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Traditional Culture: Books For Kids

This list of the best kids books about traditional culture is sure to include a new favorite for the voracious young reader in your life! From Día de los Muertos to Monkey's Clever Tale there's something here for everyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite book about traditional culture? Let us know!

Día de los Muertos book
#1
Día de los Muertos
Written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Jorge R. Gutierrez
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

At the end of October each year, it’s time to celebrate an ancient tradition: Dia de los Muertos! With vibrant illustrations by Golden Globe–winning Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez, this festive board book teaches that Dia de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed. From sugar skulls to papel picado, this is a holiday that truly commemorates the cycle of life.

A Different Pond book
#2
A Different Pond
Written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book that Kirkus Reviews calls "a must-read for our times," A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event - a long-ago fishing trip. Graphic novelist Thi Bui and acclaimed poet Bao Phi deliver a powerful, honest glimpse into a relationship between father and son - and between cultures, old and new. As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father's long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao's father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. Thi Bui's striking, evocative art paired with Phi's expertly crafted prose has earned this powerful picture books six starred reviews and numerous awards.

Bilal Cooks Daal book
#3
Bilal Cooks Daal
Written by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Six-year-old Bilal introduces his friends to his favorite dish—daal!—in this charming picture book that showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing. Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does? This debut picture book by Aisha Saeed, with charming illustrations by Anoosha Syed, uses food as a means of bringing a community together to share in each other’s family traditions.

Diwali book
#4
Diwali
Written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Learn all about the traditions of Diwali with this third book in the delightful board book series Celebrate the World, which highlights special occasions and holidays across the globe. Each autumn we gather with our friends and family and light our brightest lanterns. It’s time for Diwali, the festival of lights! In this lovely board book with illustrations from Archana Sreenivasan, readers learn that the five days of Diwali are a time to pray for a bountiful season, celebrate the special bonds between siblings, and rejoice in the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.

What Do You Celebrate? book
#5
What Do You Celebrate?
Written by Whitney Stewart and illustrated by Christiane Engel
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

Discover a world of celebrations! This entertaining book introduces kids to 14 holidays, from Brazilian carnival, Chinese New Year, Bastille Day, and the Cherry Blossom Festival to Purim, Holi, Eid al-Fitr, Day of the Dead, and Halloween. As in the popular What's On Your Plate?, each spread showcases a different holiday, offering background, cultural context, vocabulary words, photographs, and instructions for festive projects.

  1. Leila in Saffron - A colorful journey of self-discovery and identity, this sweet, vibrant picture book follows young Leila as she visits her grandmother’s house for their weekly family dinner, and finds parts of herself and her heritage in the family, friends, and art around her. Sometimes I’m not sure if I like being me. When Leila looks in the mirror, she doesn’t know if she likes what she sees. But when her grandmother tells her the saffron beads on her scarf suit her, she feels a tiny bit better. So, Leila spends the rest of their family dinner night on the lookout for other parts of her she does like. Follow Leila’s journey as she uses her senses of sight, smell, taste, touch to seek out the characteristics that make up her unique identity, and finds reasons to feel proud of herself, just as she is.

  2. Bringing in the New Year - A Chinese American family prepares for and celebrates the Lunar New Year, in a book that includes endnotes discussing the customs and traditions of the Chinese New Year.

  3. Popo's Lucky Chinese New Year - When her Chinese grandmother comes to visit, a young Chinese-American girl learns of and participates in the customs and beliefs celebrating an authentic Chinese New Year.

  4. Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets - From a crescent moon to a square garden to an octagonal fountain, this breathtaking picture book celebrates the shapes—and traditions—of the Muslim world. Sure to inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures, Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets is equally at home in a classroom reading circle and on a parent's lap being read to a child.

