World Geography Living Literature

Yes, I’ve told you how much we love literature around here many times. While I teach geography through maps, quizzes, and games, the best way to connect to the maps and their culture is through really good books. Enjoy this giant list of world geography living literature with your elementary children.

A Giant List of Living Literature for Teaching Geography

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Geography Living Literature Matters

A good living picture book for geography places you in a time or culture to feel almost as if you are part of the story. It uses rich language, interesting characters, and beautiful illustrations to help you understand the place, people, and culture within the context of a storyline.

For that reason, you’ll only find a handful of books that purposely teach facts about geography. That’s okay; if you’re pointing out the places on a map or making some other map connections, your children will absorb the culture and more than just a knowledge of where in the world a place is on the map.

World Geography Living Literature

While there’s no way for me to list every piece of world geography living literature we’ve ever enjoyed, I have listed many of our favorites below. 

Enjoy elementary world geography with these fantastic picture book selections. They are warm stories with rich language that will give your children a beautiful picture of places and cultures around the world.

Africa Picture Books

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier

Bintou’s Braids by Sylvianne Diouf

The Best Bee Keeper of Lalibela by Cristina Kessler

The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou & Ali Alalou

Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide

Fire on the Mountain by Jane Kurtz

For You Are a Kenyan Child by Kelly Kunnane

Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams

Gugu’s House by Catherine Stock

Handa’s Hen by Eileen Browne

Honey…Honey…Lion! by Jan Brett

Jambo Means Hello by Muriel Feelings

The Magic Gourd by Baba Wague Diakite

Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa

My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel

Once Upon a Time by Nick Daly

Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire Nivola

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Sense Pass King by Katrin Tchana

Sosu’s Call by Meshack Asare

Trouble by Jane Kurtz

We All Went On Safari by Laurie Krebs

When Africa Was Home by Floyd Cooper

Young Lions by Toshi Yoshida

Antarctica Picture Books

The Emperor’s Egg by Martin Jenkins

Trapped by the Ice by Michael McCurdy

Asia Picture Books

Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco

The Empty Pot by Demi

The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park and Julie Downing

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Williams

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome

The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel

Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert

Hackiko by Pamela Turner

Liang and the Magic Paintbrush by Demi

Lon Po Po by Ed Young

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland

Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami

Mrs. Frizzle’s Adventures: Ancient Egypt by Joanna Cole

One Grain of Rice by Demi

A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno

Red Butterfly by Deborah Noyes

Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco

Ruby’s Wish by Shirim Yim and Sophie Blackhall

Sanji’s Seed by B.J. Reinhard

Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy

Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Nye

Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks by Katherine Paterson

Taro and the Tofu by Masako Matsuno

Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say

Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong

Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein

Australia Picture Books

Are We There Yet? A Journey Around Australia by Alison Lester

Bobbie Dazzler by Margaret Wild

The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek by Jerry Wagner

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French

Edward the Emu by Mem Fox

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

Hunwick’s Egg by Mem Fox

John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner

Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by A. B. Paterson

My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

The Pumpkin Runner by Marsha Arnold

The Water Hole by Graeme Base

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan and Pamela Lofts

Europe Picture Books

Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock

Angelo by David Macaulay

The Baker’s Dozen by Aaron Shepard

Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming

The Boy Who Held Back the Sea by Lenny Hort

The Cat Who Walked Across France by Kate Banks

Children of the Northlights by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire

Days of the Blackbird by Tommie dePaola

Gabriella’s Song by Candace Fleming

The Giraffe That Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton

The Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen

The Greatest Skating Race by Louise Borden and Nick Daly

Hanna’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx

The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo

Katie and the Spanish Princess by James Mayhew

Katie in London by James Mayhew

Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew

Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd

The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Edwards

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Cristina Bjork

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmens

Madeline and the Cats of Rome by Ludwig Bemelmens

Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmens

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley

Paris in the Spring with Picasso by Joan Yolleck and Marjorie Priceman

Pastry School in Paris: An Adventure in Capacity by Cindy Neuschwander

Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Starry Messenger by Peter Sis

Tony’s Bread by Tomie dePaola

Central and South America (Includes Mexico)

Abuela’s Weave by Omar Castaneda

Borreguita and the Coyote by Verna Aardena

Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel

Carolina’s Gift: A Story of Peru by Katacha Diaz

Corn is Maize by Aliki

Dancing Turtle by Pleasant Desplain

Gauchada by Drew Lamm

The Goat in the Chile Patch by Sheron Long

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynn Cherry

Hill of Fire by Thomas Lewis

Jaguar by Helen Cowcher

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tommie d’Paola

The Little Red Ant and the Great Big Crumb by Shirley Climo

My Little Island by Frane Lessac

The Magic Bean Tree: A Legend from Argentina by Nancy Van Laan

My Name is Gabriela by Monica BrownOn the Pampas by Maria Brusca

Nature’s Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons

A Pen Pal for Max by Gloria Rand

The Pied Piper of Peru by Ann Trompert

The Secret Footprints by Julia Alvarez

The Streets are Free by Kurusa

To Go Singing Through the World by Deborah Ray

Tonight is Carnaval by Arthur Dorros

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto

The Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulsen

The Umbrella by Jan Brett

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown

North America

You can find an entire post about living literature across the USA here. The books I’ve included here are either general North American geography or touch on unique cultures.

