they cannot ‘do’; they can only be done by.
Excerpt from The Doll’s House by Rumer Godden

Reading Together Romania

Reading Together Romania

A few years back one of my husband’s graduate students shared with me about a friend whom she knew in Romania who started a weekly library day in her home and is now spearheading a group called Reading Together Romania (Citim Impreuna Romania – CIR).

Kids Books Without Borders has been able to contribute books to Brandi, to help her grow her home library, both for homeschooling and for her Reading Together Romania. Brandi and I have gotten to know each other via email. We love to share new books we’ve discovered. She is as crazy as I am (maybe more) about children’s books and it’s been great to get to know her. She has also been a constant source of encouragement to me. I can’t wait to someday meet her in person !

I have had several families living overseas who have shared that they would love to start a weekly library day in their home. A few weeks back, I asked Brandi if she would share some tips for starting a weekly reading group. She was recently asked to do an interview for a Romanian website (focused on activities for children). I would like to share that interview with you. I hope this interview will inspire you to do something similar wherever you are. It all started with one box of books and a small group of moms and children coming together to read.

If you are interested in asking Brandi any questions about Reading Together Romania you can contact her at or like and leave comments on her FB page Citim Impreuna Romania.

Reading Together Romania

Homesick, My Own Story

Jean Fritz –  part 1 in a series on TCK children’s authors
I am excited to begin a series here on this blog about children’s authors who are third culture kids. I have yet to find a list out there (anyone know of one?) but I am starting my own list. Here is what I have so far (a work in progress – please let me know if you know of any others I need to add to this list below):
Pearl Buck – TCK from China

Jean Fritz – TCK from China

Meindert DeJong – TCK from Netherlands

Rumer Godden – TCK from China

Rudyard Kipling – TCK from India

Jean Little – TCK from Taiwan

Anne Sibley O’Brien – TCK from Korea

Katherine Patterson – TCK from China

Mitali Perkins – TCK who spent much of her childhood overseas in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana.   (I did write a blog post about Mitali Perkins “Tiger Boy” – check it out – she’s an amazing writer)

Missing anyone? Let me know…
In this first post in my series of TCK children’s authors, I would like to highlight Jean Fritz.

She is an American children’s writer best known for American biography and history as I mentioned above. She won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her career contribution to American children’s literature in 1986. She turned 100 in November 2015.
If you homeschool or love history, you will definitely be familiar with Jean Fritz’s history books for children. Who has not heard of these famous books?

  •  And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
  • Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
  • Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt
  • Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?
  •  George Washington’s Breakfast
  •  Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln
  •  Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution
  • What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
  • Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus?
  • Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?
  •  Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock?
  • Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?
  • Why Not Lafayette?
  • You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?

In addition to these shorter works for younger children, she has also written chapter books about famous Americans in history including:

  •  The Double Life of Pocahontas
  • Around the world in a hundred years (a book about early explorers)
  • The Great Little Madison
  • Stonewall

Jean Guttery Fritz was born November 16, 1915 in China where she lived until 1927.  When she was 12, she returned to the US and settled in Virginia.

Her book Homesick, My Own Story is the focus of this post. It was published in 1982 . It is a Newbery Honor book, winner of the American Book Award and winner of the Christopher Award. This chapter book with illustrations and drawings by Margot Tomes, is geared from 8 to 12 year olds, although I have loved it as an adult, and I think teens would enjoy it as well, especially TCKs. There is a section at the back of the book with photographs of herself and her family, many of them in China, which brings her story to life.

Although she tells the story of her childhood in China and her subsequent years as she settles in the US and adjusts to life there, she admits in the preface that her memories of her childhood come out in lumps, often not sequential, so she weaves the story together with fictional bits. She says that she would have to consider this a work of fiction, but that “it does not feel like fiction to me. It is my story, told as truly as I can tell it.”.   

I have read this several times and each time I read it, I glean new insights about being a TCK and the joys and struggles that come with it: the loneliness, struggles at school, that sense of living between two worlds and longing to belong, that sense of loss at leaving one country to go to another.
My favorite section of this biography of her life, is when she is on the boat leaving China at the age of 12 – although she is excited about seeing the US and her grandparents and extended family for the first time, she feels as if she was in an in-between state – not in China, not in America – she describes it like this in Homesick My Own Story:


“It seemed to me that once we were completely out of sight of land, I would really feel homeward bound. But as I looked at the Shanghai skyline and at the busy waterfront, I had the strange feeling that I wasn’t moving away at all. Instead the land was slowly moving away and leaving me. Not just Shanghai but China itself…. I could even smell China, and it was the smell of food cooking, of steam rising from many rice bowls it hung in a mist over the land. But it was slipping away. No matter how hard I squinted, it was fading from sight.”

That “in-between” state that we all can relate to as TCKs – it seeps into you and never leaves you: never fully belonging, always longing for a place that feels 100% like home, knowing it will never come to be on this side of eternity.

