25 books for cross-cultural children of all ages

14 Oct 2017

Always on the look-out for books that children can identify with, I have put together this collection of volumes for our kids. All of these books are suitable for third-culture kids, cross-culture kids, expat children, highly mobile families and immigrant families. They all deal with issues these children, who move often, or who juggle several cultures, have encountered. From pronouncing your name wrong, moving (again), learning a new language to repatriating, these books are great talking points to show our children they are not the only ones in these situations.

A note about the languages: whenever books are available in other languages, I will link to that language. For example, books available in French will be linked to in the FR store.

1. B at Home

B at Home

Emma is only ten years old but has already moved twice. Now, her parents are telling her the family is moving again. She's furious, sad, nervous, and a little excited, all at the same time. Unsure of how to tackle these conflicting emotions, she turns to B, her faithful teddy bear. While trying to come to terms with the challenges of another move, what Emma really wants is just to 'be at home'. As the journeys of Emma and B unfold, home changes once again, but home also begins to take on a new meaning that Emma can take with her wherever she goes.
This is a great book for older children and teenagers to come to terms with the concepts of home and the global lifestyle. It also contains some very useful discussion points for adults.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

2. Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favourite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don't even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess —she'll just be a soccer playing pirate princess, thank you very much. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together. But they don't to other people.
A lovely book (for children aged 4 to 8) about not being able to put everyone in boxes, being multicultural and how being different is fun.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

3. My Name is Yoon

Yoon's name means "shining wisdom," and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn't sure that she wants to be YOON.
An inspiring and touching story for children aged 4 to 8 about finding one's place in a new country.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

4. Yoko Writes her Name

The book tells a story familiar to many, how difficult it is to be the new kid on the block, the new student in the school, or the student who can speak English but doesn't know how to write it. 
This is a great story for very young kids (from about 3 or 4) about being new and what we can learn from each other.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

5. Homesick

Homesick is a biography of a third culture kid. It tells a story of grief, loneliness and sense of belonging from the eyes of a 10-year-old girl. It is funny yet very emotional. It is aimed at 8-12-year-olds.
Buy the book and audiobook here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

6. Maps

This book of maps is a visual feast for readers of all ages, with lavishly drawn illustrations from the incomparable Mizielinskis. It features not only borders, cities, rivers, and peaks, but also places of historical and cultural interest, eminent personalities, iconic animals and plants, cultural events, and many more fascinating facts associated with every region of our planet. The only downside for us is that not all countries are represented. Portugal is not one of the detailed maps!
Suitable for all and available in many languages. There is also an accompanying workbook.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

7. Hour of the Bees

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.
Highly mobile children often spend their summers slightly differently than others. This is a perfect book many will relate to about finding your roots and wanderlust. It is suitable from 10.
Buy the book and audiobook here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

8. Persepolis

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.
A stunning black and white graphic novel for teenagers about the author's own experience in Iran as a child and being sent to study in Austria later on.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

9. Everywhere, Wonder

In this heartfelt picture book, readers are taken on a stunning journey into the imagination of a young boy―who explores everything from the pyramids of Egypt to a dusty footprint on the moon―and then back out again to the wonderful world right in front of him. From a lost balloon to an endless road, there are stories to discover, to dream about, and to share.
For children aged 3 to 6 years old, this very sweet picture book encourages young minds to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, and creatively share their stories with others.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

10. A Ball, A Book and the Butterflies

For many children, the first year of an international move is filled with new experiences and feelings. Sometimes they can be difficult to explain. The book follows the story of a boy and teachers and parents can use the child's questions to help track and help their own child's transition period. This is a very unique book for school-aged children with different editions (e.g. Germany, Thailand or general) and full of tips and questions for parents and teachers.
Buy the book here.

11. Ira Says Goodbye

Ira confronts several emotions when he learns his best friend Reggie is moving away. There are many books about moving for children but this one is a simple and sweet one from the point of view of the person who is not the one moving. For smaller children (4-8), it would make a reassuring gift for someone left behind.
Buy the book here: US, U.K.

12. Slurping Soup and Other Confusions

Slurping Soup and other confusions: true stories and activities to help third culture kids during transition Slurping Soup And Other Confusions is a collection of twenty-three real life stories from third culture kids. Each story is followed by a related activity. The activities are suitable for three to twelve-year-olds and include brainstorming, problem-solving, party planning, family tree, quirky word games etc. The book aims to help children cope with the challenges of living internationally. The stories explore: - Adapting to new environments -Who am I? Where do I belong? - Home and family adjustment - Cultural differences - Friendship change
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

13. Swirly

Lila isn't just like her yellow friends or her blue cousins, so she feels as though she doesn't fit in anywhere. But when she meets another swirly kid and his swirly mom, she finds out that she does belong somewhere . . . with a very special swirly Someone.
This book, for the 4-8 year-olds explores the ups and downs of being a TCK and the emotional ride of fitting in.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

14. The Name Jar

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighbourhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.
This is a beautiful book about crossing cultures and adaptation into a new country for 3-7year-olds.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

15. Here I am

Newly arrived from their faraway homeland, a boy and his family enter into the lights, noise, and traffic of a busy American city in this dazzling wordless picture book. The language is unfamiliar. Food, habits, games, and gestures are puzzling. The boy clings tightly to his special keepsake from home and wonders how he will find his way. How will he once again become the happy, confident kid he used to be? Walk in his shoes as he takes the first tentative steps toward discovering joy in his new world.
A poignant and affirming book for children between 5 and 10 years old.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

