Guest Hollow’s High School Geography and Cultures Curriculum Book and Resource List

Welcome to the Guest Hollow’s High School Geography & Cultures Curriculum Book and Resource List! This list is to give you an idea of what will be needed if you are using Guest Hollow’s High School Geography & Cultures Curriculum along with some helpful tips and other information. For details about the curriculum itself, please click here.
Thank You,
The Guest Family
© Guest Hollow, LLC
– Homeschool Materials

Homeschool geography curriculum books

Literature-based geography that’s engaging and fun!

In order to use Guest Hollow’s High School Geography & Cultures Curriculum, you will need to obtain the scheduled books and other items separately. You may be able to borrow many for FREE from your local library! Check out the F.A.Q. below for tips on how to save money when using a literature-based curriculum.

Every purchase comes with a printable book list!

Every purchase of Guest Hollow’s High School Geography and Cultures Curriculum comes with a FREE printable book list to help you with your planning and shopping.

The printable version of the book list features:

  • The ISBN number and author’s name
    You can make sure your copy of the book matches the one in the schedule.
  • Notification of when each book or item is used
    You can plan ahead when to check out books from the library. Books used throughout the year are marked “multiple weeks,” so you can decide whether you want to purchase them vs. borrow them.
  • Checklists for planning
    A handy checklist helps you plan if you are going to buy or borrow a book. It can also help you choose the format of your books (physical copy, e-book, or audio book).
  • Books are ranked in order of importance
    Books are ranked in order of importance to help you choose which books you need the most and which can potentially be skipped.
  • Consumables are marked
    You’ll get advance notice of which items are consumable, so you’ll know what you may need to purchase and how many copies you may want to get if you are using the curriculum with multiple students.

Here’s an example of the printable book list:

Keep scrolling to see the full online book list (below the F.A.Q. on this page).

Homeschool geography curriculum book list

We’ve scheduled in lots of colorful, fact-filled, interesting and fun books for this year’s study! Before taking a look, we’ve addressed some common questions:

Book and Resource F.A.Q.

No. We’ve ranked items in the book list at the beginning of the printable schedule to help you plan your purchases. If you are on a strict budget, don’t have a good library system, or need to limit your student’s amount of reading, the ranking system will help you prioritize items.

Items we feel shouldn’t be dropped or substituted are marked with a #1.
Other items are ranked as follows:
#2: This item is not absolutely necessary, but highly recommended.
#3: This item is optional but recommended.
#4: This item is optional and less important than the others

Some customers only use books ranked 1 and 2 as well as books that are featured in the workbook.

You can also use substitutes from your own home or local library. For example: There is a scheduled book about France and French culture. If you can’t obtain that book, you can use a different book about France or a book about any of the other countries covered during the same weeks. Keep in mind that the scheduled books were all hand-picked for their content and presentation.

Some books are marked “unscheduled.” These books are optional and are not featured in the curriculum schedule. They are intended to potentially enhance your studies, and you can fit them in whenever you have the time for them (or ignore them completely, if you wish).

We were once homeschoolers, and we know what it’s like living on a budget.We wrote a blog post to help you SAVE MONEY when using a literature-based curriculum. In the post you’ll find handy tips on where to get books, what subscriptions can help out, what some libraries offer for free, where our customers go for used books, and how to find books our customers are selling when they are done. Take a look:

How to Save Money When Using a Literature-Based Curriculum

Our customers frequently resell their used Guest Hollow homeschool curriculum books on our Facebook Groups. Here’s a list of groups you can join and post in! We encourage you to try and recoup some of your investment in books when you are done by posting them for sale in our groups.

You may NOT resell, share, or distribute any of Guest Hollow’s digital products (or printed out copies of our digital products) which includes but is not limited to schedules, workbooks, printables, and other materials.

Every student’s reading ability and interest differs. If you have a reluctant reader or a student whose reading skills are not fully developed, you can do some of the following things:

  • Read books out loud
    You can read some or all of the books to or with your student. This is a terrific way to participate in what s/he is learning, too! Our children loved read-alouds, even in high school.
  • Use audiobooks
    Audiobooks can be obtained from or a variety of other places. There are some benefits to using audiobooks. They can be listened to in the car, during lunch, while doing chores, while keeping hands occupied (knitting, coloring, etc.), and other times when print books don’t work as well.
  • Don’t overwhelm
    It may not be the best choice to do more than one literature-based program at a time with a student who doesn’t like reading. Don’t be surprised if this reluctant attitude toward reading changes during the course of the program, though. Many of our customers have told us their reluctant readers learned to love reading using our curriculum!

You’ll have to check your local requirements since every state and college is different. Don’t forget to research your local requirements and consult the local experts in your area!

When we were teaching our kids, we usually had what we thought of as a “core” curriculum (science, geography, or history). Because these programs were so literature-rich, we didn’t do a separate literature course. This enhanced our children’s retention and enjoyment of the material they were learning, since their reading assignments complimented their studies. Of course our kids also did plenty of reading in their free time as well!

Guest Hollow’s Geography and Cultures Curriculum covers a lot of different types of information. We think the BEST curriculums are those that are multidisciplinary. We believe subjects don’t exist in a vacuum, so we like to tie different subjects together, when possible, to expand students’ understanding of specific topics or things they encounter in various scheduled books and/or videos. We’ve color-coded some of the activities or books in the printable schedule to help those of you who are trying to assign additional credits such as art, English/language arts/literature, home economics, and history.

See the printable schedule in your purchase for potential additional credit ideas.

Don’t forget to research your local requirements and consult the local experts in your area! We are in NO way advising what credits you should assign. You are ultimately responsible for researching this topic and deciding what will work for you and your family based on your local requirements, future plans, college requirements, and other considerations.

Graphic novels help students learn about a topic quickly with a visual component. Students with heavy reading loads will appreciate the quicker reads. Reluctant readers are also more likely to be engaged. Students of geography and culture will appreciate how a graphic novel can bring to life a culture or a story – kind of like a cross between a book and a movie. As quoted from Comics in Education: ” …understanding, decoding, and making meaning of visual narrative has never been more important than it is today for learners of all ages and abilities.

We feel that learning a bit of history is instrumental in understanding a country’s current boundaries, politics, policies, attitudes, and culture. The past is often very wrapped up in the present.

Warning! Preview all materials! We strongly recommend you preview all items to see if they are appropriate for your student. Every family is different in what they find offensive!

Additional notes about some of the books and movies are under the images. Please note that we have not marked every possible objectionable item.

Some of the books below have the following statement in their description:

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

Those books are referenced in the FREE PDF workbook that is included with your geography curriculum purchase.

Books and ItemsInformation and Notes
Guest Hollow's free online geography and cultures textbookGuest Hollow’s Geography and Cultures Online Textbook

This book is FREE!

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

This online textbook has embedded videos your student can watch right from the book. There are tons of illustrations, maps, and photos to help info stick. This is NOT your typical boring geography book. The best part? It’s completely FREE.
Homeschool geography workbook
FREE workbook
Guest Hollow’s Geography Workbook
FREE download with your purchase

Some of the books below have this statement in their description:

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

Those books are referenced in the FREE PDF workbook that is included with your geography curriculum purchase.

The workbook / study guide pages were created for those of you who wish to assess your student’s reading assignments and to help train students to look through a text for information. They are also designed to help students retain what they’ve read. Some map assignments are included. There is an answer key provided at the back of the workbook.
Inflatable globe
Optional globe or map
Inflatable globe and world map

If you don’t already have a globe, we recommend getting one. This will allow students to see the accurate size of countries (vs. a flat map). Any globe will suffice!

If you are using your own globe, make sure it’s an updated version and shows South Sudan on it. (South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.)
You may also want to put up a world map in your homeschool area. Get one that shows political boundaries. A free printable world map is linked to in the schedule.

If you are on a budget, we recommend you just get the Where on Earth? Atlas (linked below) and use Google Earth on the computer, instead
World flag stickersOptional: Flag and country stickers and/or travel stickers

Students have the option of printing out a HUGE free hallway sized map that they are encouraged to mark up over the year. You can purchase some flag and country stickers for this map.
The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet Travel Guide)
Geography, culture, lots of photographs,
The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet Travel Guide)

This is a HUGE coffee-table style book. The pictures are drool-worthy!

The 2018 version of this book is FREE through Kindle Unlimited and via Hoopla (which some libraries have a subscription to). The older version will work just fine! I don’t recommend you use any copy earlier than the 3rd edition. This is a book that is best appreciated via the physical copy!

“In this fourth edition of The Travel Book each country features an all-new profile that includes details of when to visit, what to see and do, and how to learn more about the country’s culture from its film, music, food and drink.
All brand new, incredible photography illustrates each country, depicting what life is like in each nation from photographic portraits of people to beautiful landscapes and vibrant scenes of street life. Supported by colorful and detailed mapping, this title will bring the world to life for a new generation of travelers. As a premium 416-page hardback package it will inspire wanderlust and make an impressive gift!”
Material World: A Global Family Portrait
Cultural geography, lots of photographs,

Note: This book contains: a woman breastfeeding (p. 15), a woman’s breasts (p. 16), naked child being bathed (p. 19, p. 200), men in loincloths (p. 70), father bathing with children (no private body parts shown – p. 183)
Material World: A Global Family Portrait

This book is FREE at
Even though this book was originally published in 1995, the photographs are so interesting to pour over. It’s amazing to see the differences in homes, possessions, and culture. Fascinating!