Jean is not shy about giving you the whole picture of her childhood, the good along with the bad, the happy times as well as the sad times. Life was not easy for Jean. She was ostracized by the Chinese who call her a “foreign devil”. She didn’t fit in in the British school she attended. Her family faced war and violence, separation and anxiety, grief and loss, depression and loneliness. It’s all there, but the overall tone of the book is not negative. As a girl, faced with these difficulties, she learned to cope, she found those places inside herself to escape to, she had supportive parents and a Chinese nanny who herself struggled from being ostracized by her family. Jean is an example of one who takes what life offers, drank the bitter cups and decided to focus on the beautiful and the good she saw around her, like the wild flowers and the mountains, books, her cat, her relationships with family both far and near. Jean also learned to except herself, her weaknesses and hone in on her strength.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially to TCKs. I would love (and often do) throw it in to the boxes I mail out to family overseas. 

Fun Facts about Jean Fritz’s life :

  • She was born in Wuhan, China and lived there until she was 13. She still misses China. She has visited China three times as an adult. She can speak Mandarin, but did not learn to write the traditional Chinese characters.
  • She is an only child. When she was 11, her mother gave birth to a little girl, they called her Miriam but she was born premature and only lived a few weeks. She was often lonely. She loved to write and writing became her way of processing all her experiences and emotions.
  • Her interest in American history started as a child, when her father shared stories and tales of American heroes from the past. She says traces her love of history to her need for roots. As a child, she often felt disconnected. US history gave her a sense belonging.
  • She said she did not enjoy history as a child, but as an adult, she was fascinated by the different people who lived throughout history. She says:  “Sometimes it seems as if a person from long ago steps out from a page and speaks to me. Then I know I have to write another book.” 

  • She announced that she was going to be a writer when she grew up when she was 5 years old.
  • As a child, she read Peter Pan by Baum, The Secret Garden by Burnett and  Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Just so Stories was her favorite. One of her current favorite books is The Lemming Condition by Alan Arkin
  • Out of all her books (and she has written well over 50 books) she is most proud of Homesick, My Own Story because it is the story of her own childhood. Homesick, My Own Story is also her best seller. The title Homesick has a double meaning: yes, she was homesick for America when she was in China, but after returning to the US, she realized she was then homesick for China.
  • When asked if any of her great-great grand-children were to write a book about her, what would they title the book, she replied: “I think my children and I feel I’ve never quite grown up, so maybe something like She Never Grew Up.”
  • In China, she attended a British school. There she had to sing “God Save the King!” every morning. She did not want to do it. Even though she had never been to America, she felt that singing that song would be traitorous.  Fortunately, her wise father pointed out that the American song, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” had the same tune, so she quietly sang that instead.
  • One of the things she hated the most when she first attended public school in Virginia was having to learn cursive writing.
  • She loves rivers and oceans. When she was in China, she loved the Yangtse River and now she lives in New York beside the Hudson River. She also loves the ocean and vacationed for many years in Virgin Cordo, an island in the Carribean Sea. When she was younger, she loved to swim and snorkel. She still loves to go to the beach and just enjoy the beauty, sounds and smells of the sea. (A woman after my own heart! “A kindred spirit” as Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables would say)
  • Of course, she also loves reading. She reads all sorts of books, not just history.
  • In 1983, she went back to her hometown in China and found her house, where she and her parents lived. She visited a school and showed the children a photograph album the children of Dobbs Ferry, NY made to show what their life is like.
  • Her favorite character from history?  She is crazy about LaFayette. She wrote a book about him called “Why Not LaFayette?“. She loves the fact that he was devoted to democracy. He was a very principled man. She is saddened by the fact that he is not studied in school that much any more.
  • She attended Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois.
  • She married Michael Fritz in 1941. She has two children, David and Andrea.
  •      Her birthday is November 16th 1915. She turns 101 in a few months.

Quotes from Jean Fritz:

When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.” ― Jean Fritz

Only when a book is written out of passion is there much hope of its being read with passion.” ― Jean Fritz

Books on moving and transitions for TCKs

Moving is part of the package (no pun intended) of a third culture kid. Boxes, crates, suitcases, packing and unpacking were all fixtures of my childhood experience. By the time I was 13,our family had moved 9 times.

Move back to France – Fall 1970


Each place has special memories, each new home or apartment has its own stories. I remember the purple irises all lined in a row in our home in Villeneuve-Le-Roi, the laundry shoot that went all the way to the basement in our home in Barrington, Illinois, the missionary closet filled with old clothes and the smell of moth balls in the TEAM apartments in Wheaton, the daisy bedspreads my mom made for me and my sister when we moved to our home in Maurepas, France.
Each move brought with it a sense of excitement and anticipation, but also anxiety and fear of the unknown. I have happy memories of moving to new homes and new locations, I think, because it was something we did together as a family, my siblings and my parents were always there, and it bonded us closer together as we braved the unknown united. I remember unpacking all my stuff after returning from a year’s furlough – It was like Christmas, as we re-discovered toys and books that we had forgotten about.
Starting in a new school… now that is a different story. I was a shy child and facing a new school, all the new faces, teachers and students alike, struck terror in me, I had to do this alone, my family could only wave as they dropped me off in front of that new school.
These are some of the reactions and emotions your child may experience during a move:

  •  Loss – so many losses: house, bedroom, school, often extended family, neighborhood, and for TCK, language fluency and cultural identity
  •  Sadness and grief as a result of all the losses
  •  Loss of control – just when your child is learning all the rules, the rug is pulled out from under them and they must relearn many things, especially if moving cross-culturally.
  •  Anxiety – fear of the unknown – will I make new friends? Can I learn or sometimes relearn a new language? When will I see my grandma and grandpa again?
  •  Anger – sometimes anger can be the result of deeper issues of loss, anxiety or lack of control
  •  Regression – in your children, moving can lead to regression – behaviors may resurface, or skills such as toilet training or sleeping through the night may be lost temporarily.
  •  Excitement – the level of excitement is contagious – if you are excitement and your attitude is positive and adventurous, your child will also feel excited.