16. One Green Apple

Farah feels alone, even when surrounded by her classmates. She listens and nods but doesn’t speak. It’s hard being the new kid in school, especially when you’re from another country and don’t know the language. Then, on a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers there are lots of things that sound the same as they did at home, from dogs crunching their food to the ripple of friendly laughter. As she helps the class make apple cider, Farah connects with the other students and begins to feel that she belongs.
A poignant read for young children (4-7 years old) about what it feels like to be different.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

17. Grandfather's Journey

Home becomes elusive in this story about immigration and acculturation, pieced together through old pictures and salvaged family tales. Both the narrator and his grandfather long to return to Japan, but when they do, they feel anonymous and confused: "The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other." I am sure many of our children can relate.
Short, easy to read, it is a great book for little ones (from 4 years old).
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

18. I Hate English!

When Mei Mei moves to the United States from Hong Kong, she initially can't stand hearing English. She sees it as a lonely language. She is also afraid she will forget her mother tongue.
This is a lovely book about the different stages of learning a new language when moving to a new country. It is suitable from 4 years old.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

19. Tea with Milk

From the same author as Grandfather's Journey, this story is a moving tribute to discovering where home is. At home in San Francisco, May speaks Japanese and the family eats rice and miso soup and drinks green tea. When she visits her friends' homes, she eats fried chicken and spaghetti. May plans someday to go to college and live in an apartment of her own. But when her family moves back to Japan, she soon feels lost and homesick for America. In Japan everyone calls her by her Japanese name, Masako. She has to wear kimonos and sit on the floor. Poor May is sure that she will never feel at home in this country. Eventually May is expected to marry and a matchmaker is hired. Outraged at the thought, May sets out to find her own way in the big city of Osaka. Suitable from 4 years old.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

20. Home At Last

Ana Patino is adjusting well to her new life in the United States, but her mother is having a difficult time because she doesn't speak English. When Ana's baby brother falls ill, Mama tries to get help, but no one can understand her. Now convinced of the need to learn the native language, Mama agrees to take English lessons. As her knowledge of the English language grows, so does her sense of confidence and belonging. A lovely tale about mother-daughter relationship and the importance of language learning for children from 6 years old.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

21. No English

“No English” is all that Blanca, the new girl from Argentina, says. She spends her time drawing pictures instead of doing class work and that hardly seems fair to second-grader Diane. One misunderstanding follows another until Diane begins to see how afraid Blanca must feel in their classroom. Their teacher, Mrs. Bertram, helps her class understand that “different” is just different, not strange or weird. She encourages them to learn about Blanca’s home country. Diane must make things right, but how will she do that when they don’t speak the same language?
A beautiful story about cross-cultural friendship for children from 5 years old.
Buy the book here: US. (I couldn't find it anywhere else at a reasonable price unfortunately.)

22. Pixie's Holidays

Pixie, a little donkey who moved to a new house, returns to her old home for the first time. Oh no! She does not recognize the place. Worse still, her friend Lila does not remember her. Pixie is very sad, but still finds a way to have a wonderful vacation.
This book is also available in French, Spanish, Portuguese (and maybe more languages).
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

23. Sammy's Next Move

Sammy's Next Move is a wonderful story about a snail named Sammy who lives around the world with his parents. He is a ‘third culture kid’, TCK or global nomad. He often moves to new countries and has to change schools and make new friends. Sammy experiences the feelings and thoughts common to children in similar situations. Sammy is a snail and so he carries his home with him wherever he goes, just as a third culture kid does by knowing that home is where their heart is!
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

24. The Mission of Detective Mike

Mike is unsettled. He knows that something odd is happening at home because his parents are whispering all the time. But, being a detective, Mike is quickly on the case. He enlists his friend Ikem to help him get to the bottom of the mystery. Mike and his family are moving to another country, making him confused and fearful. What will happen to his toys, his room, his friends, his house? How will he learn to talk in a new language and how will he ever make new friends? As his mission gathers momentum, Mike and Ikem find the answers to his questions and solutions to his problems.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

25. Amber Brown is not a Crayon

Amber Brown and Justin Daniels are best friends. They've known each other for practically forever, sit next to each other in class, help each other with homework, and always stick up for each other. Justin never says things like, "Amber Brown is not a crayon." Amber never says, "Justin Time." They're a great team—until disaster strikes. Justin has to move away, and now the best friends are fighting. Will they be able to work it out before it's too late?
A great colourful book suitable from 7 years old about moving and protecting yourself in case of sadness.
Buy the book and audiobook here: US, U.K., DE, FR.

26. New Kid

New Kid, Jerry Craft

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.
Buy the book here: US, U.K., DE, FR


  1. Fabulous list! Thanks for pulling this together.

  2. Roar, Bull, Roar by Andrew Fusek Peters is about a Czech family who move to England. Mainly it's about the brother and sister, Marie and Jan, trying to settle in at their new schools. There is some bullying and one girl's mother doesn't want her to play with the "foreigner" but it all comes right in the end after Jan and Marie help solve a mystery. It's a nice little book, probably best for children aged between 10 and 12. There's a sequel as well but I haven't read that yet. The author is half Czech himself.

  3. Wonderful list, thank you very much! Jessica


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