“In an unprecedented effort, sixteen of the world’s foremost photographers traveled to thirty nations around the globe to live for a week with families that were statistically average for that nation. At the end of each visit, photographer and family collaborated on a remarkable portrait of the family members outside their home, surrounded by all of their possessions—a few jars and jugs for some, an explosion of electronic gadgetry for others. Vividly portraying the look and feel of the human condition everywhere on Earth, this internationally acclaimed bestseller puts a human face on the issues of population, environment, social justice, and consumption”
Where on Earth? Atlas: The World As You've Never Seen It Before
Geography, atlas, reference, non-fiction

Note: A section of this book discusses “millions of years.” I don’t schedule in that portion. Those who agree with that can easily add it back in.
Where on Earth? Atlas: The World As You’ve Never Seen It Before

Don’t be fooled by the recommended age range. This is a children’s book, but it’s fascinating to browse for adults as well! I love the artwork and the highly detailed, beautiful mix of maps.

“Unlike any other you have ever seen before, this atlas brings our amazing world to life in 3-D. With its more than 60 specially commissioned 3-D maps and artworks, it takes kids on a continent-by-continent tour of the world.
Each continent is explored in great detail, with topic maps on major geographical features, cities and monuments, population, wildlife, and more. From the Great Lakes to the Great Barrier Reef, map keys add extra layers of information, and special fact sections support the data provided on the maps.”
Optional: Choose a foreign language to study this year. Click here for info about different programs
If you pursue this, you can assign credits for foreign language study (check your local and future college admissions requirements).
Wildlife of the World
Animals of the world, reference, non-fiction
Wildlife of the World

This is a beautifully photographed coffee table style book. Students will browse through it to learn about animals while studying different regions around the world.

Wildlife of the World takes you on a journey through some of the most scenic and rich animal habitats — from the Amazon rain forests to the Himalayas, the Sahara to the South Pole — meeting the most important animals in each ecosystem along the way.”
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
Cultural geography, lots of photographs, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: nudity (natives in Papua – p. 54, p. 155, p. 287), a child in underwear (p. 155).
Hungry Planet – What the World Eats

I loved pouring over the different photos in this book!

“HUNGRY PLANET profiles 30 families from around the world–including Bosnia, Chad, Egypt, Greenland, Japan, the United States, and France–and offers detailed descriptions of weekly food purchases; photographs of the families at home, at market, and in their communities; and a portrait of each family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries. Featuring photo-essays on international street food, meat markets, fast food, and cookery, this captivating chronicle offers a riveting look at what the world really eats.”
Choose one of the following (or both!):

People of the World is an EXTENSIVE book on different people/ethnic groups. It is a book that was designed for adults.

People and Places is a VERY visual book with tons of colorful photographs that really illustrate the people groups/cultures that are discussed. It is the most visually appealing book of the two but only covers a fraction of the people/ethnic groups of the other book. It was designed for children (but it’s appropriate for all ages).
National Geographic People of the World: Cultures and Traditions, Ancestry and Identity
Culture, human geography, history, science (genetics), anthropology

Option 1:
National Geographic People of the World: Cultures and Traditions, Ancestry and Identity

“From the heart of National Geographic comes this expansive guide to the clans, tribes, ethnicities, and peoples of the world. Organized in keeping with our knowledge of the migration of human groups through history, with statistics and a cultural portrait of each ethnic group, the book becomes a fascinating round-the-world tour of customs and traditions plus a go-to source for background information to round out one’s own family history. From the Tuvans of Siberia to the Samoans and Tahitians of Polynesia, from the Mapuche of Chile to the Sami of Scandinavia, 222 of the world’s 10,000-plus ethnic groups are featured.”
Note: This book contains: a mention that humans originated in Africa (plus other evolutionary statements), a woman breastfeeding a baby (p. 41)
People and Places: A Visual Encyclopedia
Culture, human geography, places

Option 2:
People and Places – A Visual Encyclopedia

Ignore the “recommended” age range for this book. It’s a beautiful book for ALL ages with information about a variety of cultures.

“From Spaniards to Samoans, and the Miao to the Miskitu, this fully updated edition of DK’s popular Encyclopedia of People will take you on a worldwide tour of continents, peninsulas, and islands to discover what life is like for the billions of people on our planet.”
The Religions Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
World religions, culture, history
The Religions Book – Big Ideas Simply Explained

Note: Even though this book is available in ebook format, I recommend the print version.
I like the easy-to-understand graphics and the straightforward presentation of the different religions. I believe understanding different religions is important to understanding different people and cultures around the world.

Christians may consider adding But Don’t All Religions Lead to God?: Navigating the Multi-Faith MazeWorld Religions – An Indispensable Introduction or a similar book to get a Christian perspective about the religions being studied. This book is FREE at
The Trivia Lover's Guide to the World: Geography for the Lost and Found
Geography, trivia, non-fiction
The Trivia Lover’s Guide to the World: Geography for the Lost and Found

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

“Gary Fuller’s entertaining and engaging guide enhances geographic know-how with good, old-fashioned fun, using trivia to open up new worlds of knowledge for all readers. Fuller provides extensive background, clear illustrations, and thorough explanations for each intriguing question, carefully grounding the text in practical geographic concepts. Both enjoyable and enlightening, this book challenges today’s global generation to truly get to know their world.”
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance
Antarctica, history, non-fiction
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

This book is FREE at

“In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton and 27 men sailed from England in an attempt to become the first team of explorers to cross Antarctica from one side to the other. Five months later and still 100 miles from land, their ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. The expedition survived another five months camping on ice floes, followed by a perilous journey through stormy seas to remote and unvisited Elephant Island. In a dramatic climax to this amazing survival story, Shackleton and five others navigated 800 miles of treacherous open ocean in a 20-foot boat to fetch a rescue ship.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World vividly recreates one of the most extraordinary adventure stories in history.”
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
Cultural geography, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: a description of cremation pyres in India (p. 36), animal sacrifice (p. 58), a sexual body part reference (p. 72) in the context of a body being cleaned (so it’s not a sexual context), Frida Kahlo’s miscarriage is mentioned (p. 87), the cultural significance of suicide in Japanese culture (p. 155), a description of a cremation (p. 171), infrequent cursing
From Here to Eternity

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

“Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty embarks on a global expedition to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Zoroastrian sky burials to wish-granting Bolivian skulls, she investigates the world’s funerary customs and expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with dignity. Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a fascinating tour through the unique ways people everywhere confront mortality.”
Choose one of these options. Prisoners of Geography is scheduled but may be too difficult for younger students. If you have a younger student, you may wish to use the 2nd option (which is NOT scheduled).
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World
Geography, geopolitics, physical geography, history, non-fiction

Prisoners of Geography

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

Your student(s) will have a greater understanding of current events after reading this important book.

“In this New York Times bestseller, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers—“fans of geography, history, and politics (and maps) will be enthralled” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Offering “a fresh way of looking at maps” (The New York Times Book Review), Marshall explains the complex geo-political strategies that shape the globe. Why is Putin so obsessed with Crimea? Why was the US destined to become a global superpower? Why does China’s power base continue to expand? Why is Tibet destined to lose its autonomy? Why will Europe never be united? The answers are geographical. “In an ever more complex, chaotic, and interlinked world, Prisoners of Geography is a concise and useful primer on geopolitics” (Newsweek) and a critical guide to one of the major determining factors in world affairs.”

Note: This book contains: a mention of evolution at the beginning of chapter 5.
Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps
Geography, geopolitics, physical geography, history, non-fiction

2nd option for the book to the right for younger students:
Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps

This book is NOT scheduled!

I’m listing this book for reference purposes as some of you may be doing this program with a younger student who needs an easier option than the book listed to the left or as a supplement to it.
“A stunning abridged and illustrated edition of the international bestseller Prisoners of Geography, by acclaimed author Tim Marshall”
50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America's cities with 50 fact-filled maps
U.S.A., geography, culture, non-fiction
50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America’s cities with 50 fact-filled maps

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

I looked for a book that would cover all sorts of U.S. culture. This book is exactly what I was looking for! Although it was written for children, even an adult can have fun pouring over the detailed illustrations (I did!).

“Explore skyscraper streets, museum miles, local food trucks and city parks of the United States of America and discover more than 2,000 facts that celebrate the people, culture, and diversity that have helped make America what it is today. From Anchorage to Washington D.C., take a trip through America’s well-loved cities with this unique A-Z like no other, lavishly illustrated and annotated with key cultural icons, from famous people and inventions to events, food and monuments.”
Canada Year by Year
Canada, history, culture & people
Canada Year by Year

“Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod’s year-by-year tour of Canada’s fascinating history highlights a single milestone for every year from the country’s founding in 1867 up to its 150th anniversary in 2017. Divided into ten distinct eras, coverage ranges from politics, sports, business and arts and culture, and includes significant events both at home and in world affairs.

