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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Eleven – 2016 Bilingual Books for Kids

31daysI wish I had the numbers in front of me. I wish I could tell you how many bilingual books for kids have been published in the past and how that number compares to today.  If we’re going to speak to my experience as a children’s librarian over the past decade, all I can say with any certainty is that while I don’t know if the number of bilingual books has increased, I do feel as if I’m seeing a wider range of languages.  That is a wholly unscientific speculation, of course.  In any case, enjoy this smattering of some truly lovely bilingual books out in 2016.

Note: Some of the titles on this list are not strictly bilingual. They may instead incorporate more than one language into their text.  I have included these because they encourage a love of multiple languages and do not slot neatly under any kind of definition (and are consequently forgotten).  I’ll note these titles as they appear.

 2016 Bilingual Books for Kids


Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood, ill. Sally Wern Comport

El Violín de Ada: La Historia de la Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados del Paraguay by Susan Hood, ill. Sally Wern Comport

A friend pointed out to me earlier in the year that it was somewhat remarkable that a nonfiction picture book was coming out in both English and Spanish versions.  Never mind that it’s beautiful to look at with great writing and a unique story.  Or that it’s one of the rare picture books out there where you can honestly get it from a child’s point of view.  I like to think that this book may be a sign of things to come.  Or maybe I just hope it.

Animal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill, ill. Rubi Fuentes and Efraiin Broa


This isn’t Weill’s first time around the block.  It is, however, strange that I can’t conjure up more titles that do precisely this: show animals sounds in another language.  It sort of sounds like a no-brainer when you hear about it, doesn’t it?  Kudos for the idea and the gorgeous follow through.

Little Chickies / Los Pollitos by Susie Jaramillo


I think this is just one of the great book publications of the year.  In fact, I included this on my earlier board book list.  Then, one of my commenters mentioned that there was also this out there:

Little Elephants / Elefantitos by Susie Jaramillo

elephantitosI’ll take twenty.

La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Ninos by Susan Middleton Elya, ill. Jana Martinez-Neal


Yay!  Now this appeared on the nursery rhymes list already, and it’s nice to see it here on the bilingual list as well.  Granted it’s not strictly bilingual.  Spanish words are integrated into the text.  But that’s okay.  I just think it’s neat.

Olinguito, from A to Z! / Olinguito, de la A a la Z! by Lulu Delacre


And you may have seen this gorgeous title on my alphabet list too.  It’s far more than that, though.  A science book that looks at rainforests in depth, an alphabet book, a bilingual book, and a collection of the author’s poetic rhymes (in TWO languages!), it’s a bit of an achievement.

Rudas: Nino’s Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales


They’re baaaaack!  Again, not strictly bilingual but with a consistent smattering of Spanish words, this sequel to Nino Wrestles the World picks up where the last book left off.

Somo Como Las Nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, ill. Elisa Amado


Oh, these poems are AMAZING!  Subject matter aside, these poems make an immediate emotional connection with readers

Waiting for the Biblioburro / Esperando el Biblioburro by Monica Brown, ill. John Parra


I felt bad.  An acquaintance, not knowing if this book would appear on my list, went so far as to send me a copy. I could have saved them a stamp since this book has been on my radar for a while.  It is by NO means the first biblioburro book I’ve ever seen, but it may well be the most touching.


Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi


I believe that there’s a fair amount of Japanese at the end of this book or perhaps in the poems.  Hey, if it means I get to put it on a list, you can BET that I’ll be first in line to do so.

The Last Kappa of Old Japan: A Magical Journey of Two Friends by Sunny Seki


A sweet story with a modern twist, this is great!  Takes a classic folktale creature and gives it warmth and heart and wonder.


Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, ill. Nizar Ali Badr


Bilingual Arabic books for kids are few and far between,  so the appearance of this book on our shelves is a real treat.

I would be amiss if I didn’t shout out two Chinese / English bilingual titles that I thought were truly wonderful but that are well nigh impossible to find online.  Alakazam by Chao Wang, ill. Duncan Poupard (9781945295102) and CeeCee by Mao Xiao, ill. Chunmiao Li & Yanhong Zhang, translated by Helen Wang (9781945295140) are two books that deftly display how seamlessly some bilingual Chinese titles fit into the American picture book market.  Unfortunately, as of this posting, I’ve been unable to locate them online.  If you have any leads on the matter, be sure to let me know.  They’re really and truly great books.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books



About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. There are a few different picture books about “international” animal sounds. I’ve read one or two in storytime. I did a quick Google search to come up with the titles and got a big surprise.

    Here’s a video of a children’s librarian reading Everywhere the Cow Says Moo.

    Remarkably, the librarian is me. I have no memory of being filmed, and I’m not sure I gave my consent before the video was posted on YouTube. But I present this embarrassing and possibly illegal footage as a reference for your information and/or enjoyment.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      “Possibly illegal” are my two favorite words in the English language. Thank you for this! And thank you too for the reminder. Long long ago I saw that book and completely forgot it. Looking it up now!

  2. I’m a fan of Canticos books. They are fun to read and my students love to play with them.