Discovering KidLit Gems From International Publishers

We are honored to introduce you today to Roland Stringer, Publisher of The Secret Mountain. He has made a list of books to help you discover gems from international publishers.

Enjoy this list and comment below with your favorite books or bookstores
discovered in your global travels!

Books are often one of the first places children discover different cultures, food, and traditions, which is why it’s important parents and educators include international titles on kids’ reading lists. While children’s publishing has always been a very international industry, even with the world wide web at our fingertips, it’s not always easy to find global stories. 

As publisher of The Secret Mountain, over the last 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with imprints from around the world, from Beijing to Mexico City to Paris. While I wish I could discover every book on trips to faraway bookstores, the truth is, I’ve found many from my office in Montreal. Here are some of the recent international gems I’ve added to my reading list, along with some tricks of the trade on how you can find them. Perhaps they will give you ideas of how to find gems from publishers outside of North America:


Set in China, this book and CD find Xiaomi and her family on a hot evening in their apartment when the power goes out in the building. Together, they hatch a plan to play a concert outside, her mother playing the accordion and her father the erhu, a two-stringed bowed instrument that is common in China. Their music makes its way to neighbours in every apartment who join in the moonlight concert until the power comes back on. 

I acquired the rights to Summer Moonlight Concert from Beijing POPLAR Culture Project Co., a big publisher in China, after its illustrations caught my eye at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. International publishers often come together at book fairs. Even though they can be fairly trade-oriented, websites and conferences are often accessible for parents and avid readers. The Frankfurt Book Fair and Beijing International Book Fair are also good places to look for international titles.

MUSIC ALL AROUND, The Secret Mountain

Written by Spanish author Gema Sirvent, and set in Spain, Music All Around is a beautiful reminder of the music and wonder you can find in the natural world when you pause to appreciate it. The seaside towns and majestic pines are wonderfully depicted by Lucía Cobo.   

When you stay active in a community, sometimes international projects find their way to you, as was the case for me with this title. I recommend immersing yourself in your local book community. Join a diverse book club or ask your local librarian for good recommendations. When people know you are interested in discovering international gems, they’re usually more than happy to share them with you.

RUN, LITTLE CHASKI!: An Inka Trail Adventure, Barefoot Books

Follow Little Chaski down the ancient Inka Trail, as he takes on his role as the king’s newest royal messenger. This story, written by Peruvian-born author Mariana Llanos, is a fun way for children to explore the culture and history of South America. Mariana Ruiz Johnson’s vibrant and colours and patterns brighten the adventure. 

I’ve been following Ruiz Johnson’s work since my son’s trip to Mexico, where he happened upon the publisher Éditorial Castillo. I always recommend visiting indie bookstores when you travel. For me, this is just as important as eating the food. Local bookstores are always one of the best ways to discover a culture—as are local libraries.


In The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy, Eddie goes looking for the perfect gift for her mother, visiting the florist, chic boutique, antique owner, and even a butcher. Beatrice Alemagna’s intricate illustrations capture the charm of France’s cobblestoned streets, pastry counters, and window shop displays that Eddie visits on her search.  

I first discovered Alemagna’s work on a visit to a Parisian bookstore, and have been a fan ever since. If you like an illustrator’s work, look them up and see what other books they’ve worked on, the same way you might look up a publisher or author. It’s a great way to discover international gems.  


Gerelchimeg Blackcrane is one of China’s bestselling authors, and Jiu Er is a renowned Chinese artist. Fortunately, many of their books, like The Moose of Ewenki have been translated into English. This book is a fantastic way for children to learn about the traditions of the Indigenous Ewenki peoples of Mongolia. It’s never too soon to introduce children to different ways of life. 

Don’t be intimidated by books written in other languages. If it looks interesting to you, ask someone or Google to see if it’s available in another language. It often is! In fact, that’s how I first came across Jiu Er’s work. On a trip to Shanghai, I passed by a daycare where I saw a group of kids leafing through a copy of We Were Made for Each Other by Jiu Er. When they put it down, I looked through it myself and really liked the illustrations so I asked someone about it and eventually made contact with the original publisher who sent a translation to me.


A follow-up to I Have the Right to Be A Child, Alain Serres and Aurélia Fronty’s latest collaboration explores environmental activism from a child’s perspective. With an emphasis on celebrating nature and animal life, this book introduces readers to the positive impact they can have on the planet. 

International publications often offer ways to explore topics from different angles, or even point out aspects you may not have considered. If there’s a theme or issue that you’re passionate about, ask your local bookseller or librarian to see what’s available.

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