Welcome to Guest Hollow's High School Geography & Cultures Curriculum books & materials list!

Click here to return to the main geography curriculum page.

Please read through these notes before looking at the book/resource list.

Homeschool geography books

NOTE: If you purchase this curriculum, you will have access to a printable book list with a shopping/planning checklist.

WARNING Preview all materials!!

I recommend you preview all items to see if they are appropriate for your students. I have NOT marked every incidence of potentially objectionable material. Some of the books for this course were written with an adult audience in mind. They may contain some cursing or a few references of adult themes / content. I personally feel that high schoolers should be mature enough to handle any/most of the adult references contained in these books, but every family is different in what they find offensive!

Additional notes about some of the books are in the descriptions below to help you make decisions about which books/materials may be OK for your family or not. I have NOT, however, remarked about every possible offense.

Question: If I buy all of those books, I'll spend a fortune! How can I afford this?

Answer: Check out our article on how to use a literature-based curriculum without breaking the bank!

Are you on a tight budget? You'll notice a lot of the books are FREE through various sources. Just look for the purple text that says FREE. I was once a homeschooler myself and always appreciated a good deal, so I try to take care of my Guest Hollow customers with the same eye towards saving money (without sacrificing quality)!

You will need to get a free account for the Open Library to access some of the books in a digital format. The Open Library books are available via checkout, so they aren't always available and you may have to be on a wait list. If a book you want isn't available via the page I linked, search for it (in the Open Library search box). Sometimes there are multiple copies and versions of a book available for checkout. If you check a book out, please make sure to return it as soon as your student is finished, so other families can take advantage of these free books, too! Open Library books are available in a variety of formats - some of which you can download onto a tablet.

Question: This is a lot of reading. Can I assign literature (or other) credits, too?

Answer: You'll have to check with your local requirements. When I was teaching my kids, we usually had what we thought of as a "core" curriculum (science, geography, or history). Because these programs were so literature-rich, I didn't do a separate literature course. This enhanced my children's retention and enjoyment of the material they were learning, since their reading assignments complimented their studies. Of course my kids also did plenty of reading in their free time as well! Please see the printable schedule in your purchase for potential additional credit ideas.

Question: Why do you schedule in some graphic novels?

Answer: 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.

Question: Why do you schedule in some books that feature history? Isn't this a geography program?

Answer: I 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.

NOTE: When you purchase a printable schedule, you will receive a handy, printable book list to help you plan your purchases and/or decide what to borrow from the library.

A few additional notes:

Note: The resources below do not contain most of the free YouTube videos that are linked in the schedule.

Quotes below are from the official book descriptions.

Scheduled Books & Other Resources

Scroll down past this section to see scheduled videos and unscheduled books. The printable schedule lists when books are used (via a printable book list) for your planning and shopping purposes. The list also tells how long each book is used for, so you can plan whether to borrow or purchase a book.

Geography Homeschool Curriculum Book

Geography, history, culture, non-fiction

Guest Hollow's Geography & Cultures Online Textbook

This book is FREE!

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook /study guide.

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.

geography workbook

Guest Hollow's Geography Workbook / Study Guide - FREE download with your purchase

Click here for sample pages.

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

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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, I 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, I recommend you just get the Where on Earth? Atlas (linked below) and use Google Earth on the computer, instead.

Travel or flag stickers

Optional: 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

Geography, culture, lots of photographs,
non-fiction

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet)

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

This book is FREE through Kindle Unlimited and via Hoopla (which some libraries have a subscription to). This is a book that is best appreciated via the physical copy, though!

"Take a journey through every country in the world. 850 images. 230 countries. One complete picture.

With details of every United Nations-approved country in the world, and a few more principalities and dependencies besides, Lonely Planet's Travel Book is the ultimate introduction to a world of travel and the essential travel reference book for every household!

Each country is profiled by Lonely Planet's expert authors and features 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. Every entry has a map and statistics about the country.

All brand new, incredible photography illustrates each country, depicting what life is like in each nation from photographic portraits of people, beautiful landscape photographs and vibrant street photography."

Material World - Peter Menzel

Cultural geography, lots of photographs,
non-fiction

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

This book is FREE at Openlibrary.org.

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!

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)

"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

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.

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.

"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

Cultural geography, lots of photographs, non-fiction

Hungry Planet - What the World Eats

I loved pouring over the different photos in this book!

Note: This book contains: nudity (natives in Papua - p. 54, p. 155, p. 287), a child in underwear (p. 155).

"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).

