Upper Elementary to Middle School Books

Theme: People of the World

Birchbark House - (ISBN: 0786814543)

by Louise Erdrich

A native American girl, the 7-year-old Ojibwa daughter Omakayas, or Little Frog, gently reveals to the reader life on the shores of Lake Superior (try this as a book on tape to hear authentic Ojibwa drums!). Her perception of the white people is quite different from its depiction in the typical children’s book. Talk with your family about how Omakayas must feel. Have you ever felt separated from a specific group of people? Why does she look at white people so differently?

In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson - (ISBN: 0064401758)

by Bette Bao Lord

Shirley Temple Wong arrives in the US from China with high hopes but little English and has difficulties relating to American classmates. Her cultural adaptation comes when she starts following Jackie Robinson, himself another outsider to white American culture. Discuss why reading about people from other ethnic groups outside the US helps African Americans, whites, Latinas, and Native Americans learn to succeed.

The Girl from Chimel - (ISBN: 0888996667)

by Rigoberta Menchú with Dante Liano

Read about Guatemalan families and learn about the influence the Mayan people had on their lives in this children’s book written by the Nobel Prize winning author Rigoberta Menchú. Discuss other biographies and autobiographies people in your family have enjoyed. Why is reading about other people’s lives instructional and enjoyable?

Activities for this Theme

Find out what Chinese sign you are by visiting a Chinese restaurant and checking the placemat or look at this website:


Make a birchbark canoe.


Check out the birthplaces of players on your favorite baseball teams to see if you can find players from Japan, the Dominican Republic, and other countries.


As a family, make an original kite, adding designs to make it seem more international.


For more reading fun, check out some different Cinderella stories that can be found in every culture.


As a family, recycle a favorite fairy tale by rewriting it to be modern, to be more humorous, or to include some of the characters in your family!