Along with the featured stories for each of the 150 years, the pages are filled with sidebars — with content such as short biographies, quotes, important firsts and trivia — that are linked to that year. There are also 39 capsule biographies of noteworthy Canadians at the back of the book. The topics chosen offer an inclusive historical perspective, incorporating women, Aboriginal peoples and people with disabilities into Canada’s rich and diverse narrative. This book is a perfect fit for lessons on Canadian history and geography.”
Lonely Planet Great Britain
Great Britain, travel guide, culture, maps
Lonely Planet Great Britain (Travel Guide)

This book is FREE via Hoopla (which some libraries have a subscription to). The eBook version is NOT as nice as the real book.

NOTE: You can substitute any Great Britain, Scotland, or Ireland travel guide for this book. Students have an assignment in the schedule that can be completed using any travel guide you have available for these three areas. I recommend getting whatever is free or low cost vs. being stuck with this specific book choice. Try to choose a book that has lots of photographs!
Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage
Finland, culture, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: a curse word, an alcoholic recipe
Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

This is an inspirational book filled with practical tips/ideas that may help teens find a bit of sisu!
“After you’ve cultivated the coziness of the Danes (hygge) and achieved the Swedish way of moderation (lagom), then what’s next? How about developing your Sisu–an “untranslatable” Finnish term referring to a mixture of courage, resilience, grit, tenacity, and perseverance. It’s a trait that has shaped not just the fate of a nation but continues to be a guiding principle for how Finns live their daily lives.
North: How to Live Scandinavian
Sweden, Norway, Denmark, culture, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: a brief mention of sexual attitudes in Scandinavia – Look in the section about family life or click here to see a screenshot of the entire section of potential concern. It also contains the fact that people use the sauna naked (and that this isn’t seen as sexual), a curse word in the idiom section, and a mention of a 1400’s fertility ritual where boys ran naked through the fields as girls hiked up their skirts and showed their bottoms (in the celebrations section).
North: How to Live Scandinavian

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

This book is FREE via Hoopla (which some libraries have a subscription to).

“This is the ultimate insider’s guide to the countries of the north.

Full of inspiration and ideas, how-tos and recipes to help you experience the very best of Scandinavian design, philosophy, cookery and culture, this honest behind-the-scenes look at the culture provides an invaluable insight into the wonderful and visually stunning world of  Scandinavia.”
Norse Mythology  I really enjoyed this book!  Note: This books mentions a god and a giant "made love" with no graphic details.  “In Norse Mythology, Gaiman brings voice to the old myths so viscerally that listening to the audiobook every night for a week, I thought my bedroom might explode into Valhalla. The entire Norse pantheon, including dwarves and giants and demons, plays out as vividly as a novel or film. Honestly I may have to order a breastplate of some sort. As Gaiman puts it in the introduction, the stories feel like a journey from the ice and fire that created the world to the fire and ice that end it.” - Lidia Yuknavitch, New York Times Book Review  A second option (easier and quicker read that is lavishly illustrated and appropriate for all ages):  D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths
Norway, Scandinavia, myths, literature

Note: This books mentions a god and a giant “made love” with no graphic details.
Norse Mythology

I really enjoyed this book!

“In Norse Mythology, Gaiman brings voice to the old myths so viscerally that listening to the audiobook every night for a week, I thought my bedroom might explode into Valhalla. The entire Norse pantheon, including dwarves and giants and demons, plays out as vividly as a novel or film. Honestly I may have to order a breastplate of some sort. As Gaiman puts it in the introduction, the stories feel like a journey from the ice and fire that created the world to the fire and ice that end it.”
– Lidia Yuknavitch, New York Times Book Review

A second option (easier and quicker read that is lavishly illustrated and appropriate for all ages):
D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths
Minecraft Norse Mythology Mash-up
Norse mythology, computer game
OPTIONALMinecraft Norse Mythology Mash-up

This mash-up pack is for an optional assignment for students who read the Norse Mythology book.

Note: You will need a copy of Minecraft. The mash-up is an extra add-on.
Choose one of the following books about France. You do NOT need to choose both, but you can if you wish. Most of our customers choose Let’s Eat France and have shared how much they love that book.
Let's Eat France!: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus hundreds of maps, charts, tricks, tips, and ... you want to know about the food of France
France, foods, culture, maps, history, famous people, recipes

1st option:
Let’s Eat France

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

This is such a neat book! It would make a great gift if you have a budding foodie/chef! Even though there are recipes in this book, it’s so much more than a cookbook. In fact, I’d say the recipes are secondary. It’s a visual treat with lots of info about France, including culture, regional dishes, history, maps, animals, plants, recipes, holidays, art, and more!. As a review on Goodreads stated: “It’s part coffee table book, part encyclopedia, part cookbook, part history book, all French.

Note: This books has some sexual content on page 299. You can remove the page if you deem it inappropriate.
The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed
France, language, culture, history

2nd option:
The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

All kinds of French culture is shared and explained via the rules of the French language.
“To understand and speak French well, one must understand that French conversation runs on a set of rules that go to the heart of French culture.”

Note: This books has some sexual content in chapter 16. That chapter is not scheduled in.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Iran, culture & history, graphic novel, memoir

Note: This book contains: violence, a single panel about torture, a few curse words (with one f-bomb), sexual references without details (p. 74 and p. 145 – Example: A woman is told she deserves to be raped due to not covering up her head properly. She is TOLD this. It doesn’t actually happen.), a mention of prostitution (some ladies are gossiping about other women) but no details (p. 93).
Click here for an example of one of the more graphic violence scenes via one of the comic’s pages.
Here is the torture panel.
The above two things don’t represent most of the book. If you object to them, you can cover them up.
OPTIONAL: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Here is a quote about this book from that I agree with: “Persepolis is an important classroom tool for a number of reasons. First, it is a primary source detailing life in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War . Readers of all ages get a glimpse of what life is like under repressive regimes and relive this period in history from a different perspective. It also begs detailed discussion of the separation of church and state. Furthermore, this is a poignant coming-of-age story that all teens will be able to relate to and serves as a testament to the power of family, education, and sacrifice.”

Article: Why I Wrote Persepolis
“Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.”

Middle school substitution: Any appropriate book or novel about the Middle East.
Colombia - Culture Smart
Geography, history, culture, non-fiction
Note: There are a few adult topics briefly mentioned without intimate details: breast implants (in chapter 2 via the section “Body Beautiful), and LGBTQ topics )in chapter 4 via the section “Homosexuality and Discrimination”).
Colombia – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

This pocket-sized book reveals Colombia’s key customs and traditions, examines life at home and at work, and introduces some distinct and delicious culinary quirks. There is also advice on safe travel, vital information on how business is done, and how to communicate effectively across the cultural divide.
Choose one of the following to browse through:
Lonely Planet South America
Option 1:
Lonely Planet South America

Option: 2
Lonely Planet Best of South America
Journey to the River Sea
Brazil and England, literature
Journey to the River Sea

This book is FREE at

I love this novel!! It’s a great adventure story told in the lush environs of the Amazon with descriptions of the climate, animals, plants, and people.

There is a discussion guide linked in the schedule for you to download for this book (instead of being featured in the curriculum workbook/study guide).

“With the memorable characters and plot twists she brings to her best-selling fantasies, acclaimed author Eva Ibbotson has written a hair-raising novel, set in turn-of-the-last-century Brazil.”
Choose one of the following two books:
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
Pakistan, non-fiction

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Note: Students can watch the movie instead (linked in the video section below).

There is a teacher’s guide linked in the schedule for you to download for this book (instead of being featured in the curriculum workbook/study guide).

Note: This book contains: violence (Malala is shot, etc.)

There is also a young readers edition of this book. It’s an easier read and is more focused on Mala’s story with less of the local politics and less about her father, etc. Either book is fine.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.”

Middle school substitution:
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced
Yemen, non-fiction

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

This book is FREE at

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

““I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”
Nujood Ali’s childhood came to an abrupt end in 2008 when her father arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. With harrowing directness, Nujood tells of abuse at her husband’s hands and of her daring escape. With the help of local advocates and the press, Nujood obtained her freedom—an extraordinary achievement in Yemen, where almost half of all girls are married under the legal age. Nujood’s courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has inspired other young girls in the Middle East to challenge their marriages.

Hers is an unforgettable story of tragedy, triumph, and courage.”