The following books are great bibliotherapy for third culture kids. Be sure to stock up on books to help them cope with the changes and the emotions that are sure to surface as the boxes are packed and unpacked. A great time to start reading these books about the transition to your child is months before the big move. Knowing a character (even if they are fictional) or other children who go through similar emotions and feelings as a result of a move will help your child identify their own feelings and process them.   This is a long list of books – I hope you can use it as a guide to selecting good books about moving to help your TCK through these times of transition.  This is by no means exhaustive – I would love to her from you if you have found other helpful resources (please share comments and ideas in the comments on this blog post – thanks!)
Preschool picture books

Moving Day by Jan and Stan Berenstain (1994)

If your kids are familiar with the Berenstain Bears, this is a great addition. There is something comforting about a favorite character going through the same experiences as you. Join Mama and Papa and brother bear (sister Bear was not born yet) as they move from their cave up in the mountains to their treehouse down in the valley.

GOOD-BYE/hello by Barbara Shook Hazen, illustrated by Michael Bryant (1995)

Great for preschoolers, this is the story of a little girl who moves from a city to a suburb. The first part of the book she says good-bye to all the places and friends she has grown to love in her old neighborhood, the second part of the book she says hello to all the new scenes in her new home and neighborhood. (ages 2-5)

Bella And Stella Come Home by Anika Denise and Christopher Denise (2010)

This is a gentle and comforting picture book for preschoolers and young elementary. A young girl faces a wide range of reactions and emotions as she moves to a new house. l love the rich shades of yellow, pink and purples throughout the book, the adorable and expressive African-American girl, her elephant who becomes large and life like when she is especially frightened or anxious and needs his comfort and the humorous details throughout. Everything about the new house is strange and different – there are more steps going into her house than her old house, the new kitchen is yellow and “Stella thinks kitchens should be blue” like her old house. And the bathtub has feet! Night time comes and everything is even more frightening, but the next day, as they unpack all her things and meet their new neighbors, their new home begins to feel more like home. This book might just become a favorite, long after all the boxes are unpacked. (ages 2-6)

Boomer’s Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge (1996), illustrated by Mary Whyte

This humorous and heartwarming story is told from the perspective of a golden retriever, as he watches anxiously the chaos and confusion of a moving day. The colorful watercolor illustrations compliment the story well. I especially loved the page where Boomer is hiding under a chair while boxes, packing paper and movers scurry about him, followed by a blank page with only Boomer still crouched, look dazed with the text printed below: “Before Boomer knew it, the house was empty.” After a long and cramped ride, Boomer is deposited in another empty house. His anxiety is put aside, however, when he discovers the backyard where there are “things to sniff… holes to dig … squirrels to chase… and best of all…there are new friends to be made!”. The day ends with Boomer returning to the house to find his bed, his dish bowl and his favorite tennis ball. A gentle and comforting book as you and your family face the big day too. Your child will empathize with Boomer and his reactions to all the changes around him. (for ages 3-6)

Moving Day – a Child’s Play book illustrated by Jess Stockham (2011)

In this preschool book, a young African American boy (I would say he’s around 3) is right in the thick of things, as his family begins packing up to move. Lots of bright illustrations focused on a young child’s perspective and at a child’s level (the adults are there and involved, but you rarely see their faces) and simple conversational style text make this an ideal book for a young child’s first move. (ages 2-5)

Big Ernie’s New Home – A Story of Children Who are Moving (2006) by Teresa and Whitney Martin

In this book, the story of a move from San Francisco to Santa Fe, is told from the perspective of a cat. Ernie loves his life and routine in San Francisco, the walks around town, the fog, the rain, the dragon in Chinatown, the smell of dinner rolls baking at Wong’s, the sound of the cable car bell and the wind of his fur. When they arrive is Santa Fe, Henry announces:

Big Ernie, say hello to Santa Fe. This is our new home,” announced Little Henry.

 NEW HOME? How could this be home?

 The colors were all wrong….

 …And everything felt different, too….  

 This couldn’t be home.

 Big Ernie was mad, and a little sad.

 He had trouble sleeping.

 Sometimes he ever got into the red box,

 hoping it would take him back to his old house.”

Ernie gradually starts to notice things about his new home that he likes and his sadness dissipates. His zest for life and adventure returns. Another comforting book for preschool children facing similar changes. In the back of the book, there is a note to parents written by Jane Annunziata, a clinical psychologist, with information and tips of how explain a move, timing the news, reactions and feelings and reducing the stress during this time of transition. (for ages 2-6)
Picture books for older kids

I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (2014)

As she receives news that her family is moving to Toronto, an eight-year old girl shares all the things she knows and loves about her home in Saskatchewan, Canada. She asks herself: “Have people in Toronto seen what I’ve seen?” – the dirt road with the eight trailers all lined up in a row, the cry of the wolves at night, the pond where her sister catches frogs, the old moose standing in the water at dusk, her small one -room school, the forest fires. When her teacher suggests that she draw all the things that she wants to remember about her life here, that is exactly what she does. She says; “I will fold my drawing up small, put it safe in my pocket and I will take the road with me. To Toronto.”. The vibrant illustrations will resonate with children, painted from the perspective of a child. In the sequel From There To Here, the little girl shares what her life is like now, in Toronto and how it compares with her life in Saskatchewan. I highly recommend these two books, especially to families moving from a rural setting to a larger city.
Cranberry Moving Day by Wende and Harry Devlin (1994)

I love the Cranberry picture books so I just had to add this one to the list. In Cranberry Moving Day, Maggie, Grandmother and Mr. Whiskers  just how to welcome their new neighbors. This is a great story to share with your child where they learn how important it is to BE the new friend and the helping hand in times of transition.

