Library Lions


I recently visited New York city. The highlight of our trip was a stop at the New York Public Library. I was thrilled to finally meet the famous lion sculptures. Edward Clark Potter’s lions have stood proudly at the entrance of the New York Public Library since it’s opening in 1911. Their names have changed however. They were first nicknamed Lady Astor and Leo Lenox, after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Later, during the 1930s, the mayor changed their names to Patience and Fortitude, qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. These names have stood the test of time.

The New York Public Library itself is worth a visit, if you are in New York. The Rose Reading room with its vaulted ceiling and rich decorations, paintings and murals is nearly the length of a football field. The children’s department also features the lions, made entirely out of legos, as well as the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie-The-Pooh stories.

I love to visit libraries when I am on a trip. We also recently visited San Antonio (a 3 hour drive from our new home in Waco, TX). The San Antonio Central Public library is so different from the one in New York. The Mexican Modernist enchilada-red building features multiple angular geometric shapes, plazas, water fountains and playful architectural details. People tended to love it — or to hate it. It was recently named one of 27 most fascinating libraries in the world. What do you think? Love it or hate it?

Many of you have told me that one of the things you miss the most about living in the US is your local library, and your weekly trips there to stock up on books. Today, as a tribute to libraries and librarians everywhere, I want to share with you some books about libraries. The first one, Library Lion, was inspired by the New York Public Library lions:


Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Genre: Fiction

Age Level: 6-9

Inspired by the lion statues at the New York Public Library, Library Lion tells the tale of a real life lion who wanders into the public library one day, and nestles himself into the life and hearts of the children and even the staff. But there are rules in libraries and when the lion breaks a rule, he knows he will not be allowed to return, or will he? A New York Times bestseller, this gentle, cozy tale, with warm, and evocative illustrations is sure to become a favorite.



Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Genre: Fiction

Age Level: 2-5

Lola loves Tuesdays. Tuesday is the day Lola and her mother visit the library. This preschool picture book featuring an African-American girl, is filled with bright and colorful illustrations and is a great way to instill the love of books and reading in your child


My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the Worldby Margriet Ruurs

Genre: Nonfiction

Age Level: 6-9

In this fascinating picture book filled with photos, maps and fun facts, we learn about the many different ways that books are housed and shared around the world. This book includes libraries in 13 different countries. A multicultural book perfect for third culture kids who love books.



The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq by Jeanette Winter

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

Age Level: 6-9

This is a great picture book about a librarian who saves books from the library of Basra from destruction during the war in Iraq. She moves over 30,000 books to a neighboring restaurant just in time before the library bursts into flames. The books are safe and Alia can only wait and dream of a new library where once again the people of Basra can come to read, learn and share ideas. The simple drawings, with a mix of bright colors, filled with details of war and Middle Eastern culture, brings this dramatic and heroic story to life.


Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colón

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

Age Level: 6-9

Tomas, and his family are migrant workers. They must travel from California to Iowa to pick fruit. In Iowa, Tomas is lonely. At the urging of his grandfather, Tomas visits the local library to gather more stories for their evenings around the fire. There he meets a young librarian who not only shares books, but a cool glass of water, and a quiet place to read, as well as encouragement and friendship. This story is inspired by the life of writer and educator, Tomas Rivera. This is a tribute to all librarians out there who quietly share their love of reading and impact the lives of children.




Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra

In this colorful picture book, we learn about a little girl in a remote village in South America who loves to read, but only owns one book. One day, a man arrives with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, loaded with books. He’s a traveling librarian. Ana is so excited to borrow books to read. While waiting for him to return weeks later, she decides to write a story of her own. The librarian returns, shares her story with the other village children and takes her book with him so other children can read it too. The book includes words in Spanish. At the back, there is a glossary of Spanish words as well as the true story of a librarian in Colombia that this book is inspired by.


A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.

E.B. White

What is your local library like? Please share with us in the comments.


The importance of reading aloud –

As I was researching the life and writings of Katherine Paterson, another well-known award-winning author who books are amazing (blog post on her life and books coming soon!), I came across an interview that she gave for Reading Rockets, in which she highlights the importance of reading aloud to our children – I hope it will inspire you to pick up those books and read to your children today, no matter how young or old they are :

I think it is wonderful for families to read aloud together, and it really bothers me that parents stopped reading aloud to their children when they can read for themselves. And that’s just about the time, we’ve learned, that children lose interest in reading for pleasure. So there might be a correlation there.

Well, I have a story about reading aloud in my family, because I used to read aloud to my four children all the time…

When my youngest was a senior in high school and all of her siblings had gone on off to college, and she was very lonely, she was giving me a recitation of all the things I did wrong as a mother, as teenagers are wont to do. And then she ended it up with, “And besides, you never read aloud to me anymore!” And I thought, Mary, I gave her a copy of War and Peace because she was one of my children who at 17 could understand War and Peace. And she wants me to read aloud to her still. It is a sign of, of wonderful love and affection to read aloud to someone, and we love it. So, we should never stop reading aloud.

And I think we should read aloud even after our children grow up, and we read aloud to our husbands and have them read aloud to us. Families don’t do that anymore. They used to. And when Harry Potter came out, a lot of families started reading aloud together, so I hope this is something that we will really think about and do.”