Note: This book contains: a mention of family planning (use of the pill), Nujood is asked if she is a virgin (p. 41), and rape is mentioned with no specific body parts named (p. 89, 90, 92, 136). While the description of Nujood’s rape on the first night of her marriage is disturbing, it is not graphic in terms of language. I believe the way this sensitive subject was handled would be appropriate for mature middle-schoolers and up, but you may wish to preview it and make your own decision if it’s O.K. for your student(s) or not.
The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow
India, mythology/religion

Note: This book contains: a mention of how Brahma had “unnatural desires” for his daughter (no other details), a lingam stone is sometimes seen as a phallic symbol (p. 35), Sita’s chastity was questioned (p. 47), etc. I would say it’s rated PG because of these minor references.
The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow

The Little Book of Hindu Deities is chock-full of monsters, demons, noble warriors, and divine divas. Find out why Ganesha has an elephant’s head (his father cut his off!); why Kali, the goddess of time, is known as the “Black One” (she’s a bit goth); and what “Hare Krishna” really means.”
Ramayana: Divine Loophole (Hindu Mythology Books, Books on Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Indian Books for Kids)
India, literature
Ramayana: Divine Loophole

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

The Ramayana is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and one of the largest ancient epics in world literature! Ramayana was an important influence on Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture. Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and ethical elements.

“Artist and veteran Pixar animator Sanjay Patel lends a lush, whimsical illustration style and lighthearted voice to one of Hindu mythology’s best-loved and most enduring tales. Teeming with powerful deities, love-struck monsters, flying monkey gods, magic weapons, demon armies, and divine love, Ramayana tells the story of Rama, a god-turned-prince, and his quest to rescue his wife Sita after she is kidnapped by a demon king. This illustrated tale features over 100 colorful full-spread illustrations, a detailed pictorial glossary of the cast of characters who make up the epic tale, and sketches of the work in progress. From princesses in peril to gripping battles, scheming royals, and hordes of bloodthirsty demons, Ramayana is the ultimate adventure story presented with an unforgettably modern touch. “
The Manga Cookbook: Japanese Bento Boxes, Main Dishes and More!
Japanese culture and food, recipe book, non-fiction
The Manga Cookbook: Japanese Bento Boxes, Main Dishes and More!

This book is…”an illustrated step-by-step guide to preparing simple Japanese dishes using ingredients found in every Western kitchen. Learn to identify and make the same things you see in all your favorite manga: authentic onigiri (rice balls), yakitori (skewered chicken), oshinko (pickled vegetables), udon (Japanese noodles), okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pizza) and many others! Includes sections on how to assemble bento boxed lunches and properly use chopsticks. Features original manga illustrations by Chihiro Hattori.”

Optional specialty ingredients you may need to purchase depending on the recipes chosen: dashimirin (you can use rice vinegar as a substitute), norimisomokchiko (will also be used in a Korean recipe later)matchaadzuki beans, and kamaboko (use imitation crab meat if you don’t have an Asian market nearby)

You may also want to get a set of bento cutters and a bento box. You can purchase a sushi rolling mat, or you can use plastic wrap. Some students will appreciate having a pair of chopsticks on hand, too! Your purchases will help make lunchtime more fun!
Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen
Japanese culture, travelogue, non-fiction, comic
Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats and Ramen

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

“This graphic Japan travel guide is the first of its kind exploring Japanese culture from a cartoonist’s perspective. Cool Japan Guide takes you on a fun tour from the high-energy urban streets of Tokyo to the peaceful Zen gardens and Shinto shrines of Kyoto and introduces you to:
★ the exciting world of Japanese food—from bento to sushi and everything in between.
★ the otaku (geek) culture of Japan, including a manga market in Tokyo where artists display and sell their original artwork.
★ the complete Japanese shopping experience, from combini (not your run-of-the-mill convenience stores!) to depato (department stores with everything).
★ lots of other exciting places to go and things to do—like zen gardens, traditional Japanese arts, and a ride on a Japanese bullet train.”
Optional: Choose an additional fiction book about Japan from the unscheduled books (scroll down to the unscheduled books list).
Foundations of Chinese Civilization: The Yellow Emperor to the Han Dynasty (2697 BCE - 220 CE) (Understanding China Through Comics (1))
China, history, non-fiction, comic

Note: This book contains: an reference to religions as “myths.” Christianity is included (p. 32), a mention of castration and eunuchs (no details)
Foundations of Chinese Civilization (Understanding China Through Comics)

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

This book is also available for 
FREE on Hoopla
(which many libraries have a subscription to).

“Who founded China? Are Chinese people religious? What is Chinese culture and how has it changed over time? The accessible and fun Understanding China Through Comics series answers those questions and more.

For all ages, Foundations of Chinese Civilization covers China’s early history in comic form, introducing philosophies like Confucianism and Daoism, the story of the Silk Road, famous emperors like Han Wudi, and the process of China’s unification.”
The Girl with Seven Names
North Korea, China, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: a description of an execution (location 1233 – the very end of chapter 14), the author learns about sex from a video (beginning of chapter 15) and also finds a dead baby near a squat toilet (chapter 15), a woman is a video chat prostitute (chapter 36) – no graphic details, infrequent curse words
The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

“An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.”

Middle school substitution: I Escaped North Korea (Note: I haven’t previewed this book.)
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
Russia, history, non-fiction
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

There is a discussion guide (with essay questions and more) linked in the schedule for you to download for this book (instead of being featured in the curriculum workbook/study guide).

This is an excellent non-fiction book that sets the stage for understanding modern Russia’s beginnings and the stirrings of communism.
“Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature
Winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction
Breaking Stalin's Nose
Russia, history, literature
Breaking Stalin’s Nose

There is a discussion guide (with essay questions and more) linked in the schedule for you to download for this book (instead of being featured in the curriculum workbook/study guide).

“Eugene Yelchin’s moving story of a ten-year-old boy’s world shattering is masterful in its simplicity, powerful in its message, and heartbreaking in its plausibility.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose is one of Horn Book‘s Best Fiction Books of 2011″
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story
Literature based on a true story, Sudan, Kenya, the U.S.

Note: This book contains: a mention of violence without graphic details (a lion eats a boy, crocodiles attack fleeing refugees, etc.)
A Long Walk to Water

I love this book! It’s so inspiring!

There is a discussion guide linked in the schedule for you to download for this book (instead of being featured in the curriculum workbook/study guide).

“The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.”
It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
South Africa, auto-biography
It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers)

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

I decided to schedule in the young readers edition because the adult version of this book has SO much constant foul language plus some sexual content (a reference to foreplay, another to pornography, etc.). The young readers edition dumbs down a few passages (to skip adult content), edits out the foul language, and doesn’t contain sexual references. It still contains the same feel and story overall of the original. If you can’t access the younger version, feel free to use the adult version if you feel comfortable with the potentially objectionable content.

I love this book. Highly recommended!
“#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed”
War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
Uganda, graphic novel based on real interviews

Note: This book contains: graphic (not implied) violence (click here to see the panels that may be concerning), a reference to boys bothering girls (but no details)

If this scene is too disturbing, you can substitute with Child Soldier (linked below in the unscheduled books). Child Soldier is a much more gentle introduction to child soldiers that is appropriate (in my opinion) even for older elementary students or middle schoolers. It also comes with a free teacher’s guide.
Optional: War Brothers -The Graphic Novel

“The unforgettable story of a child soldier. When fourteen-year-old Jacob is brutally abducted and forced to become a child soldier, he struggles to hold on to his sanity and the will to escape. Daniel Lafrance’s striking artwork and the poignant, powerful text capture the very essence of life as a child soldier. Readers will never forget the experiences of this young boy struggling to survive, unsure who to trust, afraid of succumbing to madness, and above all, desperate to get to freedom. In the end, Jacob engineers a daring escape. This graphic novel is based on the acclaimed novel of the same title, winner of a 2009 Arthur Ellis award. The author spent time in Uganda and based this story on real-life accounts of the horrors inflicted on child soldiers and their victims. This is a story of unthinkable violence, but also one of hope, courage, friendship, and family.”
Ghana, Niger, Libya, Italy, graphic novel (fiction based on true events)

Note: This book contains: the boys come across a dead person (who has been there for a long time) in a vehicle in the desert, a boy drowns

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

“A powerfully moving graphic novel by New York Times bestselling author Eoin Colfer and the team behind the Artemis Fowl graphic novels that explores the current plight of undocumented immigrants.

Ebo is alone. His brother, Kwame, has disappeared, and Ebo knows it can only be to attempt the hazardous journey to Europe, and a better life―the same journey their sister set out on months ago.

But Ebo refuses to be left behind in Ghana. He sets out after Kwame and joins him on the quest to reach Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his family.”
Kampung Boy
Malaysia, graphic novel

Note: This book contains: cartoon drawings of children with bare bottoms, a mention of male circumcision (pretty tame, in my opinion)
Kampung Boy

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook.