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland, illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi (1993)

In this moving story of a Vietnamese family’s plight as they are forced to flee from their home land, a young Vietnamese girl saves and treasures a lotus seed she plucked from a lotus pod in the Imperial garden. The author’s interest in Vietnam grew as she befriended Vietnamese families. Her desire was to show “how a family’s heritage is passed on from one generation to the next, and how hope, like the lotus seed, can survive through the worst of circumstances.” Having objects or traditions that families carry with them, no matter where they live, is a great way to help your children cope with change and loss and bridge the gap between space and time. Each illustration by Tatsuro Kiuchi, a native of Tokyo is a painting in itself – I love the painting of the pink lotus flower and the one of the grandmother crying in the window seat at night, the moonlight streaming in through the window.

Here I Am by Patti Kim, pictures by Sonia Sanchez

All I could say after reading this book was “Wow”. This story, told without words, describes the journey of a young Asian boy as he immigrates to the United States, settling in the heart of New York city. The range of emotions the child feels as he steps off the plane, and is subjected to all kinds of new and strange sights and sounds, jump out at the reader through the cacophony of graphic images. Sadness but also fear keep him indoors until he accidentally drops a special red seed pod, his link to his former life, out the window. In a commentary at the back of the book, the author puts it this way: “what happens to us when we forget to be afraid? We loosen our firm grip on what belongs to us. We open our hands. We share. We give.” As the young boy steps out of his comfort zone, he begins to explore his new world, and finds joy in the hustle and bustle of city life and friendship waiting just around the corner. This book is a visual delight and new discoveries will be made with each reading. A great book to “read” with your child. Let them tell the story, add their comments and explore their own emotions, as they relate to the character on the pages.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catron

Molly Lou Melon is a first grade girl. She is feisty, brave and determined. But she is also the shortest girl in the first grade, she has buck teeth, a voice that sounds like a bullfrog, and is not always very coordinated. Her grandma gives her four pieces of advice (I love that it’s grandma!):

Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you.”

“Smile big and the world will smile right alongside you.”

“Sing out clear and strong and the world will cry tears of joy.”

“Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too.”

When Mollie moves away and has to start at her new school, she must prove herself to her new classmates and face the school bully while everyone looks on. With her grandmas advice and her spunk, she faces each challenge with humor and determination. A great book about believing in yourself in spite of physical limitations and facing new situations with courage. I like the fact that it is focused on adjusting to a new school as well as a child’s relationship with her grandmother.

Lenny & Lucy by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (2015)

Philip and Erin Stead are the author and illustrator of the 2011 Caldecott Medal book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (a great book too!). This is their third book together. Peter and his faithful dog, Harold, move to a new house. The story begins with: “Winding along a bumpy road, through the dark unfriendly woods, Peter said, I think this is a terrible idea.”. Moving to a new house, a new neighborhood is a scary experience for children. Everything is frightening and foreboding. Erin Stead uses black and white illustrations to highlight how foreboding the whole experience can be. To ease their fears as darkness approaches and eery shadows appear in the woods just over the bridge, Peter creates Lenny and then Lucy out of pillows and blankets to stand guard over their new house. Lenny and Lucy are simply the best companions and comfort to the young boy, and he and his dog can’t resist joining them outside in the cold, with mugs of hot cocoa. A warm and comforting “read it again” kind of book – one of my favorites.

Alexander, who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst

From the author of Alexander, and the Terrible, Horrible, no good, very bad day comes a book about moving. Alexander says he is not moving….”never. not ever. No way. Uh uh. N. O.” He tries to figure out ways to avoid this unwelcome change in his life, like moving in with the neighbors or his best friend, or hiding in places where they can’t find him. But Alexander still says his goodbyes as he looks one last time at all the places that are special to him: Albert’s house, to his school, the park, his friends, his neighbors. I like the fact that the author includes plenty of humor – laughter is a great release in the midst of change. This book goes through the gamut of a child’s emotions and thoughts as the big day approaches and helps kids feel that despite all the changes, and lack of control they feel over their lives, it’s OK to express your feelings.

Courage by Bernard Waber (2002)

From the author of Ira Sleeps Over and The House of East 88th Street, Waber explores courage and the ways we can show courage in everyday situations, from a child’s perspective (as well as from their dog’s perspective). Some examples are light-hearted, others poignant and others thought provoking. My favorites are “courage is being the first to make up after an argument” and “courage is sometimes having to say good-bye.” The whimsical and amusing pen and ink and watercolor illustrations perfectly illustrate the different facets of courage in a child’s life. This would make a great read-aloud, igniting lots of dialogue along the way – your child may even have a few of his/her own to add! A perfect way to talk about fears and emotions.