Neekna and Chemai book
#10
Neekna and Chemai
Written by Jeannette Armstrong and illustrated by Barbara Marchand
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Neekna and Chemai are two little girls growing up in the Okanagan Valley in the time before European contact. Through these two friends, we learn about the seasonal life patterns of the Okanagan First Peoples. The girls spend time with Great-Grandmother, who tells them about important ceremonies, and they gather plants with Neekna's grandmother. Grandmother explains how bitterroot came to be an important food source, and why the people give a special ceremony of thanks at its harvest. Grandmother also tells the story of how a woman was changed to a rock to watch over the Okanagan Valley. Neekna understands how important it is that she has received the knowledge passed down for generations, from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother.

Thread of Love book
#11
Thread of Love
Written by Surishtha Sehgal, Kabir Sehgal and illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-8

Three siblings enjoy the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan—a celebration of the special relationship between brothers and sisters—in this vibrant reinterpretation of the classic song Frère Jacques (Are You Sleeping) from New York Times bestselling mother/son duo Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal. It’s time for the Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan, the celebration of the special lifelong relationship shared by brothers and sisters everywhere. Join two sisters as they lovingly make rakhi—thread bracelets adorned with beads, sequins, sparkles, and tassels—for their brother. And then see their brother present them with toys and sweets and special gifts! New York Times bestselling authors Surishtha and Kabir Sehgals’ irresistible text, set to the tune of the classic song Frère Jacques (Are You Sleeping), will have little ones singing along while they learn about Indian culture. And the vibrant illustrations by Zara Gonzalez Hoang will have readers wishing they could step right into the characters’ colorful crafting world. This enchanting picture book includes instructions for making rakhi!

The Dalai Lama book
#12
The Dalai Lama
Written and illustrated by Demi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

By award-winning picture book author Demi, this is a fully illustrated nonfiction picture book that tells the story of the search for the fourteenth Dalai Lama. Now in paperback for the first time, with a foreword written by The Dalai Lama himself. When the thirteenth Dalai Lama died in 1933, the highest holy men in Tibet searched throughout the land for his successor. They were spiritually guided to the humble dwelling of a loving family high in the Himalayas. When the search party greeted the youngest son, the child told them, "Now I am going home!" At last the fourteenth Dalai Lama had been found, and at the age of two, the young boy was taken to the capital city, Lhasa, where he began his training to become the spiritual leader of Tibet. The work of the Dalai Lama and the fate of Tibet are topics of evergrowing international focus. In simple language and glorious art, Demi pays tribute to the fourteenth Dalai Lama's remarkable life. She captures the beauty of Tibetan culture, as well as the charm, talent, and vision of one of the world's best-known spiritual figures.

Sweetest Kulu book
#13
Sweetest Kulu
Written by Celina Kalluk and illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

"This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic. Lyrically and tenderly told by a mother speaking to her own little "Kulu," an Inuktitut term of endearment often bestowed upon babies and young children, this visually stunning book is infused with the traditional Inuit values of love and respect for the land and its animal inhabitants."--

One Last Wish book
#14
One Last Wish
Written by Suzanne I. Barchers and illustrated by Sue Todd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A princess marries a man she loves in spite of his impending death. Due to her devotion and persistence, she is granted a wish, which she uses wisely. Themes: love, devotion, bravery.

  1. Together for Kwanzaa - Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.

  2. Gandhi - Mohandas Gandhi’s 24-day March to the Sea, from March 12 to April 5, 1930, was a pivotal moment in India’s quest to become an independent country no longer ruled by Great Britain. With over 70 marchers, Gandhi walked from his hometown near Ahmedabab to the sea coast by the village of Dandi. The march was a non-violent means to protest the taxes that Great Britain had imposed on salt -- not the salt that the Indians could get from the sea, but the salt that Great Britain forced them to buy. Gandhi believed that peaceful protests were an effective way to challenge British law, and his peaceful but ultimately successful movement became known as Satyagraha.

  3. Shanté Keys and the New Year's Peas - When Shante´ is sent to find black-eyed peas for her family's New Year's celebration, she learns about each of her neighbor's New Year's traditions in their home countries.

  4. The Thundermaker - The Thundermaker is based on Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy’s spectacular mixed-media exhibit of the same name. In the book, Big Thunder teaches his son, Little Thunder, about the important responsibility he has in making thunder for his people. Little Thunder learns about his Mi’kmaw identity through his father’s teachings and his mother’s traditional stories. Syliboy’s spectacular, vibrant artwork brings the story of Little Thunder to vivid life.