Kampung Boy is a favorite of millions of readers in Southeast Asia. With masterful economy worthy of Charles Schultz, Lat recounts the life of Mat, a Muslim boy growing up in rural Malaysia in the 1950s: his adventures and mischief-making, fishing trips, religious study, and work on his family’s rubber plantation. Meanwhilethe traditional way of life in his village (or kampung) is steadily disappearing, with tin mines and factory jobs gradually replacing family farms and rubber small-holders. When Mat himself leaves for boarding school, he can only hope that his familiar kampung will still be there when he returns. Kampung Boy is hilarious and affectionate, with brilliant, super-expressive artwork that opens a window into a world that has now nearly vanished.”
God's Smuggler
Netherlands, Indonesia, England, various Eastern Europe countries, non-fiction
God’s Smuggler

This book is FREE at

This was one of my family’s favorite read-alouds!
Note to secular families: This is a Christian book. If you choose to skip it, you can replace it with a book or story set in Eastern Europe.

“In the anniversary edition of this electrifying real-life story, readers are gripped from the first page by the harrowing account of a young man who risked his life to smuggle Bibles through the borders of closed nations.”
Choose one of the following books about the Pacific:
Peace Child
Papua New Guinea, non-fiction

Option 1: Peace Child

Note to secular families: This is a Christian book. If you are secular, I have also scheduled in Kon Tiki as a replacement book.

“In 1962, Don and Carol Richardson risked their lives to share the gospel with the Sawi people of New Guinea. 

Peace Child tells their unforgettable story of living among these headhunters and cannibals, who valued treachery through fattening victims with friendship before the slaughter. God gave Don and Carol the key to the Sawi hearts via a redemptive analogy from their own mythology. The “peace child” became the secret to unlocking a value system that had existed through generations. This analogy became a stepping-stone by which the gospel came into the Sawi culture and started both a spiritual and a social revolution from within.”
Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft
Pacific Ocean, Polynesia

Option 2: Kon Tiki

This book is FREE at

Kon-Tiki is the record of an astonishing adventure—a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft. Intrigued by Polynesian folklore, biologist Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east, led by a mythical hero, Kon-Tiki. He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage.”
Some items you may want to purchase for activities:
Art projects
(Projects are listed and linked in the schedule.)

If you want your student to earn art credits, you should probably add a book on basic art techniques to this year’s projects.

One possible book is DK Art School: An Introduction to Art Techniques.

BBC GCSE Art and Design online is also a good resource.
Art supplies you may need to purchase for this year’s (optional) art projects:

Air drying clay
White oven bake clay (You can also use air dry clay, instead.)
Acrylic paint set (Make sure the set has black, white, and a variety of other colors in it.)
Paintbrush set (Get a set that has a variety of brushes. An inexpensive set is fine.)
Turquoise and white chalk paint
White gesso
Watercolor paper
Watercolor set
Gyotaku fish replica
Fabric paint (one color for the gyotaku project)
★ Optional for batik project (2nd easier project is also listed. Choose between them from the schedule): tjanting needle, a variety of fabric dyesbeeswax (used for more than one project)
Pysanka decorating kit or egg dye (You can make natural dyes.)
Kistka (if you don’t get a pysanka kit) Look for the one that is around $4-5, not the expensive sets!
Oil pastels – You can get an inexpensive set. Just make sure it has a variety of colors.

See the schedule for a list of more items, as this is NOT a complete list!
Items for recipes
Spaetzle maker
Spaetzle maker (Any one will work.)
Students will use a spaetzle maker for a German recipe. I recommend buying this, because once you taste spaetzle, you are likely going to want to eat it again sometime! 😉
Korean red pepper flakes
Fish sauce 
boomerangsOptional: Boomerang 
(Any boomerang will work.)
Students will have the option to make a cardstock boomerang, or you can purchase an inexpensive boomerang as a surprise!
Buffet of Optional Videos – Continue scrolling down for unscheduled books!

These videos are in the schedule (unless they are labeled as unscheduled), but you can decide whether you want to watch them or not due to time constraints, budget, availability, and/or student interest. I believe video is an important component of learning! Try to fit in as many as you can! We used to watch videos like these as a family instead of paying for cable. 😉

You will need to decide which videos are appropriate for your student depending on his/her maturity level and level of sensitivity as well as your family’s beliefs about mature content.

Please noteThere are many other videos in the schedule that aren’t listed here. They are free videos available on YouTube (including full documentaries via National Geographic), etc.

Some of the following videos are FREE for Amazon Prime Members.

Don’t forget to check your local library for these videos, too! Our library system has most of these titles available for check out.
Mexico – cultural beliefs, animated movie

This is the perfect movie to watch after learning about Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

“In Disney•Pixar’s extraordinary adventure, a boy who dreams of becoming a great musician embarks on a journey to uncover the mysteries behind his ancestor’s stories and traditions.”
Hachi A Dog's Tale
Japanese true story redone in an American setting (movie)
Optional: Hatchi: A Dog’s Tale

This movie is based on the true story of Hachikō, a dog who lived in Japan in the 1930’s. Students can watch the movie after reading chapter 6 in From Here to Eternity.

“From Academy Award®-nominated director Lasse Hallström (2000, The Cider House Rules) comes HACHI: A DOG’S TALE, a film based on one of the most treasured and heartwarming true stories ever told. Golden Globe winner Richard Gere (2002, Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, Chicago) and Academy Award® nominee Joan Allen (2000, Best Actress, The Contender) star in this inspiring true story.”
How the States Got Their Shapes
United states, geography, documentary
How The States Got Their Shapes

“The U.S. is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, where every line on the map tells a different story.”
Being Canadian
Canada, documentary

Note: This documentary contains: two bare chested guys in a bed (no sexual content), cursing (If I was rating this, I’d make it PG-13.)
This is a humorous documentary that goes over Canadian history, stereotypes, culture, locations, etc.
Being Canadian

“Canadian Robert Cohen decided to prove being Canadian is complex and interesting. With interviews with Cobie Smulders, Seth Rogen, William Shatner, Nathan Fillion, Dan Aykroyd and more.”
Irish dance, documentary

Note: I link to a free version of this documentary in the schedule.

“Following nine 11-21 year-olds as they compete for the world title in the annual Irish Dancing Championships, “Jig” documents 365 days in the lives of the young dancers and their families as they aim for the top spot on the winners’ podium.”
Rick Steves' Iran
Iran – travel video & culture
Rick Steves’ Iran

“As he’s done with previous programs on Israel, Egypt, and Eastern Turkey, Rick takes us beyond Europe to a place that’s rich with history…and mystery.”
Rick Steves' Europe
Europe (various countries depending on the season you choose to watch)
Rick Steve’s Europe

Some of these videos are free via Amazon Prime (as of this writing), and others are free on the Rick Steve’s website and YouTube. I’ve linked to the freebies in the schedule!

“Join writer and host Rick Steves as he experiences the local culture, cuisine, and fun in some of Europe’s most interesting places.”
He Named Me Malala
Pakistan, documentary
He Named Me Malala

“This inspiring documentary tells the story of teenager Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban attack in Pakistan to emerge as a global voice for the education rights of children.”
the breadwinner
Afghanistan – life and culture, life under the Taliban – based on a novel, animated movie
The Breadwinner

“An 11-year-old girl in Afghanistan disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family in this inspiring tale about the power of stories to carry us through dark times.”
Nova-Saving the Dead Sea
Israel and Jordan – documentary
Nova: Saving the Dead Sea

I thought this was an interesting video that has a bit of geography, politics, and science mixed in.

“As the Dead Sea shrinks, engineers prepare a daring solution: connect it with the Red Sea by way of a massive desalination plant. If it works, it could stabilize the lake and ease regional tensions, but will it put the environment at risk?”
God Grew Tired of Us
Sudan, U.S., documentary
God Grew Tired of Us

“Four boys from Sudan embark on a journey to America after years of wandering Sub-Saharan Africa in search of safety.”
Russia, history, TV series based on a real event

Note: This movie contains: male nudity in episode 3 where miners excavate a tunnel for a heat exchange under the plant (the tunnel is so hot that the miners must dig the tunnel in the nude), graphic depictions of the effects of radiation, a suicide is implied (but not shown) at the beginning of episode 1, cursing
Click here for the Common Sense Media review of the series.
This mini-series may not be appropriate for younger teens, and some families may feel it’s not appropriate for teens at all. Use your discretion.

“Starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson, ‘Chernobyl’ tells the story of the 1986 nuclear accident in this HBO Miniseries.”
Rabbit-Proof Fence
Australia, history, movie
Rabbit-Proof Fence

“At a time when it was Australian government policy to train aboriginal children as domestic workers and integrate them into white society, young Molly Craig decides to lead her little sister and cousin in a daring escape from their internment camp.”
Whale Rider
New Zealand, movie
Whale Rider

“A Maori village faces a crisis when the heir to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived only by his twin sister, Paikea (Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes, “Star Wars: Episode III”). Though disregarded by her grandfather and shunned by the villagers, 12-year-old Paikea remains certain of her calling and trains herself in the customs of her people.”
In This Corner of the World
Japan, history, movie
In This Corner of the World

“In 1944, Suzu Urano moves to Kure in Hiroshima to live with her husband’s family, but their lives are thrown into chaos when their town is bombed during World War II.”