Alejandro’s Gift by Richard Albert

The Armadillo from Amarillo by Lynn Cherry

As the Crow Flies by Gail Hartman

Me On the Map by Joan Sweeney

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. by Marjorie Priceman

Mapping Penny’s World by Loreen Leedy

Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton

Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling

My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling

Pagoo by Holling C. Holling

Seabird by Holling C. Holling

Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling

Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant

Very First Last Time by Jan Andrews

Where the River Begins by Thomas Locker

World Geography Unit Studies

Looking for world geography mini-units and lesson ideas?  My early elementary son and I have been all over the world this year! You can see what else we added to our continent and culture studies besides geography living literature. It’s been so much fun!

Around the World Unit Study Series

More Living Literature Lists

Looking for living literature for other subjects?  Over the years, I have gathered lists and lists of good books for you to use with all sorts of topics. You will be amazed at how many great books there are to teach almost any subject!

A list of all Cindy West's living literature posts

Other Great Geography Ideas

Geography doesn’t have to be difficult or boring! We’ve had tons of fun learning through literature, games, hands-on, and research-based projects. Click any of the images below for other fun ideas.




  1. Thankyou for this long list. I’m just starting to switch to living books from text books and this will be so helpful.

  2. That is a great list. I wonder how many I can get from the library in the next couple of weeks.

  3. jnewsomp31 says:

    Thank you for this!

  4. The books remind me when I was a librarian teacher. I wish i could read them to my kids. What a great bless it would be. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Great list! Thank so much for making it available. Some other possibilities: The Big Wave (Progeny Press study guide also available), A Single Shard, The Master Puppeteer, The Endless Steppe. For Europe: I, Juan de Pareja (Spain), Gaudenzia Pride of the Palio (Italy). The Pacific: Island of the Blue Dolphins. These would all be for upper elementary or older.

  6. What a great idea ti connect geography with literature! I’m pinning this.

  7. I just wanted to take a minute to let you know how much we have appreciated this list of books! My husband and I have enjoyed these books just as much as our children (ages 4-8). Thank you so much for putting such a thoughtful and thorough list together. Truly wonderful books!!

  8. Thank YOU for making my day! 🙂

  9. Thanks for a terrific list! I’m recommending the list, and I’m linking these books to our art lessons.

  10. This is wonderful! I’m definitely going to share with my friends at!

  11. Thank you, Cassandra! We had so much fun with these books.

  12. Love the list! Thank you for taking the time to share. I noticed it said, “Picture Book Edition” – does that mean there is an edition for older students?

  13. I hope I can find time to do the chapter book edition! I’ll put that on my goal list for this school year. 🙂

  14. I just now found this. So great. We are planning a trip to Europe and we will focus on those books for now. Thanks for your hard work in putting this together.

  15. This list is amazing! The timing of finding this is perfect! We are getting ready to study David Livingstone next and Africa with it! Now I have a huge list of books to go with our study 🙂 Thank you!

  16. We love David Livingstone’s story! I know you’ll have so much fun learning all about Africa, too!

  17. The Australian books mentioned here are good. If you can get audio versions it’s great to hear the real accent. Are we there yet? Comes with audio and I highly recommend. Any Alison Lester books are GREAT.
    My kids prefer Aussie literature over anything else and I read with the old school real Aussie accent including colloquialisms when appropriate which even they don’t understand at times.

  18. I love the idea of hearing them read with a real Aussie accent! I just looked and see that there are tons of Alison Lester books – so many of them I’ve never read. I guess I need to do that soon. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  19. I am in the middle of using this list with my 7, 5, and 3 year olds. Excellent books! Very fun for them as they learn their continents and basic geography and so much more! Thank you for this list and for sharing your homeschool experience on your blog!

  20. Amy, I’m so glad the books are a blessing to your homeschool! We has so much fun reading through this list, too.

  21. This list is simply delightful. Our family is using it to ‘tour the world’ this year. Do you have any similar suggestions for India and the Middle East?

  22. Delighted to see my book Gauchada on your list! One lovely thing you can do around it is to have readers create something, perhaps a special necklace, to gift another. The book is about a necklace crafted by a gaucho that is passed from hand to hand to hand, but it could be anything. The idea is to create something that can’t be bought or sold but only given, an unexpected gift/act of love.

  23. Love that idea, Drew! Thanks for sharing it here. 🙂

  24. You’re welcome, it was indeed my pleasure. Always a ZING to see one’s books still making their way in the world. Thanks for noticing.

  25. I’ve recommended your Smithsonian science books plenty of times, too! I’m always happy to promote great authors. 🙂

  26. Love this list!!! Do you happen to have a chapter book list?!?!?

  27. I don’t yet, Jenny. But I’ll try to work on one soon! 🙂

  28. One more book to add to your North America list is Carson Crosses Canada.

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