The Show-Off Monkey and Other Taoist Tales book
#19
The Show-Off Monkey and Other Taoist Tales
Written and illustrated by Mark W. McGinnis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

A picture book of Taoist wisdom tales inspired by the ancient philosopher Chang Tzu, for children ages 5-10, beautifully illustrated with original artwork. “If we are true to who we are, we will naturally find what is right.” “Beauty is in the eyes and mind of the beholder.” “What is good in life is not always obvious.” These morals are inspired by the teachings Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu (fourth century b.c.e.), who through charming and sometimes cryptic fables explained to his students the qualities of humility, modesty, simplicity, acceptance, and contentment. In “The Sea Turtle and the Frog,” two creatures share their unique perspective on the world. “The Happy Fish” offers a reflection on what makes for a good leader. And “The White Peacock” demonstrates the virtues of a simple life rather than one adorned with material riches. Beautifully illustrated in the traditional Asian style by artist Mark McGinnis, this book collects thirty-three of these traditional Taoist wisdom tales that will teach readers young and old about the Taoist view of living in harmony with the natural world.

My First Thanksgiving book
#20
My First Thanksgiving
Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Tomie dePaola’s simple text and bright illustrations perfectly capture the joy of this special holiday. Young readers will love learning more about the traditional celebrations of the day.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns book
#21
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns
Written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

Magnificently capturing the colorful world of Islam for the youngest readers, this breathtaking and informative picture book celebrates Islam s beauty and traditions. From a red prayer rug to a blue hijab, everyday colors are given special meaning as young readers learn about clothing, food, and other important elements of Islamic culture, with a young Muslim girl as a guide. Sure to inspire questions and observations about world religions and cultures, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is equally at home in a classroom reading circle as it is being read to a child on a parent s lap.

Love You More Than Anything book
#22
Love You More Than Anything
Written and illustrated by Doretta Groenendyk
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Colorful picture book about the many kinds of love between people. This book crosses cultures and generations, social change and tradition. It exudes warmth and playfulness, sharing whimsical images and sweet memories. Each colorful page depicts a different couple enjoying their time together: two grandparents, two teenagers, a girl and her granny, a boy and a girl, two men, young girlfriends, a child and parent. Love can happen between anyone of any race, religion or size, anywhere. Love You More Than Anything is a simple, beautiful celebration of love in all its forms.

Sumokitty book
#23
Sumokitty
Written and illustrated by David Biedrzycki
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A hungry cat gets a job hunting mice at a sumo training center (heya), but once the mice are gone he continues to stuff himself until he is too fat to chase the mice that have returned--so he decides to train with the sumo wrestlers, and SumoKitty becomes a scourge of mice and an inspiration to the wrestlers.

  1. The Gift of Ramadan - Sophia wants to fast for Ramadan this year. She tries to keep busy throughout the day so she won't think about food. But when the smell of cookies is too much, she breaks her fast early. How can she be part of the festivities now?

  2. Light the Menorah - Light the menorah and celebrate eight days of fun with this interactive book! It?s time to celebrate Hanukkah! From learning the story of the Macabees to making potato latkes and playing dreidel, kids will love reading along with this fun book. A pull-tab on each page allows children to "light" the candles of the menorah.

  3. I'm an Immigrant Too! - From beloved Australian author Mem Fox comes a timely picture book about how all of our lives are enriched by the vibrant cultural diversity immigrants bring to their new communities. What journeys we have travelled, from countries near and far! Together now, we live in peace, beneath the Southern Star. Inspired by the plight of immigrants around the world, Mem Fox was moved to write this lyrical and rhyming exploration of the myriad ways immigrants have enriched her home country of Australia. Young readers everywhere will see themselves—and their friends and neighbors—in this powerful and moving picture book.

  4. Monkey's Clever Tale - The mischievous Ameerah Monkey promises Crocodile her tail and those of her parents, brothers, and sisters in exchange for a ride across the river in this version of a Jataka tale from India.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!