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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Twelve – 2016 International Imports for Kids

31daysI know it gets confusing but this list is a bit different from the Calde-not list from a couple days ago.  The reason is simple.  While the Calde-not list looks primarily at books with illustrations so distinguished they could easily win major illustration awards if given half a chance, this is list is more for those books that may not blow you away on a first glance, but that make our publishing landscape richer for their very existence.  I was inordinately pleased after I read each and every one of these books.  They’re a little peculiar, distinctly different from what you’ll find in the American market, and altogether remarkable.


2016 International Imports for Kids

Picture Books

Chirri & Chirra by Yuki Kaneko


Sweet and dreamlike, this Japanese import has a light and sweetness to it that will simultaneously make it deeply beloved in a few select homes, while also not drawing so much attention to itself that it ever becomes much more than a cult hit in the States.  Do yourself a favor and discover it.  It’s the kind of book you want to influence the dreams of your children with.

Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, ill. By Charlotte Pardi


This Danish import just reminds us that when it comes to poetic picture books about death, American just don’t deal very well.  Our death books tend to either be straightforward guides (here’s what to expect, etc.) or complete and utter fanciful metaphors.  This book feels like it’s both fable and straightforward talk.  A rare thing.

The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, ill. Guridi


Kirkus didn’t get it. SLJ did.  In this story a boy falls in love with a bird-loving girl.  To get her attention he constructs an elaborate bird costume.  Make of that what you will.

Don’t Cross the Line! by Bernardo P. Caravalho, ill. Isavel Martins


Portugal!  And an interesting book at that.  This one combines the interactive qualities of something like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Press Here with a political statement about thwarting unjust authority.  This book may get a bit more play in the coming years.

Look Up by Jung Jin-Ho


I love this one since it confronts and rearranges the reading experience and expectations of children.  Add in the fact that it stars a girl in a wheelchair (who is not solely defined as a person from that chair) and you’ve got a golden book on your hands.

My Baby Crocodile by Gaetan Doremus


Funny story. I cannot read this book without setting it to the tune of “My Funny Valentine”. I suspect that this is because the two phrases share the same number of syllables more than anything else, but maybe it also has to do with the strange nature of love celebrated in this book.  The story is between a near-sighted crocodile that “adopts” a knight, thinking he’s a baby croc.  It’s odd and sweet and strange and funny.  Memorable too.

Paul & Antoinette by Kerascoët


Ah!  How close I came to missing this one.  And how charming it is.  Imagine The Odd Couple done as pig siblings and you’ll be pretty caught up with what Kerascoët has done here.

A Promise Is a Promise by Knister, ill. Eve Tharlet


I found this one interesting perhaps because of the deep-seated feeling of betrayal our hero suffers in the course of things.  It’s a very childlike understanding of an impossible promise and I like how it’s handled.  A book that belies its cutesy cover.

Undercover by Bastien Contraire


I absolutely adore this book.  It’s a story where you have to spot the thing that doesn’t match.  Contraire, living up to his name, doesn’t make it easy on you, though.  The cover alone should be enough to prove that to you.

What Color Is the Wind? By Anne Herbauts


I’ve already reviewed it but if you somehow missed mention of this marvelous books about blindness and tactile response, now’s the time.  You won’t find anything else like it on the market today.

Why Am I Here? by Constance Orbeck-Nilssen, ill. Akin Duzakin


Big questions for little brains.  I like this one a lot.  Lemur or not lemur.

Middle Grade

The Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki


Honestly the backmatter explaining the entire history of the yokai in Japanese history and literature is some of the most fascinating stuff here.  In a way, this book reads like what would have happened if Quasimodo turned into a superhero rather than a bell fantastic.  I loved the peculiar (to me) nature of the storylines, the characters, and particularly the creatures.

The Heartless Troll by Oyvind Torseter


The troll is, without a doubt, one of the most horrific renderings I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time.  Which is to say – it’s awesome!  Definitely hand this to older kids, but appreciate it on your own when you get a chance.  As graphic novels go, there are few things to compare it to.

Under Earth / Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski


This Polish import is fantastic.  There was a book of maps that came out from this couple previously.  I’m not as big a fan of those, but what I am a fan of is learning about all that goes on below.  Good times.


And just a quick shout-out to the Candied Plums titles that aren’t online yet.  These are the real deal.  I just adore them:

  • Little Rabbit’s Questions by Dayong Gan, translated by Helen Wang (978194529270 –
  • Picking Turnips by Xu Zhou, translated by Adam Lanphier (9781945295263 –
  • Who Wants Candied Hawberries? by Dongni Bao, ill. Di Wu, translated by Adam Lanphier

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.