5 Beautifully Illustrated Kids Books to Cultivate Creativity and Cultural Curiosity

We love introducing the girls to beautifully illustrated books that tell inspiring stories and get their young minds curious about art and different cultures. I’m excited to share five books we’ve read and enjoyed in the past few months. Each book is either based in or starts off in a different country - Japan, France, China, Italy, London. This collection is a combination of gifts from friends, recommendations and our own selections. Enjoy!

We picked up From Here to Infinity this past Saturday in honor of Independent Bookstore Day from our neighborhood bookstore. It’s one of my little dreams to be able to view Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit one day. I was so close to making it a reality this past November at David Zwirner gallery in New York, but ultimately it didn’t work out. We couldn't get to the gallery first thing in the morning and there was a more than three hour wait (which was expected but worth a try!) that I couldn't have pulled off with the girls. When I saw this beautiful, colorful book at the bookstore, I just HAD to buy it.

This book tells of  Yayoi’s life in Japan and discusses her love for art beginning at a very young age. Her art education took her to NYC where she had her first show. Since then, her art and her dots have traveled the world with her. My 5-year-old especially loved pointing out the different colors and patterns and had a great time reading with me.

Cloth Lullaby is about Louise Bourgeois, a famous artist, and the relationship she has with her mother. Louise started her career as an apprentice to her mother in their family tapestry business before she branched out on her own. Her childhood memories play a critical role as she creates some of her most famous works. The colors and illustrations are absolutely stunning! What hit home the most is the concept of how wonderful memories woven into us as kids have such a lasting impact. I hope some experiences we share with our girls inspire them as they grow up!

In Ruby’s Chinese New Year, animals from the Chinese zodiac help Ruby deliver a gift to her  grandmother. Having lived in Boston Chinatown for more than five years, and raising two girls there, our family gained a deeper appreciation for Chinese culture. We find it similar to Indian culture in a lot of ways even though it has its own nuances and folk tales. Our daughters have also been learning Mandarin since they were babies and have participated in Chinese New Year performances every year since they were toddlers! However, none of us knew much about the Chinese zodiac. It was fascinating to read this book with the girls. They had so much fun discussing the animals that corresponded to our birth years. “I’m Year of the Snake! Hissss” “Mama, you are Year of the Monkey!”

The Music of Life is a story of the invention of one of the world’s most popular instruments: the piano. I had never heard this tale before so it was nice to read about the piano’s history and experience it first-hand with the girls. It takes a couple of pages to fully get into the book but it gets more interesting as you go along.

The illustrations are vibrant and engaging. We especially loved how Cristofori used science and his creativity to make an instrument that makes the perfect blend of soft and loud sounds. There are a few Italian words throughout the book. It was fun reading those words out loud and to relive some of the Italian words we had learned on our trip to Italy last summer. Fortissimo!

Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day is about a little girl Clara Button and her excursion to the Victoria & Albert Museum with her mother and brother. A book full of imagination and Clara Button’s love of hats. We learned a thing or two about the museum’s artworks: Tipu’s Tiger and Chihuly Chandelier to name a couple. We even wondered about some of the Indian artifacts on display at the V&A acquired from India at the time of the British rule. My cousin, an artist in residence at the museum last fall, recommended this book to us and we are thankful she did! We really enjoyed reading it together and picturing the various hats.

What are some of your favorite children’s books that dive into other cultures?


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