People of the World (National Geographic)

Culture, human geography, history, science (genetics), anthropology

Option 1:

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

Note: This book contains: a mention that humans originated in Africa (plus other evolutionary statements), a woman breastfeeding a baby (p. 41)

"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. Some were chosen because of their commonality as ancestors to many; others were chosen because their numbers are dwindling, and soon their cultures may become extinct. Maps, photographs, and traditional sayings enhance the accounts of many of the most important and interesting cultures in the world today."

People and Places book

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. Note: I have not yet scheduled it in (as I discovered it after finishing the curriculum), but plan on doing so within the next month (Feb. 2020).

"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.

Discover how the Yakut people survive in the Arctic temperatures of Siberia, or why tattoos are so important in Maori culture. Learn about the Mbendeje people's hunting sign language that lets them silently creep up on unsuspecting prey. People and Places: A Visual Encyclopedia allows you to explore different cultures through illuminating photography and bitesize chunks of information."

The Religions Book - Big Ideas Simply Explained

World religions, culture, history

Christian add-on or replacement book (unscheduled):

Don't all religions lead to God?

World religions, Christian book

The Religions Book - Big Ideas Simply Explained

Note: Even though this book is available in e-book format, I recommend the print version.

I like the easy-to-understand graphics and the straight forward 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 Maze, World Religions - An Indispensable Introduction or a similar book to get a Christian perspective about the religions being studied. This book is FREE at Openlibrary.org.

"Surveying the world's religions, from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism, and providing succinct yet thought-provoking insight into the philosophy and practices of each, The Religions Book is ideal for anyone seeking to gain a better understanding of the world's religions.

With intriguing artwork, flow charts, and diagrams, complex world religions are made accessible in this comprehensive guide. The Religions Book is also perfect for religion and philosophy students."

Trvia Lover's Guide to the World

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/study guide.

"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. Often dismissed as unimportant, trivia here highlights issues that are far from trivial, pondering, for example, what peaceful country requires citizens to keep guns in their homes? what continent contains at least 75 percent of the world’s fresh water? and why aren't New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia the capitals of their respective states? An inveterate traveler and geographer extraordinaire, 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

Antarctica, history, non-fiction

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

This book is FREE at Openlibrary.org.

"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 re-creates one of the most extraordinary adventure stories in history."

From Here to Eternity

Cultural geography, non-fiction

From Here to Eternity

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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 miscarraige is mentioned (p. 87), a description of a cremation (p. 171), infrequent cursing

"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."

Prisoners of Geography

Geography, geopolitics, physical geography, history, non-fiction

Middle school substitution: See the book directly below.

Prisoners of Geography

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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

Note: This book contains: a mention of evolution at the beginning of chapter 5.

"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."

Prisoners of Geography

Geography, geopolitics, physical geography, history, non-fiction

Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps

This book is NOT scheduled!

For some reason this book is only available via "other sellers" on Amazon. I will not schedule it unless it becomes more easily available. I'm only listing it 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 directly above 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/study guide.

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. Illustrations by awarding-winning artist Sydney Smith bring a contemporary feel to the stories of the past. 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 through Kindle Unlimited and 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!

Lonely Planet Great Britain is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Ponder the mysteries of Stonehenge, explore the many sides of Edinburgh, or try new versions of British pub favorites at a gastropub; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Great Britain and begin your journey now!

Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage

Finland, culture,
non-fiction

Optional: Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

Note: This book contains: a curse word, an alcoholic recipe

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. Now it can offer lessons to us all, helping us to:

  • discover our inner strength
  • resolve conflicts at work and home
  • raise kind and resilient children
  • achieve our fitness goals
  • fight for what we believe in
And much more!"

North

Sweden, Norway, Denmark, culture,
non-fiction

 

North: How to Live Scandinavian

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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

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).

"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

Norway, Scandinavia, myths, literature

 

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

Minecraft Norse Mythology Mash up

Norse mythology, computer game

OPTIONAL: Minecraft 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.

Let's Eat France

France, foods, culture, maps, history, famous people, recipes

Let's Eat France

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

Note: This books has some sexual content on page 299. You can remove the page if you deem it inappropriate.

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."

"Named a Best Food Book of the Year / Best Book to Gift by the New York Times Book Review, National Geographic, Houston Chronicle, The Guardian, Real Simple, and more. There’s never been a book about food like Let’s Eat France! A book that feels literally larger than life, it is a feast for food lovers and Francophiles, combining the completist virtues of an encyclopedia and the obsessive visual pleasures of infographics with an enthusiast’s unbridled joy."

The Bonjour Effect

France, language, culture, history

Middle school substitution: Any book on France, Germany, Switzerland, or the Netherlands

Some ideas: Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, Banner in the Sky, and Heidi

2nd book option:

The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

Note: This books has some sexual content in chapter 16. That chapter is not scheduled in.