Books about moving and relocating, specifically written for third culture kids

B at Home by Valery Besanceney (for ages 10+)

Valéry Besanceney, born in the Netherlands, is herself a third culture kid and moved several times during her childhood to different countries. As an adult third culture kid, an international school teacher and the mother of two children herself, she desires to create through this book as strong sense of home, but also highlight the emotions that children have during transitions.

As I read through it, here are some of my thoughts and reactions:

  • Emma lives in the Netherlands, a great way to introduce and talk about cultural differences
  • Thoughts and reflections are interspersed throughout from the perspective of her teddy bear, who has been around Emma since she was an infant and has plenty of wise advice and insight of his own to add
  • The author weaves into the story coping strategies and helpful suggestions such as keeping a moving booklet (see ideas below under workbooks) or planting a tree in each place you live.
  • Emma processes her emotions and feelings by talking them over with her parents and her friends, even her teacher. The adults in her life are supportive.
  • Emma is a strong female character who is smart and tackles the changes in her life with maturity and courage.
  • I highly recommend this book for ages 10+. It’s a one-of-a-kind book. Valérie Besanceney just received an honorary mention for her book, B at Home, Emma Moves Again in the 2016 Purple Dragonfly Awards for children’s books. Congratulations, Valerie!

– Note: I only wish there was another version written about with a boy as the main character. (Moving Day – Poems by Ralph Fletcher (see notes below) is a good book about moving written from the perspective of a 12-year old boy.

Pixie’s New Home by Emmanuelle Payot Karpathakis

Pixie’s New Home is a comforting story for your young children who are facing a new move. Pixie, a little donkey, is moving to a new house. She is especially sad about leaving her best friend and playmate. When she arrives at her new home, she meets another playmate. I like the fact that this book doesn’t downplay the sadness of moving away, the loss of her friend, and emphasizes that even though she makes a new friend, she still misses and feels a sense of loss at what and whom she left behind. This books shouts out loud and clear: “you will feel sad. It’s OK to cry and express your sadness” – an important message for third culture kids.

Pixie’s Holidays by Emmanuelle Payot Karpathakis

This sequel to Pixie’s New Home is a one-of-a-kind book, tailor-made for TCKs. Pixie returns to the place her and her family once lived. She is so excited! However, as many children do, she expects everything to be exactly as it was when she left. The focus of the book is on Pixie’s friendship with her old friend, Lila. Pixie can’t wait to see Lila again, but when she arrives, Lila doesn’t recognize her or remember her. As in Pixie’s New Home, the author stresses that it is OK to feel sad and express your emotions and sense of loss. The story doesn’t end there, though, Pixie reconnects with Lila and even makes a new friend.

The Mission of Detective Mike Moving Abroad by Simone Costa T. Eriksson and illustrated by Meri

This is a fun book geared for elementary age children is specificallyf focused on moving to another country. This book has chapters and explores the different questions children might have about moving overseas. Do I get to keep my stuff? Will I make new friends? Will my old friends forget me? How will I communicate in another language? Written from the perspective of an elementary age boy and his friends who thinks of themselves as detectives, Mike and his friends tackle the mysteries of moving and address each “mystery” one at a time. I like the fact that Mike and his friends invite the adult in their life into their dialogue and ask for advice. In turn, the adults take time to answer questions, explain things and offer solutions to alleviate their children’s fears. This book, although written for children, offers helpful insight and tips that parents can use with their own children throughout the transition.

Note: the only issue I had with this book is there are a few remarks here and there that stereotype girls and boys. Comments like “Even boys can be caring sometimes.” or the fact that Mike younger sister cries a lot, seems to only wear pretty dresses and her main concern is what will happen to all her dolls. My advice when there are things that crop up in a book that you don’t agree with?   read it with your child and TALK about it with them.

About the authors and illustrator of The Mission of Detective Mike Moving Abroad:  Simone T. Costa Eriksson is psychologist as well as a intercultural coach. She lives in Brazil. Ana Serra is a poet and author, whose works have been published in anthologies. She lives in Argentina. The illustrator, Maria Isabel Vaz Guimaraes who uses the nickname Meri, has illustrated 12 books. She has moved 16 times during her childhood.

Sammy’s Next Move by Helen Maffini

Sammy’s Next Move is the story of a snail named Sammy who lives around the world with his parents. He often moves to new countries and has to change schools and make new friends. Sammy experiences the feelings and thoughts common to children in similar situations. However, Sammy is a snail. He carries his home with him wherever he goes, just as a third culture kid does by knowing that home is where their heart is.  This story also includes two pages of practical tips and activities for parent and children to do during a move abroad. The author of Sammy’s Next Move is a ‘third culture kid’ who lived in Japan as a teenager. Since then she has lived in ten countries and has two third culture kids herself.


Moving Day – poems by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Jennifer Emery (2006)

In a series of short, free verse poems, this book chronicles a 12 year old boy’s journey as he moves from Massachusetts to Ohio. The strength of this book is how each poem captures so well the sense of loss and confusion a young boy feels in the midst of such a change. The simple pencil drawings and watercolor illustrations perfectly capture the emotions of this transition. I can’t recommend this book enough – although poetry may not be something that you are familiar with or drawn to, this free verse book will win you over.