Note: underlining, bold print and images are my additions to the quote.

Mirror by Jeannie Baker – a book review

We are now “settled” (what does that word mean anyway?) in Waco, Texas.

I’m learning about the many cultural differences between Indiana and Texas. (I won’t get into all that here!)

All my Kids Books Without Borders books are unpacked and on shelves. Since we are currently renting, I am grateful for a large garage where all my books are set up. Here are a few photos at various stages:

I am now getting back into running Kids Books Without Borders again. My apologies to all those who are waiting for their orders – hopefully the back orders will be going out soon. Thank you for your patience.

I’m also anxious to start blogging again – lots of blog posts, some half written, others in my head, should make their way to you this Fall as I get myself back on track. Here is my first blog post from Waco, Texas!: …

Every now and then a picture book comes to my attention that I have to share with all of you, raising a family in two or more different cultures. Mirror by Jeannie Baker is one of them.

Mirror is a children’s book unlike any other. It is a wordless picture book that speaks volumes about culture – both similarities and differences. This is a must for any third culture kid’s library.

In this book, we follow a day in the lives of two children and two families, one in Australia and one in Morocco, North Africa, from the rising of the sun and early morning until the last rays of sunlight disappear over the horizon as both families gather for their evening meal.

What do I love about this book?

1. I love the format. When you open the cover, there are 2 sides, 2 parallel stories. The introduction on the left side is in English, on the right side in Arabic. The Western and Moroccan stories are designed to be read side by side. The Western side is read from left to right and the Moroccan side is read from right to left.

2. Jeanne Baker’s unique collage art work using both natural and artificial materials such as sand, earth, clay, paints, vegetation, paper, fabric, wool, tin and plastic, creates a visually stunning display, both for little and big eyes. The artwork is full of details to be studied and can be used as a search and find for smaller children. I like Jeanne’s use of both natural and artificial, a clear and often conflicting picture of our own world, our homes and our communities. The use of technology permeates both the Western world and the African world, standing in sharp contrasts to the natural beauty.

3. I like the fact that Jeanne, a native of Sydney of Australia, traveled to Morocco and experienced the culture, the sights and the sounds, as well as the friendliness and warm hospitality of the people there.

4. The rug – The Morrocan story begins in the early morning with a women praying on her prayer rug then working on her loom weaving a beautiful carpet. The family weaves carpets then sells them at the local market. The Australian story ends with the family gathering around the fireplace one of those same carpets they purchased that day at a Middle Eastern carpet shop in Australia, with handmade carpets imported from Morocco.

5.In both settings, there was a place for creative projects and expression. In this Moroccan village, the woman weaves colorful rugs, in Australia, the father and the child worked on rebuilding the fireplace.

6. I appreciate how the author/illustrator highlights the desire to know and connect with the rest of the world in both cultures.

7. I also like that the book centers around family life: eating together, working on projects together, doing chores as a family and going on outings together. The Moroccan family unit also includes the grandparents who live with the family and share in family life.

8. The wordless book format allows for lots of conversations with your child about culture and the world, both differences and similarities. For the TCK, this is a great way to talk about your child’s birth country and the country they are living in now. How is Morocco and Australia different from where we live? How are they similar? After reading the book, encourage them to draw their own version of their birth country and adopted country.

I encourage you to get a copy of this book wherever you may live!

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Age Range: 5 – 9 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 4

Publisher: Candlewick; Bilingual edition (November 9, 2010)


  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award Joint Winner 2011
  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Judges Award – Picture Book of the Year Award Honour Book 2011
  • Indies (Independent Booksellers Association Awards) Children’s Book of the Year Winner 2011
  • NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature Shortlisted 2011
  • International Youth Library White Ravens Award 2011
  • Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards Children’s Book Category Shortlist 2011
  • British Book Design and Production Awards, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Education Category Winner 2011
  • CJ Picture Book Awards, CJ Culture Foundation, Korea New Publications Category Finalist 2011
  • International School Libraries Network Singapore Red Dot Book Awards Shortlisted 2010-11

Other children’s books that address cultural differences:

In a Country Far Away by Nigel Gray (author), Philippe Dupasquier (illustrator)

(1991) – in this older picture book, the author compares the lives of two boys, one in the United States, and one in rural Africa. Although the illustrations are more traditional, the contrast between the two cultures are striking. The book is a great tool for striking up conversations with your child about poverty and wealth, simplicity and technology, rural and urban settings. For ages 3-6.

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (2011) –

This is another striking book that I highly recommend. It was birthed by the author as a result of her experience as a teacher in Nepal. Sue organized an art exchange with friends from the United States and her students in Nepal. The story centers around a young boy named Elliot who lives in America and Kailash, another boy who lives in India. The two become pen pals and exchange both letters and art work. They learn that although there are many differences, they both enjoy similar things like pets, drawing, school, family and friendship. The colorful art work will appeal to children, as they reflect the world through a child’s eyes, using childlike drawings to depict their different lives. Winner at the Ezra Jack Keats Award.

As always, please share any other books that your family has enjoyed or share your thoughts and comments on this theme. Thanks!

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 5 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