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."

In the land of the jaguar

Geography, history, nature, non-fiction

In the Land of the Jaguar - South American and Its People

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

This easy read contains lots of information about the countries in South America. It covers topics like history, animals, famous people, geographical features, and more. It's the only book I found that covers ALL of the South American countries with explanations on how they were founded, some of the problems they face, their resources, and geographical features (without being 500 pages long, lol). It was made for middle school age students, but information is information. ;-)

 

Journey to the River Sea

Brazil and England, literature

Journey to the River Sea

This book is FREE at Openlibrary.org.

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.

Accompanied by Miss Minton, a fierce-looking, no-nonsense governess, Maia, a young orphan, sets off for the wilderness of the Amazon, expecting curtains of orchids, brightly colored macaws, and a loving family. But what she finds is an evil-tempered aunt and uncle and their spoiled daughters. It is only when she is swept up in a mystery involving a young Indian boy, a homesick child actor, and a missing inheritance that Maia lands in the middle of the Amazon adventure she's dreamed of. Readers of every generation will treasure Ibbotson's lush historical adventure that harkens back to the beloved classics of Frances Hodgson Burnett and Louisa May Alcott."

Choose one of the following two books:

I am Malala

Pakistan, non-fiction

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).

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

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.

"A MEMOIR BY THE YOUNGEST RECIPIENT OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE - I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

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

Yemen, non-fiction

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

This book is FREE at Openlibrary.org.

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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.

"“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."

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Iran, culture & history, graphic novel, memoir

Middle school substitution: Any appropriate book or novel about the Middle East.

OPTIONAL: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

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.

Here is a quote about this book from cbldf.org 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."

The Little Book of Hindu Deities

India, mythology/religion

The Little Book of Hindu Deities: From the Goddess of Wealth to the Sacred Cow

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 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

India, literature

Ramayana: Divine Loophole

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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. "

Manga cookbook

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), norimiso, mokchiko (will also be used in a Korean recipe later), matcha, adzuki 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/study guide.

"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).
  • the world's biggest manga, anime and cosplay festivals.
  • 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).

Foundations of Chinese Civilization

China, history, non-fiction, comic

Foundations of Chinese Civilization (Understanding China Through Comics)

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

This book is also available for FREE on Hoopla (which many libraries have a subscription to): https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11982911

Note: This book contains: an reference to religions as "myths." Christianity is included (p. 32), a mention of castration and eunuchs (no details)

"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: Escape from North Korea

North Korea, China,
non-fiction

Middle school substitution: I Escaped North Korea (Note: I haven’t previewed this book.)

The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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

"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."

The Family Romanov

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
A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
A YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist 
Winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding 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

Literature based on a true story, Sudan, Kenya, the U.S.

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).

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

"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."

Trevor Noah

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/study guide.

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 Graphic Novel

Uganda, graphic novel based on real interviews

Middle school substitution: Child Soldier

Optional: War Brothers -The Graphic Novel

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.

"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."

Illegal - Graphic novel

Ghana, Niger, Libya, Italy, graphic novel (fiction based on true events)

Illegal

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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

"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

Kampung Boy

This book is referenced in the curriculum workbook/study guide.

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

"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. Meanwhile, the 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 Openlibrary.org.

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."

Peace Child

Papua New Guinea, non-fiction

or

Kon Tiki

Pacific Ocean, Polynesia

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."

or

Kon Tiki

This book is FREE at Openlibrary.org.

"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
Gyoataku fish replica
Fabric paint (one color for the gyoataku project)
Optional for batik project (2nd easier project is also listed. Choose between them from the schedule): tjanting needle, a variety of fabric dyes, beeswax (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!)

spaetzle maker

Items for recipes

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, vegemite

boomerang

Optional: 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 note: There 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.

Coco (movie) by Pixar

Mexico - cultural beliefs, animated movie

Coco

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."

Hatchi: 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

Being Canadian

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.

"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."

Jig

Irish dance, documentary

Jig

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 Steve's 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."

I am Malala documentary

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 (movie)

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 (movie)

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."

Chernobyl

Russia, history, TV series based on a real event

Chernobyl

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

or

Grave of the Fireflies

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. Now digitally remastered and restored, it is one of the rare films that truly deserves to be called a masterpiece. "

My Neighbor Totoro

Japan, culture, fantasy, movie

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. 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.

"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

The Last Samurai

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

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, beauitful, wild, and rare creatures.

The Last Emperor

China, history, movie

The Last Emperor

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.

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

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.

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.

