Read Around the World: Children’s Books Set in Europe
The continent of Europe is a rich source of fascination for Americans. The books set in its countries often call up its many legends and heroes, and peek into the history that shaped European citizens and much of the world. Here are some of the most exciting books for children and tweens set in Europe.
yes no Picture Books 9780140564396 Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Is there a children’s book character more synonymous with Paris than Madeline? The smallest of author Ludwig Bemelmans’ famous “12 little girls in two straight lines,” Madeline is also the bravest of those girls. Her memorable adventures captured inside Bemelmans’s beautiful drawings of Paris will whisk young readers away.
9780823410774 Patrick by Tomie dePaola
The story of one of Ireland’s most well-known legends, St. Patrick, recounts the events of his life. It delves into how he became known for driving the snakes from Ireland and how he grew associated with the shamrock. Legendary author-illustrator Tomie dePaola tackles the historical figure with gusto.
9780763652722 A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino
Gorgeously drawn street scenes of London become the backdrop throughout this picture book in which a mother and daughter tour the busy city, from Trafalgar Square to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The oversized pages and an unfolding panorama of the Thames River make reading this book a mini vacation.
9780698118935 Big Anthony by Tomie dePaola
Though Tomie dePaola is famous for his Italian folktales about Strega Nona, he returns to Italy with another beloved character in this charming story. Big Anthony is a sweet but sometimes dopey young man who bumbles through Italy and even accidentally straightens the Tower of Pisa.
9780698113855 Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco
Ukrainian Easter eggs are known for their intricate designs and the symbols artists use to decorate them. In Old Moscow, Babushka is famous for her beautiful eggs and is preparing some for the Easter festival. When she takes in an injured goose, Rechenka, the bird accidentally topples Babushka’s egg basket. Babushka is devastated until the goose gives her the surprise of a lifetime.
yes no Early Readers and Chapter Books 9780803739925 Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse
Greek mythology has captured minds for centuries. In Greece itself, monuments and buildings pay tribute to the heroes and heroines of these legends. This book of poetry introduces many Greek myths and has a unique quality—the poems offer a fresh point of view on the well-known stories when read with a mirror.
9780525555940 I am Anne Frank by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Anne Frank’s diary made her a household name, and in Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series, her story comes to life for younger readers. Frank, whose family fled to the Netherlands to take cover during the Holocaust, is an inspirational figure representing courage and hope.
9780375856518 Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca
As is always the case with Osborne’s Magic Tree House series, this adventure whisks Jack and Annie to a new land—Ireland, in this case—and another time. The siblings assist a young Irish girl who will grow up to become Lady Gregory, a historical figure who helped the nation revive Irish legends and started a theater company.
9780593174753 The Knight at Dawn Graphic Novel by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Kelly Matthews and Nichole Matthews, adapted by Jenny Laird
The second book of Mary Pope Osborne’s enduring series gets the graphic novel treatment as Jack and Annie visit the Middle Ages. They arrive at a Scottish castle just in time for an enormous feast!
9781536200225 Rónán and the Mermaid: A Tale of Old Ireland by Marianne McShane, illustrated by Jordi Solano
This lushly illustrated book is based on an allegedly true and magical event dating back to 558. A monk finds a boy washed up on shore outside the Abbey of Bangor, and the boy claims a mermaid rescued him—one whose legend preceded her in tales told among the monks for hundreds of years.
yes no Middle Grade 9780593097519 Who Is Queen Elizabeth II? by Megan Stine and Who HQ, illustrated by Laurie A. Conley
The Royal Family fascinates Americans, and through this age-appropriate biography of Queen Elizabeth II, young readers will learn about the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch. Covering the Queen’s life before and after she took the throne, this beginner’s biography offers insight into the sense of duty and determination she brought to the role.
9780823447053 A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
When three siblings lose their surly grandmother, they’re not overly distraught. But in World War II London, caretakers are few and far between. They join an evacuation from London to the countryside and hope to stay together. When they meet a kind librarian, they think they’ve found a savior. However, her missing German husband throws a wrench into their formation of a new family unit.
9780147510488 The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ada’s twisted foot is a source of shame for her mother, who won’t let her out of the house. So, when she leaves London to escape World War II, it’s more liberating than scary. She and her brother come under the care of a woman named Susan, and Ada fears what will happen if they must return to their cruel mother.
9780763697785 Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes
Two siblings fighting against the entire Nazi army makes for a gripping historical thriller. Though the Italian Resistance during World War II is a significant part of history, the novel focuses on the heroic actions of Paolo and Costanza as they work together against the Nazi occupation of Florence.
9781536213225 Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr, translated from Norwegian by Guy Puzey
This book, translated from Norwegian, introduces middle-graders to Astrid, a bold and speedy girl known in her village as “the little thunderbolt.” She loves sledding, singing, and spending time with her elderly best friend and godfather, Gunnar. But she learns he is keeping something from her that could threaten their close relationship.
9780823441785 Genevieve’s War by Patricia Reilly Giff
Award-winning author Patricia Reilly Giff brings to life the French Resistance during World War II. Genevieve moves from New York to Alsace, France, in 1939, not long before the Nazis conquer France. As they take over the small farming town, they demand people speak, act, and think German. When Genevieve’s friend Rémy resists, she conceals him in her attic to keep him safe.
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