Kids: Travel the world through books

By Thi-Le Vo
Northwest Asian Weekly

When it comes to children’s books, many have the common assumption that these books can’t offer children more than a cute story and pages of colorful illustrations.

However, writers like Jan Reynolds and Christine Taylor-Butler have become attuned to the demands and importance of creating books that entertain as well as educate. In Reynolds and Taylor-Butler’s respective books, students have the opportunity to advance their knowledge of cultures and societies.New Post


“Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life” by Jan Reynolds is published by Lee & Low Books.

“Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life”

Reynolds’ book, “Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life,” focuses on the island of Bali, Indonesia. and its traditions surrounding rice production. Reynolds addresses the complications between traditional rice farming and modern technologies. Reynolds uses the daily life of two Balinese children, Putu and Kadek, as a way to portray the life of Balinese farmers and their families.

Reynolds writes in a way that makes the farming children relatable to students who read the book, though the lifestyle of the students may differ. Students are able to see and understand cultures not similar to their own.

While the written content offers valuable information about farming, the photos are the main attraction, and this will be the reason why many students will pick up this book. The photos capture the important stages of rice farming, which include aerating the fields, planting the shoots, and harvesting the rice. The story is told in pictures. Each of the processes in rice farming is shown in a colorful picture that eventually leads to the final product: a vibrant, green rice field.

My one criticism of this book is that, though the book gives young readers a sense of where their food comes from, it doesn’t explain just how difficult the task of farming really is. Farmers dedicate their lives to their fields. They meticulously work long hours to create foods for others to enjoy. The various labor dimensions of rice farming are noticeably missing in the book.


“Sacred Mountain Everest” by Christine Taylor-Butler is published by Lee & Low Books.

“Sacred Mountain Everest”

“Sacred Mountain Everest,” by Christine Taylor-Butler, approaches the tallest mountain in the world from different angles.

The sections on the culture and religion of the Sherpas, the local inhabitants of the area, are discussed in depth. Subjects such as the animals, plants, and history (of climbing the largest mountain in the world) are not forgotten.

The pictures in this book help show the appeal that the majestic mountain has on its residents and tourists. Each picture is like a snapshot of the people living in the area, who only subsist on what the mountain and nature offers. The factual information about the mountain, including those who dare to climb the mountain, also help young readers become engaged with the content. Taylor-Butler provides specific information that readers would be curious about while reading this book. For example, one might ask, “What does the house of a Sherpa look like?” This book offers a sense of reality to young readers when it addresses the fact that many Sherpa children cannot further their education due to a lack of resources. Instead of going to school, these children help their families by doing chores or working for additional financial support.

Both of these books provide students with a grasp of various cultures while at the same time giving them more information about subjects they are currently learning in school. What each of these books offers to young readers is the reality of seeing areas like Bali and the Khumbu region and how they are slowly losing their pristine nature as they modernize. (end)

Thi-Le Vo can be reached at

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