Noonday with Kids: 10 Books That Connect
Reading and Reaching Out
Noonday Collection’s mission is to build a flourishing world where we are all connected, and one way for people of any age to connect is through reading. In particular, because we have the potential—and responsibility—to shape the worldviews of the kids in our lives, I love exploring the world of diverse kids’ books as an accessible way to do that.
New Books and New Perspectives
I want my kids to love well and treasure (not just tolerate) differences—and it takes more than a few books here and there to support that goal. My kids need books that show things like injustice and devastation faced by others, as well as plenty showing kids who look or do life differently from us, simply being curious and creative and mischievous and playful. We need books about other countries and books about different people groups here at home. We need portraits of modern life in other cultures and we need their folktales. We need biographies about their heroes and we need tales of everyday families. We need nonfiction and poetry and silly, tall tales. In other words, diverse books can’t be a tiny subsection of my children’s bookshelves, an extracurricular, an occasional “good thing to do.” They must be intentional and frequent—so I try to be on the lookout for great reads that can enhance how we understand this beautiful world.
From Children’s Stories to True Stories
One subset of books we’ve been exploring recently are those featuring the countries where Noonday has partnerships, so that I can connect the stories I read to my children with the work and travel I do as a Noonday Collection Ambassador. Below are some favorites that would be great reads for kids in your life or additions to a Playdate with a Purpose Trunk Show. I hope they help you explore the beautiful connection that books can provide!
Note that my kids are 7 and 5, but most of these would work for preschool through mid-elementary school. You can use a map or globe to find where the characters, author, or illustrator live or have traveled.
1. Sleep Well, Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn (Uganda)
This sweet story is about sisters who tend to lose things (every kid can relate to that!) but find them in their dreams—until their dreams take a surprising turn one night. We love the lilt of the language, the sweet lullaby, the whimsical illustrations, and of course the paper beads! My daughter and I enjoyed learning how to draw Saba from the illustrator. I have to rave about all the books we’ve explored from Lantana Publishing, which focuses on stories from around the globe.
Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Johnson and Sonia Lynn Sadler (Kenya)
This biography of Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winning environmentalist, introduces kids to an inspiring Kenyan role model. It opens up discussions around sexism, education for girls, women in science, environmental care, corporate greed, leadership, courage in the face of criticism, and community.
Fly Free by Roseanne Thong and Eujin Kim Neilan (Vietnam)
I adore that this book’s main character, Mai, shares a name with one of the business leaders I spent time with during Noonday’s Ambassador trip to Vietnam! (You can read her story here.) In Fly Free, acts of kindness are paid forward and come full circle back to Mai. You can chat with young readers about the beliefs of Buddhism and karma (there’s an author’s note), how acts of kindness bless others and also us, and how others’ kindness can inspire us.
Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson (Haiti)
This book discusses the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti while showcasing hope and resilience. As families build makeshift homes in a stadium after the earthquake, children there show tenacity and find joy through the power of soccer and imagination, inspiring a grown-up to have hope for Haiti.
Roses for Isabella by Diana Cohn and Amy Córdova (Ecuador)
Isabella, working on a writing project for school, shares about her parents’ jobs at a rose farm and—through their story—explains the impact of fair trade on her family. Talking points include environmental care, the importance of not exploiting the environment or workers, and our connection to others through how we shop.
One Grain of Rice by Demi (India)
This is a great folktale in which a girl outsmarts a greedy raja with sharing and the magic of math. As someone with degrees in math, whose actuary father taught her to marvel at the wonder of compound interest as a young child, this book spoke to me (and my dad enjoyed reading it to his grandkids!). Exponentiation plus generosity? This is my kind of book.
Abuela’s Weave by Omar S. Castañeda and Enrique O. Sanchez (Guatemala)
Esperanza’s grandmother teaches her to weave on a backstrap loom, engaging in the same traditional craft that Noonday’s partner Ana and her employees share with the world. Esperanza hopes their handmade goods will do well at the market, where machine-made wares are prevalent. This is a great book for chatting with kids about crafting traditions, how handmade items are special, and supporting jobs for families like Esperanza’s.
Carolina’s Gift: A Story of Peru by Katacha Diaz and Gredna Landolt (Peru)
Carolina searches the market for the perfect gift for her Abuelita. Kids can discuss the joy of finding great gifts for others and the amazing handmade crafts at the market. There’s even an appendix about Peru, the market, and Spanish words you encounter in the book.
The Lion’s Whiskers by Nancy Raines Day and Ann Grifalconi
This folktale is about blended family, patience, and a stepmother’s quest to show love to her stepson and gain his trust.
At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin (global)
To bring it all together, I have to mention a fabulous book that is literally a journey around the globe. It opens at 6 a.m. in Senegal, then proceeds around the globe to discuss what different people are doing at the same moment in each time zone—including in the Himalayas, Hanoi, Mexico, and Peru. There’s a map in the back and lovely illustrations showing that beauty and joy come in a million flavors and can be found everywhere.
● Uganda: Give Up, Gecko!; Beatrice’s Goat; A Good Trade
● Kenya: Mama Panya’s Pancakes; For You Are a Kenyan Child; The Wooden Camel; Bonyo Bonyo
● Vietnam: The Lotus Seed
● Haiti: Eight Days; Please, Malese!
● Ecuador: We’re Sailing to Galapagos
● Ethiopia: The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela; Omer’s Favorite Place; Yafi’s family
● India: Monsoon Afternoon; Nimesh the Adventurer
● Peru: Up and Down the Andes; Maria Had a Little Llama
For further resources, I recommend A Mighty Girl and Social Justice Books. Huge thanks to my friend Amy Commers, a youth services librarian in St. Paul, who helped compile a list of recommendations for this post! Hear her share tips on using and supporting your local library on episode 65 of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast.
Read on and keep connecting!
Meet Julie Godshall
Julie lives in Madison, WI with her husband and two young kids. She’s a math geek with self-proclaimed great taste in binge-watchable British dramas and probably wrote this post in a fair trade coffee shop. She’s a former direct sales failure turned Ambassador and is thrilled she said “yes” to Noonday. Julie loves fostering community around beauty, story, and living with kindness toward the planet and its people.