We love books. I mean, of course most people with kids would say they love books: they’re like old-fashioned iPads, right? Books keep kids occupied for hours. But me, I come from a particularly arty-wordy family. Somehow, while I chose a degree in languages and linguistics, my brother ended up working in design at a printing company and my sister is an actress and author. We like beautiful and creative words and appreciate beauty in art. How better to celebrate the love of words than with gifts of books?
I first heard about Book Depository in 2011 when someone told me they used it to buy hard-to-find textbooks much more cheaply than the university bookshops. What I didn’t realise is they had a fantastic range of kids books and FREE SHIPPING to most of the world. At the time, I lived about 250km from the nearest public library with a two year old and infant, and I was spending $7 on shipping every time I wanted to buy something from Australian bookshops online. (Americans, you have no idea how good you’ve had it. We only got Amazon this year, for example.) Not only that, but Book Depository’s prices were usually cheaper than Australian ones by somewhere between $1 to $5! So cheaper books, with free shipping? A no-brainer.
Now I live in South Sudan, even further from libraries, with 3 kids of my own, plus 13 nieces and nephews, and because most of our Christmases are away from our family, Book Depository makes it really easy to send directly to our family and skip the expensive postage. (Because have you tried shipping something to South Sudan recently? Uh, that would be because there is no postal system.)
And I don’t know about you, but I love coming across books that no-one has heard of. Maybe they were published years ago, in the dark days before the Internet, when publishing houses couldn’t just rely on everyone gabbing about the latest-and-greatest-everything to spread the word. Some of these books have amazing illustrations, artwork that would have taken days, months or years, and you can tell these books were real works of art and of the soul. There is something beautiful about the idea of slow, artful books; the antithesis of everyone being too busy to be creative. Book Depository stocks all the latest and greatest but because it is based in the UK, is also a place where you can find those gems that have slipped in under your radar.
So, knowing that you’ll want to have your gifts sent in early December to ensure they arrive on time, and maybe even take advantage of Black Friday deals, that brings me to 10 recommendations for our TCK readers. You’ll notice they each have something to do with a theme from an issue of the magazine this year: HOME, TOGETHER, JOURNEY and (coming soon!) GIFT and are appropriate for children aged 5-10 years.
The Journey That Saved Curious George by Louise Borden.
Did you know that H.A. Rey and his wife Margret were living in Paris in June 1940 and fled the German occupation with a manuscript of Curious George in their luggage? I didn’t! Fear not though, this is not a heavy or difficult book about war. The subject is treated with a deft, light hand for children with a combination of loose verse, photographs and illustrations by H.A. Rey and Margret (also an artist) and mementos like ticket stubs – a veritable biographical adventure. This book is a fascinating read for fans of Curious George, but also an interesting connection to history studies and a mild introduction to the Second World War. You can find out more about the detective biographical work of Louise Borden here. Ages 6+
This is The Rope by Jaqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome.
In a similar vein to The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco that we reviewed in Issue 2: Together, This Is The Rope traces the journey of a child’s skipping rope through generations of family and moves around the country. In a variety of ways, it literally holds things together as their lives change and children grow up and have families of their own. It’s not just the story though; James Ransome’s is such a skilled illustrator! His oil paintings have depth and the use of colour is on point. This book is a perpetual giver of warm fuzzies. Ages 3+
Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.
This is a family favourite with such redemptive power that my five year old started a conversation in her Kindergarten class about how difficult it can be to forgive someone who has hurt you. Patricia St. John is a descriptive genius, and her words are like a balm to the soul. She was a TCK, spending a year in Switzerland when she was 7 and later, as an adult, was a nurse in Morocco for twenty years. If your TCK is dealing with conflict, you should read this story. If you are dealing with conflict, you should read this story! And if you live in a hot climate and a pining for snow, Christmas is the perfect time to start reading Treasures of the Snow. Ages 5+.
Our Story Begins by Elisa Brent Wiessman.
The subtitle: Your favourite authors and illustrators share fun, inspiring and occasionally ridiculous things they wrote and drew as kids just about sums why we love this book. Do your kids need some encouragement to keep writing or drawing? They might be surprised to read their favourite author or illustrator’s were similarly sometimes discouraged, they will enjoy their funny anecdotes, and just like their heores, find the encouragement they need to keep creating. For budding authors or illustrators ages 8+.
It Could Always Be Worse by Margot Zemach.
You probably are familiar with the premise of this book; a man complains that his family is noisy and fighting and life is hard. He is advised to gradually bring more and more animals into his home until he realises he actually had it pretty good in the first place. The chaos that ensues is heightened by the fantastic watercolour and ink illustrations and the dialogue is hilarious especially if read by a parent who is a genius with accents (such as my husband). I bought this book because I wanted my kids to stop whining. Instead, we laugh together at the poor complaining man and remember to be thankful. Ages 2+.
In Issue 3: Journey we reviewed Journey by Aaron Becker for the very good reason that it is an amazing, beautiful, imaginative, entertaining and yet wordless book which deserves to be on every child’s bookshelf. Quest is the second in the series, and is no different – I would go as far as to say it is even better. Do yourself and your kids a favour and get these books. (Why not grab Return while you are at it? You won’t regret it.) They are a pleasure to read, you will enjoy them as much as your kids, and together you will launch off on a journey of imagination and fun. You can watch a video about the artistic process of Quest here. Ages 3+.
Colossal Creature Count by Daniel Limon.
Just in case you thought we were only fans of fiction or watercolour illustrations, the Colossal Creature Count changes things up a bit. You’ll have to look hard to find the creatures in each habitat, except you only know the total number of animals in each picture! This book keeps you seeking, but is big enough for one, two or three helpers to look over your shoulder. It’s also a fun showcase of different animals in their habitats which well-travelled kids will recognise. Science and Maths for the win! Ages 4+.
Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa.
“Just because you can’t remember a place, doesn’t mean it’s not in you.” A community of friends and family help a little girl remember what her home-country was like. Colourful, funny, insightful and imaginative, this is a pleasure to read and third culture kids will identify with the feeling of confusion about different stories and memories. It doesn’t hold back about the hard or difficult things in life (represented by a monster which may frighten young children) but ends with bravery and gratitude. Ages 5+.
Be Kind by Pat Zeitlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill.
A sweet and simple book. The illustrations are gorgeous and go hand in hand with a text that explores how easy it is to be kind, different expressions of kindness and how kindness might spread. The world needs more books like this one. Ages 2+.
“Isn’t it wonderful that each and every one of us is unlike any other?” Another old gem celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of people on the Earth. We love Peter Spier’s illustrations, always full of interesting features which make for hours of interest. And the simple exploration of differences around the world, be they in tastes, languages, clothing or power structures, leads to the conclusion that life would be terribly dull if we were all the same. This is a young TCKs handbook to expat living. Ages 3+.
Have you or your kids enjoyed any or all of these books? Which books do you think should be on our list?
Continental Kids is a Book Depository Affiliate. This means we use affiliate links in our posts about books hoping you’ll go to Book Depository to buy them. When you do, Continental Kids will receive 5% commission on total sales which, in turn, we can use to provide prizes for competitions in our magazine. Just so you know.