Alternate movie: Grave of the Fireflies

“As the Empire of the Sun crumbles upon itself and a rain of firebombs falls upon Japan, the final death march of a nation is echoed in millions of smaller tragedies. This is the story of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko, two children born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and now cast adrift in a world that lacks not the care to shelter them, but simply the resources. Forced to fend for themselves in the aftermath of fires that swept entire cities from the face of the earth, their doomed struggle is both a tribute to the human spirit and the stuff of nightmares. Beautiful, yet at times brutal and horrifying. Based on the retellings of survivor Nosaka Akiyuki and directed by Iaso Takahata (co-founder, with Hayao Miyazaki, of Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli,) Grave Of The Fireflies has been universally hailed as an artistic and emotional tour de force. “
My Neighbor Totoro
Japan, culture, fantasy, movie

Note: There is a scene where a father bathes with 2 little girls – one of the girls is seen from the side with a bit of her bottom showing briefly. It’s not a sexual scene. It’s a totally innocent cultural thing.
Optional: My Neighbor Totoro

I love Totoro! Totoro is a Japanese cultural icon. My Neighbor Totoro was voted the highest-ranking animated film on the 2012 Sight & Sound critics’ poll of all-time greatest films.

“From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away and Ponyo, and Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, comes a classic tale of magic and adventure for the whole family.”
The Last Samurai
Japan, history, movie

Click here for a Christian review of this movie that lists possible objections.
The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai is rated R – mostly for the violence. I would feel totally comfortable with a mature teen watching it (but that’s me), especially because there are no sex scenes. It’s loosely based on a true story and does a terrific job of showing aspects of Japanese samurai culture / bushidō. Bushidō continues to resonate in modern Japanese culture. This movie illustrates it beautifully.
Wild China
China, documentary
BBC: Wild China

Journey across China from the glittering peaks of the Himalayas to the barren steppe, the sub-Arctic to the tropical islands, through deserts both searingly hot and mind-numbingly cold and see a dazzling array of mysterious, beautiful, wild, and rare creatures.
The Last Emperor
China, history, movie

Note: This movie contains: a woman nursing a baby and later a young child, mild sexual content (see the link below for details – PG-13 stuff), eunuchs, opium use, violence
Click here for a Common Sense Media review.
The Last Emperor

I watched this movie as a teen (and again as an adult). It’s a beautiful film that covers six decades of Chinese history.

“Bernardo Bertolucciâ’s The Last Emperor won nine Academy Awards, unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated – quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast.”
One Child Nation
China, history, documentary

Note: This movie contains: pictures of aborted babies thrown away in the trash (they look like they are sleeping) and two preserved aborted babies in jars of fluid. This section is easily skipped. It’s the only section where an artist is being interviewed. There are also frank discussions of how women were forcibly sterilized (no sexual details – just people talking about how they would chase/catch the distraught women, etc.). There are also discussions of how babies were abandoned (some died and others were trafficked to orphanages and adopted by foreigners). If you have an adopted child from China, you may want to preview this documentary. It discusses how some children were forcibly taken from their families and were not actually orphans (or abandoned), which could potentially be distressing.
One Child Nation

This documentary is FREE for Amazon Prime members!

This movie is an interesting documentary about China’s One Child Policy. There are a LOT of moments that could lead to some interesting discussions with students such as the people who were “just carrying out orders”, the affects of propaganda, government control, how the Chinese culture favors sons, etc.

Inside North Korea
North Korea, documentary
National Geographic: Inside North Korea

Go undercover with National Geographic correspondent Lisa Ling as she journeys into mysterious and reclusive North Korea.
North Korea, documentary

“A critical masterpiece, GANDHI is an intriguing story about activism, politics, religious tolerance and freedom.”
Anna and the King
Thailand (Siam), history, movie
Anna and the King

“Based on the true story of Anna Leonowen’s an English school teacher, a window and mother who moves to Siam with her son, in the 1860s to teach the dozens of children of King Mongkut. An unexpected romance between Anna and the King, but cultural differences keep their love apart.”
Gorillas in the Mist
Rwanda, movie
Gorillas in the Mist

This is a classic movie based on the true story of Dian Fossey, who traveled to Africa to study rare mountain gorillas. I watched it as a teen and watched it again with my kids. Preview for violence. Click here for a Common Sense Media review.
Hawaii, movie

This Disney movie is based largely off Polynesian mythology.
Unscheduled Books or Possible Substitutions

These books are an optional part of the curriculum. You can use these books as extra credit, to replace one of the scheduled books, or to extend the program over a longer time period.

Although I have included warnings for some of the books, I have not included every possible objectionable item. Please preview with your own family’s values in mind.
How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between)
Geography, parenting, culture, non-fiction
How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between)

“A tour of global practices that will inspire American parents to expand their horizons (and geographical borders) and learn that there’s more than one way to diaper a baby. Mei-Ling Hopgood, a first-time mom from suburban Michigan-now living in Buenos Aires-was shocked that Argentine parents allow their children to stay up until all hours of the night. Could there really be social and developmental advantages to this custom? Driven by a journalist’s curiosity and a new mother’s desperation for answers, Hopgood embarked on a journey to learn how other cultures approach the challenges all parents face: bedtimes, potty training, feeding, teaching, and more. Observing parents around the globe and interviewing anthropologists, educators, and child-care experts, she discovered a world of new ideas.”
What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets
Cultural geography, lots of photographs, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: African natives’ breasts (p. 41-45), Sumo wrestlers in their traditional loincloths (p. 204-207)
“A stunning photographic collection featuring portraits of 80 people from 30 countries and the food they eat in one day.
What I Eat – Around the World in 80 Diets

In this fascinating study of people and their diets, 80 profiles are organized by the total number of calories each person puts away in a day. Featuring a Japanese sumo wrestler, a Massai herdswoman, world-renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria, an American competitive eater, and more, these compulsively readable personal stories also include demographic particulars, including age, activity level, height, and weight. Essays from Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham, journalist Michael Pollan, and others discuss the implications of our modern diets for our health and for the planet. This compelling blend of photography and investigative reportage expands our understanding of the complex relationships among individuals, culture, and food.
Life at the Extremes
Science, geography, non-fiction
Life at the Extremes

“How do people survive extremes of heat, cold, depth, speed and altitude? This book explores the limits of human survival and the physiological adaptations which enable us to exist under extreme conditions. In man’s battle for survival in the harshest of environments, the knowledge imparted by physiology, the ‘logic of life’, is crucial. What causes mountain sickness? Why is it possible to reach the top of Everest without supplementary oxygen, yet be killed if a plane depressurizes suddenly at the same altitude. Why are astronauts unable to stand without fainting when they return to Earth?”
Map Art Lab:52 Exciting Art Explorations in Map Making, Imagination, and Travel
Art, maps
Map Art Lab

If you are adding art credits, I highly recommend this book. There are all sorts of interesting and creative mapmaking and map related art projects. There are also tidbits of information sprinkled throughout the pages like information on longitude/latitude, etc.
All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey
Maps, history, science, arts
All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey

I really enjoyed browsing this book. Highly recommended if you can get it from the library (since it’s fairly expensive).

“In this visually stunning book, award-winning journalists Betsy Mason and Greg Miller–authors of the National Geographic cartography blog “All Over the Map”–explore the intriguing stories behind maps from a wide variety of cultures, civilizations, and time periods. Based on interviews with scores of leading cartographers, curators, historians, and scholars, this is a remarkable selection of fascinating and unusual maps.”
Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation
Geography, cultures, Christian resource
Operation World *This is a Christian resource.
“Operation World, the definitive global prayer handbook, has been used by more than a million Christians to pray for the nations. Included in this updated and revised 7th edition:
★ All the countries of the world featured
★ Maps of each country
★Geographic information
★People groups within each country
★Economic information
★Political information
★Religious make-up of each country
★Daily Prayer Calendar

There is also an abridged version: Pray for the World: A New Prayer Resource from Operation World
All Creatures Great and Small: The Warm and Joyful Memoirs of the World's Most Beloved Animal Doctor
Yorkshire, England, non-fiction
All Creatures Great and Small

Get a feel for the northern English countryside with this wonderful book that will appeal to animal lovers!

“Delve into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world’s most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients.”
History of Britain and Ireland: The Definitive Visual Guide
Britain and Ireland, history, culture, geography (maps), non-fiction
History of Britain and Ireland: The Definitive Visual Guide

This is not an inexpensive book, but it’s absolutely stunning and will make a wonderful addition to your homeschool library. I will possibly use it someday if I make a European history course.

Just browsing through the lavish pictures and photos will give students a good idea of British history and culture through the ages.
“From the Roman conquest of 43 CE to the Norman conquest of 1066, and from the Elizabethan age to the Iraq and Afghan wars of the 21st century, DK’s History of Britain and Ireland traces the key events that have shaped Great Britain and Ireland from earliest times to the present day.”
Usborne Illustrated Atlas of Britain and Ireland
Illustrated Atlas
Usborne Illustrated Atlas of Britain and Ireland

This book is appropriate for all ages and may be a good choice if you have younger children still in the house.

