National Read a Book Day: Inspiring stories for children from around the world

Ahead of National Read a Book Day (6th September), a team of multilingual and multicultural London Mums are sharing their favourite children’s books from around the world, and their thoughts on why these captivating stories should be on every child’s reading list. 

Collection of successful children books for National Read a Book Day covering Inspiring stories for children from around the world

Brazil

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is one of the most-read books in recent history, and with good reason. It tells the mythical story of a young shepherd boy, Santiago, who follows his heart from Spain to Egypt. He sets off on a quest to find treasures, but throughout the journey, he learns valuable life lessons that help him find himself instead. Filled with beautiful quotes, this inspiring story will move you to forge your own path in life, and remind you to always reach for your dreams.

 

Denmark

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Even if you haven’t heard of Hans Christian Andersen, you will have heard of his fairy tales. Stories like The Princess and the Pea and The Little Mermaid have become classics around the world. This book also includes other, more obscure fairy tales for children to discover and enjoy. One of the more poetic stories follows a flax plant as it is turned from luxurious cloth into clothes and then eventually becomes paper in a book. However, the book falls into disuse and is burnt, releasing thousands of little beings that live on as sparks in the embers. It is a sad story, but it also provides children with a gentle introduction to the idea of the life cycle.

 

France

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince has to be my all-time favourite book. I have read it in all six languages I speak. As one of the most translated books ever, The Little Prince is considered a classic in many nations beyond its native France. The plot revolves around a young prince who travels from planet to planet through space. He learns lessons about love, loneliness and friendship along the ensuing journey. The book is a celebration of childlike imagination and clarity of thought, as it pokes fun at pretentious and hypocritical grown-ups, such as the king with no subjects or the geographer who has never travelled. It may have been written for children, but The Little Prince includes enough reflection on complex themes to keep grown-ups entertained as well, making it a great choice for parents and children to read together.

 

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

One of the more famous titles on this list, having been adapted into countless films and TV shows, The Three Musketeers is an adventure novel written in France in 1844. Its protagonist is a young man named d’Artagnan who leaves home to pursue his ambition of joining the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is rejected at first, but in the end manages to befriend three legendary musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis. It is a must-read for any fans of swash-buckling adventures; the book is packed with duels, villains and heroism. At its core, this book teaches about the idea of friends showing solidarity in the face of adversity, as well as a buccaneering spirit to keep it entertaining.

 

Germany 

Konstantin by Gerda Wagener Vlasta Baránková

Originally written in German, this book follows a shy crocodile named Konstantin who finds a French horn in the jungle. The lonely reptile learns to play the instrument in secret, but doesn’t realise that the jungle’s other inhabitants are hiding and listening to him play. When Konstantin realises that others are watching he stops playing out of embarrassment, but the other animals all tell him how beautiful his music is and give him the confidence to share his gift. In the end, the nervous and lonely Konstantin finally comes out of his shell and finds friendship through his music. This wholesome and heartwarming story encourages taking pride in what you do and having the courage to share it with others.

 

Pakistan

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Your tweens may have heard of the remarkable Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work advocating for the education of girls, work that brought on her shooting and attempted murder by the Taliban. But they should also hear her story in Malala’s own likable and articulate voice, as she tells of her formerly ordinary life, persecution by the Taliban, her emergence as an activist, the attack, and her recovery and new life in the United States.

For an appealing picture book alternative for younger readers, try Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya.

 

Sweden 

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

This text is renowned as a must-read for any young Swede. Originally called Pippi Långstrump, the story follows the title’s character, a superhumanly strong nine year old girl on her adventures with her friends Tommy and Annika. Pippi is always ready to challenge the authority of grown ups and has a love of animals, especially for her pet horse and monkey, who are usually by her side. It’s a great escapist story for any child imagining a world without limits. Pippi also provides a strong female presence in the story, which is often lacking in traditional children’s literature and fairy tales. This is a great book for any children looking for an exciting and courageous protagonist that they can relate or look up to, teaching them not only to take the lead, but to question the rules of the world.

 

United States of America

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss

It’s about one man’s quest to get his friend to eat some pretty unusual food. Originally written because of a bet that Seuss couldn’t write a story using fewer than 50 words, the book’s simplicity and humour have helped it to endure as an all-time classic.

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I simply adore this book. All the books mentioned above are important, and address important social issues — but what issue is as important as our very hearts, and the kindness we can pour out (or not) to those we meet in our daily lives? Ten-year-old Auggie’s face is shockingly malformed — and he’s going to school for the first time, ever, as a middle school student. Palacio’s beautiful, deftly written story is engaging, funny, heart wrenching, and — dare I say? — potentially life-changing. Get it for your tween, and for yourself too.

 

Here are a few of the reasons we should read a book.

BECAUSE

It’s the best excuse for peace and quiet.
You love sitting in your favourite corner of the house.
All your friends are busy.
You need a new favourite quotation.
Books are on your schedule: you can pick them up and put them down at your own convenience.
You saw the movie, but you heard the book is way better.
You’ve always wanted to read The Little Prince.
You’ve always wanted to reread The Little Prince. I have read the Little Prince in 4 different languages.
Some sentences are better than kissing (See Nabokov).
Your perspective can be changed by a single passage (See Vonnegut).
Your life can be changed by a book (See The Year of Magical Thinking).
You’re going through something and you just need to get lost in a beautiful, made-up world.
You haven’t gotten to use your imagination in a really long time.
Today’s world is so loud, hyper-connected and busy.
The world inside your head is yours and yours alone.

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