If you read in English, chances are that there are a few countries that take up the vast majority of your reading. Only 2–4% of books published in English are translated, and even books published in English in countries other than the U.S. and UK often don’t get picked up and publicized in the same way that U.S. American works do.
This is even more pronounced when it comes to children’s books, where the same books top the charts year after year. Parents tend to buy and read to their kids the same books their parents bought and read to them. If you want to branch out, though, and discover children’s books published all across the world, here’s a great place to start!
TheToyZone has gathered up the most popular children’s books from each country and put them into these gorgeous graphics. You can scroll to the end for an interactive table with every pick!
The did this by first looking at the top 20 children’s books published by authors from each country (by number of Goodreads user ratings), then picking the book with the highest average rating.
Under each continent, I’ve listed the books available in English, but the full list can be found at the end of the post.
Most Popular Children’s Books in North America Available in English
- United States: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Grenada: Ay Ya Yai Ivan: A Musical Play About Hurricane Ivan by Richardo Keens-Douglas
- Mexico: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
- Haiti: The Last Mapou by Edwidge Danticat
- Canada: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
- Guatemala: The Two of Them by Aliki
- El Salvador / Honduras: A Movie in My Pillow by Jorge Argueta
- Antigua and Barbuda: Summertime Fun by Darlene Beazer-Parker
- Barbados: Bajan Baby What Do You See? by Mrs. Terry-Ann M Hopkin
- Jamaica: Oxford Literary Web [Set] by Julia Donaldson, Pratima Mitchell, Pamela Mordecai
- Saint Lucia: Ti Koko and Kush Kush by Patricia G. Turnbull
- Trinidad and Tobago: Chronicles of Coryn: 7 Days of Fun by Coryn Anaya Clarke
- Bahamas: Black Girl Magic: A Book About Loving Yourself Just the Way You Are by Zahra Bryan
Note: Junot Diaz has been left off this list for sexual misconduct allegations.
The most popular children’s book on the continent is Chile’s Papelucho by Marcela Paz, with 111 Goodreads ratings, though there is sadly no English translation!
Most Popular Children’s Books in South America Available in English
- Bolivia: Petey by by Ben Mikaelsen
- Guyana: Boyhood Days: Book 2 by Dennis E. Adonis
- Brazil: Nina Bonita by Ana Maria Machado
- Suriname: Red-Beans and Rice: An Anansi Story by Ismene Krishnadath and Gerold Slijngard
If you haven’t checked out France’s Press Here, it’s a fun interactive picture book that inspired many other picture books in the same style!
Most Popular Children’s Books in Europe Available in English
- Ireland: Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy
- Russia: Alice: The Girl From Earth by Kir Bulychev
- Sweden: Pancakes for Findus by Sven Nordqvist
- Norway: Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr
- Denmark: Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen by Hans Christian Andersen
- Poland: Run, Boy, Run by Uri Orlev
- Italy: Telephone Tales by Gianni Rodari
- Switzerland: Heidi by Johanna Spyri
- Czech Republic: This is San Francisco by Miroslav Sasek
- France: Press Here by Hervé Tullet
- Netherlands: A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
- Germany: Momo by Michael Ende
- Hungary: Answer Nicely When You’re Asked! by Éva Janikovszky and László Réber
- Finland: Who Will Comfort Toffle? by Tove Jansson
Note: Harry Potter has been left off this list for JK Rowling’s transphobic comments.
Okay, “every country” was an exaggeration: there isn’t enough information for some countries, especially — as you can see — in Africa.
Most Popular Children’s Books in Africa Available in English
- Nigeria: Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
- Malawi: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
- Zimbabwe: Fire Storm by Lauren St. John
- Rwanda: Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk by Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze
- South Africa: The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley
- Namibia: When You Dance with the Crocodile by Erna Muller
- Uganda: Moses and the School Farm by Barbara Kimenye
- Eritrea: Hoping for a Home After El Salvador by Linda Barghoorn
- Kenya: Nyambugi and the Ogre by Muthoni Likimani
- Gabon: Taiwan: Lisa Lin’s Painting “Making Mooncakes” by Jacquiline Touba and Barbara Glasser
- Benin: The Beautiful Debo by Béatrice Lalinon Gbado
- Zambia: E Is for E-Waste by Ellen Banda-Aaku
- Ethiopia: The Ethiop’s Scrolls I: The Othering, Xolisa and Asinara by Michael Daniel Ambatchew
- Ghana: Meliga’s Day (Opon Ifa Series #2) by Meshack Asare
The Middle East and Central Asia
Unfortunately, not a lot of these have been translated to English, which just shows how little makes its way over to the USA market from around the world: even many of the most popular books have never been translated. Still, you can show demand for these books by buying the ones that are available!
Most Popular Children’s Books in the Middle East and Central Asia Available in English
- Kazakhstan: Orange and Blue: The World of Barzu by Marina Abrams
- Afghanistan: The Wisdom of Ahmad Shah: An Afghan Legend by Palwasha Bazger Salam
- Israel: Ooh-la-la: Max in Love by Maira Kalman
- Iran: One Peach, A Thousand Peaches by Samad Behrangi
- Palestine/Jordan: Who Hid the Eid Lamb? by Taghreed Najjar and Manal Haddadin
The Rest of Asia and Oceania
If you’re intrigued by the idea of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets the Ice Capades meets Mean Girls, then you have to pick up Taiwan’s Peasprout Chen series, about a student studying martial arts figure skating!
Most Popular Children’s Books in the Rest of Asian and Oceania Available in English
- Thailand: The Elven Ambassador by Pieretta Dawn
- Taiwan: Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions by Henry Lien
- Myanmar: The Ghost City: A Graphic Novel by ဝလုံး
- Australia: Then by Morris Gleitzman
- Singapore: The Diary of Amos Lee: Lights, Camera, Superstar! by Adeline Foo
- Malaysia: Diary of a Basketball Hero by Shamini Flint
- Bhutan: Membar Tsho – The Flaming Lake by Kunzang Choden
- China: Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young
- South Korea: Cloud Bread by Baek Hee Na
- Vietnam: A Different Pond by Bao Phi
- New Zealand: Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd
- Japan: A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
- Philippines: Is it a Mermaid? by Candy Gourlay
Want to look at all of the books at once? Play with this interactive table! You can sort by publication date, rating, country, and more!
Thanks to TheToyZone for all of these images and the research!