“Take a tour of the British Isles with this stylish, fact-filled atlas. Lively illustrations and colorful picture maps allow you to explore famous landmarks, towns and cities, wildlife, customs and history along the way.”
Asterix the Gaul: Album #1
Ancient Gaul (France and nearby countries), comic, history, fiction
Asterix the Gaul: Album #1

The Asterix comics are a series of French comics that are set during the time of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. There is history sprinkled in them. Students of French often buy the French copies to practice reading the language! Students will read an article linked in the schedule that explains some of the history mentioned in this comic.
The Complete Maus
Germany, history, award-winning graphic novel

Note: This book contains: cursing, cartoon nudity (on the mice that depict people), violence in the context of the holocaust (the ovens of the concentration camps are discussed, starvation, etc.)
Click here to see a Common Sense Media review which discusses potential objectionable items in this book.
The Complete Maus

“The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story.”
There are many teacher’s guides online for this book.
The Book Thief
Germany, history, literature

Note: This book contains: violence, cursing
Click here to see a Common Sense Media review which discusses potential objectionable items in this book.
The Book Thief

“Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.”
“Deserves a place on the same shelf with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.” —USA Today
There are many teacher’s guides online for this book.
Swiss Alps & Germany, literature

This book is FREE via The Open Library.

This is a classic story that everyone should read just once! Even my son loved it.
Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates
Netherlands, history, literature
Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates

This book is FREE via The Open Library.
This book is also FREE for the Kindle.

“Today, this tale of youthful gallantry remains well-known and celebrated in the Netherlands. Its accurate details of traditional Dutch life enthralled curious readers and introduced them to a country hitherto little-known in children’s literature. Virtues held highly in the Dutch culture; of both cooperation and competition, are well expressed in the hero’s character and – as the story progresses – his family members.”
Banner in the Sky
Switzerland, literature
Banner in the Sky

This book is FREE via The Open Library.

Young Rudi Matt tries to climb one of the world’s most forbidding Alpine peaks in this Newbery Honor book. This exciting mountain climbing adventure of a young dishwasher who dreams of being a mountain guide like his father features compelling themes about conquering fear, working toward a goal, and banding together in shared sacrifice.
The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture
Korea, culture, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: some curse words
The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

“A fresh, funny, up-close look at how South Korea remade itself as the world’s pop culture powerhouse of the twenty-first century.”
When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge
Cambodia / Khmer Rouge, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: violence (people are beaten or killed), descriptions of the physical effects of starvation, a mention of using a woman’s breast milk to clear up an eye infection (p. 174), Buddhist beliefs, the description of the murder of a pregnant woman (p. 247), babies are killed (p. 261), Athy gets nervous around some Thai soldiers and worries about rape (p. 302)
When Broken Glass Floats

“In a mesmerizing story, Chanrithy Him vividly recounts her trek through the hell of the “killing fields.” She gives us a child’s-eye view of a Cambodia where rudimentary labor camps for both adults and children are the norm and modern technology no longer exists. Death becomes a companion in the camps, along with illness. Yet through the terror, the members of Chanrithy’s family remain loyal to one another, and she and her siblings who survive will find redeemed lives in America.”
The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam
Vietnam, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: opium use of a neighbor is mentioned without graphic details, death of people and animals (a man breathes in a snake’s venom accidentally and dies in his sleep)
The Land I Lost

“Huynh Quang Nhuong grew up in the highlands of Vietnam, next to the jungle teeming with wildlife. Encounters with tigers, wild hogs, and deadly snakes were as much a part of his life as tending the rice fields while on the back of his pet water buffalo, Tank.

Perfect for classrooms, as well as fans of Linda Sue Park and Thanhha Lai, these fifteen tales will transport readers into a world of lush beauty and terrible danger—and a way of life that is gone forever. “
So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam
Vietnam, non-fiction
So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam

“After job losses and the housing crash, the author and her family leave L.A. to start over in a most unlikely place: a nine-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, keep cockroaches for luck, and ultimately help her find joy without Western trappings.”
Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America
North Korea, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: rape (no graphic details), minor cursing, violence (I don’t remember anything too graphic), a mention of bride slaves (chapter 25)
Under the Same Sky

“Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great Famine, a long, terrible ordeal that killed millions, including his father, and sent others, like his mother and only sister, on desperate escape routes into China. Alone on the streets, Joseph learned to beg and steal. He had nothing but a street-hardened survival instinct. Finally, in desperation, he too crossed a frozen river to escape to China. Under the Same Sky is an unforgettable story of suffering and redemption.”
Nepal & India, fiction based on real stories

Note: This book contains: sexual slavery/human trafficking

“Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.”
Homeless Bird
India, fiction
Homeless Bird

“Like many girls her age in India, thirteen-year-old Koly faces her arranged marriage with hope and courage. But Koly’s story takes a terrible turn when in the wake of the ceremony, she discovers she’s been horribly misled—her life has been sold for a dowry. Can she forge her own future, even in the face of time-worn tradition? “
A Long Way Home: A Memoir
India, Australia, memoir
A Long Way Home

“This is the miraculous and triumphant story of Saroo Brierley, a young man who used Google Earth to rediscover his childhood life and home in an incredible journey from India to Australia and back again…”
Seven Years in Tibet
Tibet, non-fiction
Seven Years in Tibet

“Recounts how the author, an Austrian, escaped from an English internment camp in India in 1943 and spent the next seven years in Tibet, observing its social practices, religion, politics, and people.”
Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution
China, history, auto-biography

Note: This book contains: violence (people are beaten), suicide (not graphic), minor cursing
Red Scarf Girl *Recommended!

“It’s 1966, and twelve-year-old Ji-li Jiang has everything a girl could want: brains, popularity, and a bright future in Communist China. But it’s also the year that China’s leader, Mao Ze-dong, launches the Cultural Revolution—and Ji-li’s world begins to fall apart.
Written in an accessible and engaging style, this page-turning, honest, and deeply personal autobiography will appeal to readers of all ages”.
There are many teacher’s guides online for this book. Click here for one.
Red Winter (The Red Winter Trilogy) (Volume 1)
Japan, mythology & folklore, fiction (science fiction & fantasy)

Note: This book contains: mild romance (a couple of kisses), violence (fantasy fighting between humans and spirit beings)
Red Winter

This book was interesting because of all the Japanese folklore woven into the story. I’ve never run into another book that describes the Japanese mythological world full of yokai, kitsune, tengu, and more, as well as beliefs about divinities (Amaterasu, etc.). It has some beautiful illustrations, too – something rare in a Y.A. book these days!
“Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess—and not once has she doubted her chosen fate.

Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command—whether she wants him or not.

On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate—but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope … and hope is all she has left.”
Heart of a Samurai
Japan, history, fiction (based on a true story)
Heart of a Samurai

“In 1841 a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way.

Manjiro, a 14-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives there for some time and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the emperor to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.”
The Samurai's Tale
Japan, history, fiction
The Samurai’s Tale

“When the powerful Lord Takeda’s soldiers sweep across the countryside, killing and plundering, they spare the boy Taro’s life and take him along with them. Taro becomes a servant in the household of the noble Lord Akiyama, where he meets Togan, a cook, who teaches Taro and makes his new life bearable. But when Togan is murdered, Taro’s life takes a new direction: He will become a samurai, and redeem the family legacy that has been stolen from him.”
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
Japan, biography
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

“The star of her school’s running team, Sadako is lively and athletic…until the dizzy spells start. Then she must face the hardest race of her life—the race against time. Based on a true story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes celebrates the courage that makes one young woman a heroine in Japan.”
There are many teacher’s guides online for this book.
Middle East
In the Land of Blue Burqas
Afghanistan, memoir, Christian
In the Land of Blue Burqas

Kate McCord’s love for the people of Afghanistan shines in this book! This book is great at discussing the differences between Islam and Christianity and for learning how culture and religion are so intertwined in the Muslim world.

“I lived in Afghanistan for five years. I learned the rules – I had to.”

Riveting and fast paced, In the Land of Blue Burqas depicts sharing the love and truth of Christ with women living in Afghanistan, which has been called “the world’s most dangerous country in which to be born a woman.” 