While many books deal with the experience of being a new kid in town, few focus in such depth on what was left behind.” 

 School Library Journal

Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Alina Chau (2015)

This picture book, written in free verse, follows a Chinese American girl and her little brother on a journey, moving from their home in San Francisco to Asia. Their grandmother gives each of the children a box, a memory box, a happiness box. She tells the children to fill it with four treasures each – treasures that will remind them of happy times and of being loved – and this box will go with them wherever they go. As they set out, each child begins to fill their boxes with memories – a panda from grandma, a marble, a snake, a picture, a leaf.  I love the idea of a memory box.  This book is beautifully illustratred by Alina Chau – a visual treat (for ages 5-8)

A great recommendation for relocating families with young children.”–School Library Journal

Chapter Books

B at Home by Valery (see review above under “Books about moving and relocating, specifically for third culture kids”)

The Year my Parents Ruined my Life by Martha Freeman (1999)

Sixth grader, Kate Sommers’ life is about to change drastically. When Kate’s father’s job takes the family from sunny and warm California to snowy and cold Pennsylvania, Kate faces more than severe weather as she transitions to life in a new home, new neighborhood, town and new school (for ages 9-12). What I liked about this book was that it highlights all the differences between the two “cultures” and way of life. I think this book would help those coming from a tropical or warm climate and the adjustments to cold, snow and ice winter days. I disliked the focus on dating and the boyfriend/girlfriend culture, Kate’s mom obsessing about her weight, and a 6th grader caught smoking in the bathroom (although I sometimes feel that kids are better prepared for the negatives in US culture if they can read about it and digest in a novel first) I like the humor, the focus on a pre-teens love/hate relationship with her parents and sibling, and her coming to understand that everything about her former life was not the picture perfect life that she imagines. Pennsylvania does begin to feel more and more like home as the story unfolds.

Blue Willow by Doris Gates (first published in 1940)
A moving tale, set in the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, explores the challenges of a transient life and the need to belong. Janey is the daughter of a itenerant worker, moving from place to place, following the crops. Her mother died years ago, leaving Janie with her one treasured possession, a blue willow plate. She longs to and dreams of, someday, placing that plate, over the mantel of a fireplace, in their very own home – a permanent home. Then, on one of their many stops, they move into a shack next door to the Romero family who have a girl right around Janey’s age. Lupe and Janey become close friends. When Lupe’s mom becomes seriously ill and they are unable to pay for a doctor, Janey gives up her one prized possession to help the family. Her sacrificial act changes her family’s life and future. This book is a great read-aloud, perfect for third culture kids, who will empathize with Janey and her longing for roots. A Newbery honor book.  Highly recommended!

I’ve included in this post, a list of workbooks that have cropped up recently, specifically focused on moving. I think a workbook would be a helpful tool, especially for the introverted child or one who has trouble identifying and/or expressing their feelings.

An excerpt from my childhood scrapbook

When I was a child, I made up a sort of scrapbook about myself, and when I moved, I included pictures and notes written by my friends (see above) It was a real comfort to me and I still have it to this day (I won’t tell you how many years ago this was). Here an excerpt:

My Moving Booklet by Valery Besanceney (written by the author of B at Home)

My moving booklet is designed to help children through the initial stage of moving, with activities such as drawing, writing and crafts. This booklet can turn into a keep-sake, to remind the child of that event in their lives. Valery describes her booklet this way: “In many parts of this booklet, they will have the opportunity to either write about it, to draw a picture, or to glue on a photograph. This is their own unique story that one day will serve as a keepsake of a life-changing event.” This booklet is a great compliment to the novel B at Home. The girl in the story is given a moving booklet by her teacher and it is an integral part of the novel.

Goodbye, House A Kid’s Guide to Moving by Ann Banks and Nancy Evans (1999)

This workbook, although for older kids, is another keepsake scrapbook, covering everything from favorite memories of the home you are moving away from, details of the move, thoughts including likes and dislikes of the new home, and even a section on adjusting to a new school. Lots of activities and journaling options. Stickers included. This would work for grade 3 through 6, or for younger children with help from mom and dad.
Books and journals by Sara Boehm

Sara Boehm has lived the world of corporate relocation, moving 12 times as a child and as an adult. Taking her own experiences in moving as well as those of friends and family, Boehm provides practical advice and encouragement to all going through the process of relocation, especially focusing on those moving their children. Boehm is Founder and CEO of Essential Engagement Services, offering resources and guides to help employees and their families whose lives are being disrupted by relocation. Besides her book for parents The Essential Moving Guide: Practical advice to create a smooth transition and sense of belonging (2015) (I haven’t read this book, so can’t recommend it – but it does look like a helpful resource) she has created 2 workbooks, one for pre-teens and one for teens:

The Essential Moving Guided Journal for Pre-teens All About Me, All About my Move by Sara Elizabeth Boehm
The pre-teen years are a time of transition in a child’s life on many levels and a move can be very challenging for this age group. This workbook provides tips, journaling prompts and games and activities throughout the transition. I like the fact that it goes beyond the details of the move to asking questions related to how the child is feeling, as well as asking other families members to share their own feelings about the move.

