Early Elementary Books

Theme: Europe

A Boy Named Giotto - (ISBN: 978-0374309312)

by Paolo Guarnieri

How does a country shepherd become a world class painter? This simply written book offers children a beginning level biography. It also serves as an introduction to the wonderful tradition of painting in Italy. The illustrations beautifully complement the story of Giotto’s accomplishments. Try your hand at mixing several colors in your paint kit together to get new shades.

Anno's Journey - (ISBN: 978-0698114333)

by Mitsumasa Anno

For a delightful trek across Europe, try this expanded picture book. Learn about the continent’s people, customs, science, geography, and artistic creations as you follow Anno on his trip.

Babushka Baba Yaga - (ISBN: 978-0698116337)

by Patricia Polacco

While trying to correct her reputation as a witch-like creature, Baba Yaga disguises herself, covers her elf ears, and volunteers to care for a young child like other grandmothers (babushkas). Eventually Victor, the young boy she is tending, becomes afraid because of the Baba Yaga tales the other babushkas tell him. Baba Yaga gets scared, too, and retreats to her woodland hideout. Read the story to find out how Victor finally accepts her.

Count Your Way through Ireland - (ISBN: 978-0876148723)

by James Haskins

As readers learn to count to ten in Gaelic, they also get more than a glimpse into the special things about Irish culture: its saints, customs, geography, food, and fantasies. Try other books in the “Count Your Way” series to add to your knowledge of even more languages.

Half Magic - (ISBN: 978-0192750983)

by Edgar Eager

When Jane finds a coin that makes half of all wishes come true, her sisters and brothers try to figure out which half of a wish will happen and which will go awry. Gradually, they learn how the magic works. Try this yourself after reading the book: wish for something to come true and imagine all the things that could happen if only half of it really happened. What crazy things could occur?

Katje the Windmill Cat - (ISBN: 978-0763620899 )

by Gretchen Woelfle

When a flood comes over the dyke, Katje the cat tends baby Anneke’s cradle, carefully floating it until helpers arrive. Children will love Katje’s human qualities and the glimpse into Dutch life with its Delft tiles, windmills, and canals. Talk about how you could help if something threatened your younger siblings.

Katje the Windmill Cat - (ISBN: 978-0763620899 )

by Gretchen Woelfle

When a flood comes over the dyke, Katje the cat tends baby Anneke’s cradle, carefully floating it until helpers arrive. Children will love Katje’s human qualities and the glimpse into Dutch life with its Delft tiles, windmills, and canals. Talk about how you could help if something threatened your younger siblings.

Madeline - (ISBN: 978-0874994766)

by Ludwig Bemelmans

A young Parisian girl at a Catholic orphanage enjoys her outings with the other girls and the nuns until she comes down with appendicitis. Children enjoy the chant-like rhymes in the pages of this classic favorite, and readers will delight in Madeline’s antics.

Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel - (ISBN: 978-3791319414)

by Nils Jockel

This book is an introduction to the art of the Belgian master painter Bruegel, approached through the eyes of a child. Not only does the reader learn about the construction of a painting but also about the original tower. If your family enjoys this, try more titles in this exciting art series, Adventures in Art.

The Great Tulip Trade - (ISBN: 978-0375825736)

by Beth Wagner Brust

What better way for children to learn about buying and selling than by growing a product of their own? Anna takes her gift of eight tulip bulbs and learns how valuable they are to the Dutch when people offer almost anything she desires in trade. Which of your favorite childhood toys would you be willing to trade for something you really want?

The Problem with Chickens - (ISBN: 978-0618585816)

by Bruce McMillan

If you’re ready for some humor, try this Icelandic tale of women who try to reach the nests of some special chickens. They succeed in bringing the chickens to their home village, but the chickens prefer to act like ladies, running all over the place and being social. The award-winning illustrations in this book contribute both to the humor of the chaos and the tastes of Icelandic culture. Have you ever really wanted something, and then, when you’ve gotten it, found out that it’s more trouble than it’s worth? Compare your experiences to this great story.

The Three Golden Keys - (ISBN: 978-0374375256)

by Peter Sis

A young man who returns to his native Prague by hot air balloon finds he must journey through the city again and again to find the keys to unlock his family home. He encounters figures and places from the past as he travels through this magical city. What do you think the keys symbolize?

Anno's Spain - (ISBN: 0399242384)

by Mitsumasa Anno

Box Car Children Books 1 – 4 - (ISBN: 978-0807508541)

by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Eva's Summer Vacation: A Story of the Czech Republic - (ISBN: 978-1568998022)

by Jan Machalek

Italy Monuments Past and Present - (ISBN: 978-8881621330)

by A.R. Staccioli

Madeline in London - (ISBN: 978-0140566499)

by Ludwig Bemelmans

Magic by the Lake - (ISBN: 978-0152020767)

by Edgar Eager

Mirette on the High Wire - (ISBN: 978-0698114432)

by Emily Arnold McCully

Activities for this Theme

Enjoy seeing some photographs of Iceland. Imagine a story to go with each picture.


Make a modified Matryoshka doll.


German first graders get a huge, cone-shaped package of candy from their parents on the first day of school. Try making your own candy cone.


Try a Scottish sing along, “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”


Get “the big picture” of the countries you’re reading about by exploring an interactive map.


Make a clay model of a monument or building you’ve read about. Try modeling a simple version of the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, for example. Make and decorate a book mark with your own drawings based on one of the books you’ve read.


Learn children’s songs of your favorite countries.