These stories are honest and true. The harsh reality of their lives is not sugar-coated, and that adds to the impact of this book. Through storytelling, the author shows how people who don’t know Christ come to see Him, His truth, and His beauty. The stories provide insight into how a Jesus-follower brought Jesus’ teachings of the Kingdom of God to Afghanistan. They reveal the splendor of Christ, the desire of human hearts, and that precious instance where the two meet.”
Not Without My Daughter
Iran, memoir

Note: This book contains: mild sexual references (sex with no details between a married man and woman), Betty manually pulls out an IUD during part of her captivity, a mention of rape (but no graphic details), domestic violence (fairly brief scene of a husband beating a wife), a fairly negative view of some of the people and culture of 1970’s Iran
Not Without My Daughter: The Harrowing True Story of a Mother’s Courage

“‘You are here for the rest of your life. Do you understand? You are not leaving Iran. You are here until you die.’ Betty Mahmoody and her husband, Dr Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody (‘Moody’), came to Iran from the USA to meet Moody’s family. With them was their four-year-old daughter, Mahtob. Appalled by the squalor of their living conditions, horrified by what she saw of a country where women are merely chattels and Westerners are despised, Betty soon became desperate to return to the States. But Moody, and his often vicious family, had other plans. Mother and daughter became prisoners of an alien culture, hostages of an increasingly tyrannical and violent man. Betty began to try to arrange an escape. Evading Moody’s sinister spy network, she secretly met sympathizers opposed to Khomeini’s savage regime. But every scheme that was suggested to her meant leaving Mahtob behind for ever…”
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: some mild sexual content, some theories about gender towards the end of the book (that I don’t agree with)
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

“In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child–a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.”
Growing Up Bin Laden
Middle East, Africa, culture, history, memoir

Note: This book contains: boys are threatened with rape (chapter 7), an innocent young man is put on trial and killed, even though he was a victim of rape (p. 131-132), a man killed his brother for having premarital sex (p. 178, chapter 16), etc.
Growing Up bin Laden

This is an interesting book told by one of Osama bin Laden’s wives and his fourth born son. It’s a peek into middle east culture (from the perspective of native born people actually living there) and tells the private story behind one of the world’s most notorious terrorists. The American author who helped write the story also shares notes about historical events as they happen.
The Kite Runner Graphic Novel
Afghanistan – graphic novel, fiction

Note: This book contains: rape of a boy, violence (including the stoning of a woman), attempted suicide, some bad language, a portrayal of a bacha bazi in a non-sexual context (Some students may miss this reference without an explanation.)
Here is a screenshot of the rape scene, so you can determine if it’s too much for your family or not. The screenshot cuts off part of a comic panel. There is no nudity or anything like that in it. Here is a screenshot example of violence. Here is a screenshot of the attempted suicide (the boy is saved). Click here for a teacher’s review of the graphic novel and why he recommends it. Click here for an article with teaching ideas for this book.

Afghanistan – graphic novel, fiction
The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel)

Please read all of the notes to the left under the book image before choosing this book.

“Since its publication in 2003, nearly 7 million readers have discovered The Kite Runner. Through Khaled Hosseini’s brilliant writing, a previously unknown part of the world was brought to vivid life for readers. Now, in this beautifully illustrated graphic novel adaptation, Hosseini brings his compelling story to a new generation of readers.”

Quote from:

The Kite Runner is a book that is often assigned to high school students in English/Lit classes. It’s also a book (in its original format) that has been banned in some school districts. I believe the graphic novel presents some of the controversial elements in a way that may be more palatable for some. I’ve scheduled the graphic novel for this reason and also for time constraints. This is definitely a book you will want to preview for content, but I believe it could lead to some really good discussions.
Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War
Democratic Republic of the Congo, history, non-fiction, graphic novel

Note: This book contains: violence, a mention of sexual abuse (in the back informational portion of the book)
Child Soldier

This is a much more “gentle” introduction to child soldiers than the scheduled (optional) book War Brothers. If you have a sensitive student, you may want to substitute this book instead of using the one that’s scheduled.

Click here for a free teacher’s guide.

“Michel Chikwanine was five years old when he was abducted from his schoolyard soccer game in the Democratic Republic of Congo and forced to become a soldier for a brutal rebel militia. Against the odds, Michel managed to escape and find his way back to his family, but he was never the same again. After immigrating to Canada, Michel was encouraged by a teacher to share what happened to him in order to raise awareness about child soldiers around the world, and this book is part of that effort.”
Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna
Kenya, non-fiction

Note: This book contains: male circumcision (no graphic description)
Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna

“Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives American kids a firsthand look at growing up in Kenya as a member of a tribe of nomads whose livelihood centers on the raising and grazing of cattle. Readers share Lekuton’s first encounter with a lion, the epitome of bravery in the warrior tradition. They follow his mischievous antics as a young Maasai cattle herder, coming-of-age initiation, boarding school escapades, soccer success, and journey to America for college. Lekuton’s riveting text combines exotic details of nomadic life with the universal experience and emotions of a growing boy.”
Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
Uganda, non-fiction
Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

This is a Christian book.

“The New York Times bestselling account of a courageous eighteen-year-old from Nashville who gave up every comfort and convenience to become the adoptive mother to thirteen girls in Uganda.”
Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea (Scientists in the Field Series)
Papua New Guinea, non-fiction, science
The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea

The grade range on this book is grades 4-9. I think it’s interesting enough for any age (especially for animal lovers) and has beautiful photographs. The writing is somewhat simplistic, but informative. It’s an easy read and a good introduction to the rainforests of New Guinea.

“It looks like a bear, but isn’t one. It climbs trees as easily as a monkey— but isn’t a monkey, either. It has a belly pocket like a kangaroo, but what’s a kangaroo doing up a tree? Meet the amazing Matschie’s tree kangaroo, who makes its home in the ancient trees of Papua New Guinea’s cloud forest. And meet the amazing scientists who track these elusive animals.”
Child Of The Jungle
West Papua, auto-biography

Note: This book contains: pictures of natives in the center photograph section (nudity), including a woman breastfeeding a puppy and a baby at the same time, mention of a condom being explained to the teenaged author in boarding school (chapter 43, p. 231), sex outside of marriage (no graphic details – p. 233), the author cuts herself with a razor blade during a moment of deep depression (p. 239)
Child of the Jungle – The True Story of a Girl Caught Between Two Worlds

“In 1980 seven-year-old Sabine Kuegler and her family went to live in a remote jungle area of West Papua among the recently discovered Fayu – a tribe untouched by modern civilization. Her childhood was spent hunting, shooting poisonous spiders with arrows and chewing on pieces of bat-wing in place of gum. She also learns how brutal nature can be – and sees the effect of war and hatred on tribal peoples.
After the death of her Fayu-brother, Ohri, Sabine decides to leave the jungle and, aged seventeen, she goes to a boarding school in Switzerland – a traumatic change for a girl who acts and feels like one of the Fayu. ‘Fear is something I learnt here’ she says. ‘In the Lost Valley, with a lost tribe, I was happy. In the rest of the world it was I who was lost.’
Here is Sabine Kuegler’s remarkable true story of a childhood lived out in the Indonesian jungle, and the struggle to conform to European society that followed.”
The Cay
Curaçao, a deserted island in the Caribbean, fiction
The Cay

“Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.

   When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”

But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.”
North America
Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness
Alaska (U.S.), non-fiction
Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness

“Anne Hobbs was only nineteen in 1927 when she came to harsh and beautiful Alaska. Running a ramshackle schoolhouse would expose her to more than just the elements. After she allowed Native American children into her class and fell in love with a half-Inuit man, she would learn the meanings of prejudice and perseverance, irrational hatred and unconditional love. “People get as mean as the weather,” she discovered, but they were also capable of great good.
As told to Robert Specht, Anne Hobbs’s true story has captivated generations of readers. Now this beautiful new edition is available to inspire many more.”
South America
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
Andes Mountains (Chile, Argentina), non-fiction

1st option: Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

“On October 12, 1972, a plane carrying a team of young rugby players crashed into the remote, snow-peaked Andes. Out of the forty-five original passengers and crew, only sixteen made it off the mountain alive. For ten excruciating weeks they suffered deprivations beyond imagining, confronting nature head-on at its most furious and inhospitable. And to survive, they were forced to do what would have once been unthinkable …
This is their story — one of the most astonishing true adventures of the twentieth century.”
Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home
Andes Mountains (Chile, Argentina), non-fiction

2nd option: Miracle in the Andes

“Thirty years after the disaster Nando tells his story with remarkable candor and depth of feeling. Miracle in the Andes—a first person account of the crash and its aftermath—is more than a riveting tale of true-life adventure: it is a revealing look at life at the edge of death and a meditation on the limitless redemptive power of love.”
Pinecone hedgehog

The terrific materials listed above are for Guest Hollow’s High School Geography and Cultures Curriculum! We invite you to take a look!
Thank You,
The Guest Family
© Guest Hollow, LLC

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Guest Hollow’s High School Geography & Cultures Curriculum


Geography & cultures is an important subject, especially for high schoolers. We’ve designed an engaging, flexible, RICH & MEATY program that schedules in some terrific resources designed to get students enthusiastic about geography! Our program is also built to help students not only understand what they are learning but to also retain the material. Join the Guest Hollow family, and see why both parents and students LOVE our curricula! 

4 thoughts on “Guest Hollow’s High School Geography and Cultures Curriculum Book and Resource List

  1. Do you have recommendations for world history for high school?

    1. I’m working on a high school world history curriculum right now. 🙂 I’m hoping it will be done sometime later this year (but am not committing to a released date due to unforeseen circumstances).

  2. LInk for Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps young readers is broken, and the real one seems to be available now not just via sellers.

    1. Thank you SO much for letting us know!! I’ll fix the link asap. We so appreciate you taking the time to post and for your help in keeping things accurate and up-to-date! <3

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