The Essential Moving Guided Journal For Teens: My Life and Thoughts, before and after by Sara Elizabeth Boehm

Geared specifically for teenagers, this workbook is more of a guided journal than a scrapbook, with lots of space for writing out thoughts and feelings, for example:  “When I first heard we were moving, I felt… “, “Now I feel…”, or “The hardest part about moving will be…” and “what concerns me most about moving is… “. Good prompts that help your teenage identify and express their emotions and thoughts.

My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A Workbook for Children Moving to a New Home by Lori Attanasio Woodring.
The strength of this workbook is that it is not writing intensive (probably geared to elementary age children who can read and write). The workbook includes games and activities, as well as information at a child’s level. It is colorful, with amusing and eye catching “cartoon like” illustrations. I also like the chapters that focus on feelings: Feelings about Moving, When you are sad, When you are mad, When you are worried. The chapter on feelings has a checklist of possible emotions that a child can check off to help them identify the confusing and often conflicting emotions during a time of transition. This book is also available in Spanish. This workbook has won several awards, including the Independent Publisher Silver Award Winner for Outstanding Children’s and Mr. Dad Seal of Approval Winners for Winter Holidays 2014 award. (for ages 5-11). The author, Lori Attanasio is a licensed psychologist who works with children and is a national and international speaker.

**Note: There is currently a kindle edition for $1.99 on Amazon. I would convert this to a pdf and print it out, as it is more of a workbook/scrapbook that your child will want to add photos, drawings and writing to.

Please note:  Please check my for the above books.  I try to keep the books I list in stock for families living overseas.  I do not currently have any of the journals, except for Goodbye, House – A Kid’s Guide to Moving by Ann Banks and Nancy Evans.

Mikis and the Donkey

Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman – a book review

I sat down and read this book in one sitting. It’s hard to put down – not because it’s an edge-of-your-seat adventure or a nail-biting suspense but because of the simplicity of the story. In this short novel, the reader is transported to small village in Greece. The reader feels the excitement of Miki, a village boy whose life changes drastically one day when his grandfather surprises him with a donkey. Miki and his donkey are inseparable from day one and the two become best friends. Throughout the year, Mikis learns about caring for his donkey, controlling him (well, sort of). He discovers just how stubborn a a donkey can be. He also come to know him as a constant and faithful companion. The novel is not just about the boy’s relationship with his donkey, it’s also about Mikis and his grandfather, as well as Mikis and his classmates and teacher. It’s a light-hearted story with plenty of humor and amusing twists. Perfect for animal lovers. (for children ages 8-12, but could also be read to younger children as a read-aloud)

This book won the Batchelor Award in 2015, which is given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States. Mikis and the Donkey was originally published in the Netherlands in 2011 under the title, Mikis de ezeljongen. It was translated into English by Laura Watkinson.

What I love about this book is that it’s an animal story that doesn’t have a heart-wrenching or tragic ending – nobody dies and there is even a pleasant surprise at the end! I also enjoyed the multicultural aspect of the story – a glimpse of life on a small island in Greece. Finally, I enjoyed the fact that it’s an animal story that is not about a dog, a cat or a horse. The pencil drawings by Philip Hopman throughout the book bring this story to life and help children visualize life in Greece.
The Dutch creators of Soldier Bear bring a lovely simplicity to this affecting picture of a close-knit Greek community. . . . The generous number of loosely drawn illustrations capture windswept landscapes, village life, and human character and diversity with equal aplomb. Visually inviting and easily read, this would also make a fine read-aloud for younger children.”  Horn Book

Miki had to give donkey lessons to his grandpa.

 “Pappou, those baskets make her sore and the strap is far too tight.”

 “So what should I do, my boy?”

 “You need to put a blanket under them. And you shouldn’t load the baskets so full. Tsaki’s not a truck.”

 “Who said she was?”

 “You did. And you said Tsaki’s a tractor on legs. But that’s not true. Oh, and she’s not allowed to work all this week.”

 “Where did you get that idea?”

 “Doctor’s orders”

 “Well I’ll be…” said Grandpa. “Did the doctor really say that?”

 Mikis nodded.

 “Ha, that’s easy for him to say. He drives around in a nice Ford.”

Also by Bibi Dumon Tak: Soldier Bear – another Batchelder Award winner in 2012.

This is an animal story as well and is based on a true story. It tells the story of a young bear who is adopted by Polish soldiers in Iran. Voytek, the bear, then accompanies a Polish battalion onto the battle fields of Italy during World War II. Voytek’s mischief and antics often get him into trouble, but his presence is a lifeline for everyone whose life he touches as the bear and the soldiers journey through war torn Italy. I would recommend Soldier Bear to a slightly older audience (ages 10 and up) because it does depict some of the horrors of war. A moving story that would make an insightful supplemental reading to any study of World War II.
The deep bond between humans and animals is a popular theme in children’s literature. Here are a few other animal stories, some multicultural, some about unusual pets, that I highly recommend:

Shadrach by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (1956) – This story, set in the Netherlands, is about a boy and his pet Rabbit. If you haven’t read DeJong, you are missing out. In Shadrach, Davie is enthralled with his new pet Rabbit which he names Shadrach. A beautiful story of that portrays the depth of a young child’s emotions and attachment to his pet. Meindert Dejong is an award-winning author of Newbery Medalist The Wheel on the School and The House of Sixty Fathers. Born in the Netherlands, Meindert’s family immigrated to the United States when he was 8 (Ages 9 to 12)

The White Elephant by Sid Fleischman (2006). Ever wondered where the term “white elephant” comes from? Inspired by a true story from Thailand, this is a fun and easy read about a young elephant boy named Run-Run and his white elephant, who outwit a prince. Written by the Newbery Award winning author of The Whipping Boy, this novel will take you on a ride, an elephant ride you will never forget.

Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. (1940). Who hasn’t heard of Lassie – probably you have seen the movie. Yes, I will say it – the book is even better. Set in a small Yorkshire village in England during the Great Depression, Lassie is the story of a collie, a faithful companion to Joe. When Joe’s father looses his job, Lassie must be sold. After escaping his new owners multiple times to return home, Lassie is taken North to Scotland, a place so far and so remote that no dog would ever attempt an escape.

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat (1961). The hilarious story of Wol and Weeps, two mischievous pet owls who terrorize the whole town of Saskatchewan, Canada with their crazy antics. Farley Mowat is a famous Canadian author who has written over 45 books.

Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era by Sterling North (1963) This is the classic tale of a boy and his pet raccoon, set in the woods of Wisconsin. It’s a moving tale that chronicles the first year of the raccoon’s life, but also a tale of a young boy’s journey through loss and grief. Rascal does have an emotional intensity to it, but there is plenty of adventure and humor throughout to make this an all-around amazing story.

The Yearling by Margery Kinnan Rawlings (1938) This classic tale, set in the late 1880s in Florida, is the winner of the Pulitzer prize. I had put off reading this book, until recently, partly because I dismissed it as one of those “sad animal stories.” So when I listened to this book on audio, I was completely taken aback by the beauty of the language, the poetic descriptions of plants, trees, birds and beasts, the depiction of the family’s struggle for survival, the raw emotions of young Jody. A must-read! Don’t dismiss this one – the story will linger on long after the last words are read and the book is put aside. (for ages 10+)
He lay down beside the fawn. He put one arm across its neck. It did not seem to him that he could ever be lonely again.” 

                                       ― Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling

The Year of the Panda by Miriam Schlein (1990) – Focusing on the environment and endangered animals, this multicultural story, set in China, is about a young boy who finds an abandoned baby panda in the woods near his family’s farm. So begins Lu Yi’s adventures as he nurses the young cub back to life and tries to solve the mystery of the young cub’s mother’s disappearance.


Since Hanna Moved Away

The poetry of Judith Viorst


Judith Viorst (born February 2, 1931) is an American writer. She has written books for both adults and children. She is best known for her children’s literature, such as The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (about the death of a pet) and the Alexander series of short picture books, which includes the much loved Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972). It was made into a movie and has sold over 2 millions copies.

Her books of poetry include:

  •  If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries: Poems for Children and their Parents, illustrated by Lynne Cherry (1981)
  • Sad Underwear and Other Complications: More Poems for Children and Their Parents, illustrated by Richard Hull (1995)
  • What are you Glad About? What are you Mad About?, illustrated by Lee White (2016)

Her children’s poems focus on a wide range of emotions and reactions to the ups and downs of childhood. Some poems are humorous and quirky, others tug at your heart.  I selected a few poems that I think TCKs can relate to – the loss of a best friend (Since Hanna Moved Away), wanting to be remembered in a positive light when you move away (Remember Me) and a very moving poem about that special place called home. I love the line “Home’s the healing place when things unravel“.




The tires on my bike are flat,
The sky is grouchy gray,
At least it sure feels like that
Since Hanna moved away.

Chocolate ice cream tastes like prunes,
December’s come to stay,
They’ve taken back the Mays and Junes
Since Hanna moved away.

Flowers smell like halibut,
Velvet feels like hay,
Every handsome dog’s a mutt
Since Hanna moved away.

Nothing’s fun to laugh about,
Nothing’s fun to play,
They call me, but I won’t come out
Since Hanna moved away.

Poem by Judith Viorst (taken from If I were in Charge of the World)


Remember Me

What will they say

When I’ve gone away:

He was handsome? He was fun?

He shared his gum? He wasn’t

Too dumb or too smart?

Played a good game of volley ball?

Or will they only say

He stepped in the dog doo

At Jimmy Altman’s party?
Poem By Judith Viorst (taken from If I were In Charge of the World)


And We Call it Home

Home is where the you that’s truly you lives.
It’s where the music of your heart is played.
Home is where you go and what you know gives
You shelter when you’re lonely or afraid.
And when the skies turn dark and bad times chase you,
And all the gates are locked and shades are drawn,
There’s a place where someone will embrace you,
And keep you safe until a kinder dawn,
And we call it home.

Home is where your dreams have their beginning.
Home is where love’s language is first learned.
It’s where you needn’t worry about winning.
It’s where what you receive need not be earned.
And when in anger hurtful words are spoken,
And when you trip and fall into disgrace,
This is where there’s help to mend what’s broken.
This is what remains your sacred place.
And we call it home.

Home’s the hearth from which you’re free to travel
Farther than the farthest winds have blown.
Home’s the healing place when things unravel,
Where supper’s waiting and your name is known,
And when you want to tell your tales of glory,
And speak of what you’ve done and where you’ve been,
This is where they’ll listen to your story.
This is where they’ll always take you in.
And we call it home.
And we call it home.
And we call it home.


Poem by Judith Viorst (taken from What Are you Glad About? What are you Mad About?)