"In the 2019 Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary One Child Nation, Chinese-born filmmakers Nanfu Wang (Hooligan Sparrow) and Jialing Zhang expose the devastating consequences of China’s One-Child Policy through the stories of those who lived through it."

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.

Gandhi

India, history, movie/documentary

Gandhi

"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

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.

Moana

Hawaii, movie

Moana

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.

Multi-topic/Multi-country books

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm

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. The Chinese excel at potty training, teaching their wee ones as young as six months old. Kenyans wear their babies in colorful cloth slings-not only is it part of their cultural heritage, but strollers seem outright silly on Nairobi's chaotic sidewalks. And the French are experts at turning their babies into healthy, adventurous eaters. Hopgood tested her discoveries on her spirited toddler, Sofia, with some enlightening results. This intimate and surprising look at the ways other cultures raise children offers parents the option of experimenting with tried and true methods from around the world and shows that there are many ways to be a good parent."

What I Eat

Cultural geography, lots of photographs, non-fiction

What I Eat - Around the World in 80 Diets

Note: This book contains: African natives's 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.

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 Extremes

Science, geography, non-fiction

Life at 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 book

Art, maps

Map Art Lab

If you are adding art credits, I highly recommend this book. There are all sorts of interesting and creative map-making 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

Maps, history, science, arts

All Over the Map

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

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. Now in its 7th edition, it has been completely updated and revised by Jason Mandryk with a team of missionaries and researchers, and it covers the entire populated world. 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
  • Answers to prayer
  • Challenges for prayer"

There is also an abridged version: Pray for the World: A New Prayer Resource from Operation World

Europe

All Creatures Great and Small

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

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

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

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.

 

 

Maus


Germany, history, award-winning graphic novel

The Complete Maus

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 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.

Book Thief

Germany, history, literature

The Book Thief

Note: This book contains: violence, cursing

Click here to see a Common Sense Media review which discusses potential objectionable items in this book.

"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.

Heidi

Swiss Alps & Germany, literature

Heidi

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.

Asia
The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

Note: This book contains: some curse words

"A fresh, funny, up-close look at how South Korea remade itself as the worlds' pop culture powerhouse of the twenty-first century."

When Broken Glass Floats

Cambodia / Khmer Rouge, non-fiction

When Broken Glass Floats

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)

"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.

A Finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize."

The Land I Lost

Vietnam, non-fiction

The Land I Lost

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)

"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

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

North Korea, non-fiction

Under the Same Sky

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)

"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.

There a kindly Christian woman took him in, kept him hidden from the authorities, and gave him hope. Soon, through an underground network of activists, he was spirited to the American consulate, and became one of just a handful of North Koreans to be brought to the U.S. as refugees. Joseph knew no English and had never been a good student. Yet the kindness of his foster family changed his life.  He turned a new leaf, became a dedicated student, mastered English, and made it to college, where he is now thriving thanks to his faith and inner strength. Under the Same Sky is an unforgettable story of suffering and redemption."

Sold

Nepal & India, fiction based on real stories

Sold

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

India, Australia

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

China, history, non-fiction

Red Scarf Girl *Recommended!

Note: This book contains: violence (people are beaten), suicide (not graphic), minor cursing

"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

Japan, mythology & folklore, fiction (science fiction & fantasy)

Red Winter

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

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, non-fiction, 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, non-fiction

Not Without My Daughter: The Harrowing True Story of a Mother's Courage

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

"'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

Afghanistan, non-fiction

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

Note: This book contains: some mild sexual content, some theories about gender towards the end of the book (that I don't agree with)

"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, non-fiction

Growing Up bin Laden

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.

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

Afghanistan - graphic novel, fiction

The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel)

Please read all of the following before choosing this book:

I've created a parent's guide for this book to help you discuss some of the controversial topics in this story. I also include links to help students expand on the topics presented, like some of the ethnic issues and historical content for better understanding. I include page numbers in the guide to reference potentially objectionable things/situations.

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.

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.

"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."

https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/teaching-the-kite-runner-with-the-new-york-times/

Africa

Child Soldier

Democratic Republic of the Congo, history, non-fiction, graphic novel

 

Child Soldier

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

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

Kenya, non-fiction

Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna

Note: This book contains: male circumcision (no graphic description)

"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

Uganda, non-fiction

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

This is a Christian book.

"The New York Times bestslling 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."

Islands

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo

Papua New Guinea, non-fiction

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 - The True Story of a Girl Caught Between Two Worlds

West Papua, non-fiction (auto-biography)

Child of the Jungle - The True Story of a Girl Caught Between Two Worlds

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)

"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

Miracle in the Andes

Andes Mountains (Chile, Argentina), non-fiction

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."

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."

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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