Madlenka by Peter Sis
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Madlenka :: armchair travel kid style

Madlenka childrens picture book

Do you know Madlenka by Peter Sis?

This book appeals to the armchair traveler and the daydreamer in me. It’s also a current favorite by almost everyone in our house. Madlenka is a six year old New York girl with her first loose tooth. As she walks around the block to tell everyone about her tooth, we learn about the world through her interactions with her neighbors.


Her friends on the block include a French baker, an Indian news vendor, an Italian with an ice cream truck, a German who tells fairy tales, a Latin American greengrocer, a girl named after an Egyptian queen, and an Asian shop owner.


As the story progresses, we learn about the places her friends come from. The information is presented in an interesting and appealing way. It’s never pedantic, but rather leaves a lot to the imagination and to possible discussion. Windows are literally opened onto other worlds.


This book makes me want to gather up my family and take them around the world. There’s so much to see and learn and do! But since this isn’t an option for us right now, I’m thankful for books like this that share glimpses into other cultures and places.

How about you? Do you have any favorite children’s picture books about travel or other cultures? I’d love to explore some more with Maia…

P.S. Peter Sis has written some other Madlenka books. We’ve read Madlenka’s Dog and really like it. I’m hoping to read the others soon.

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  • Reply
    May 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    This looks wonderful. I just requested this from our library – thanks for the tip.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    A favorite in our house right now is “Are We There Yet?” by Alison Lester that takes a tour around Australia.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    We have “Madlenka Soccer Star” checked out right now! Also his book about Tibet is beautiful and interesting for adults.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    We love the Adventures of Riley books. They’re part travel story, part animal/nature conservation story….with sidebar facts from experts about the wildlife/culture profiled. They are wonderful for my animal-loving, information-hungry 4-year old!

  • Reply
    May 2, 2011 at 12:24 am

    looks very intriguing…thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    May 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

    the secret box by barbara lehman (also wrote the red book)

  • Reply
    May 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Hello Jean, Big fan of your blog and amazed at how much art you manage to do at home (I often falter when it comes to planning/organization)! I am a huge fan of Petr Sis and we also loved this book for a time; my son (five) now prefers picture books with male protagonists, but for a while this book was HUGE around here. :) The drawings are lovely and I totally agree with you about the open-endedness of the story/book. Perhaps an even better book by Sis is “Madlenka’s Dog” — simpler and still with many of the great qualities of “Madlenka” (again, Madlenka meets characters from different countries, and explores her neighbourhood on her own/with her friend). Happy reading!

  • Reply
    May 2, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    We love Madlenka, too! My daughter is 3 1/2 and I think we’ve had Madlenka for about a year. She loves the fact that you sort of have to turn the book around as you’re reading it!
    We’re in the phase of transitioning to very simple picture book (The House in the Night, Kitten’s First Full Moon) to more detailed picture books with a clear story line (Angelina Ballerina, The Lorax, Madeline) but Madlenka is still a favorite.

  • Reply
    May 3, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Favorites in our house include:
    1. You & Me Together by Barbara Kerley (pictures of parents and children from around the world)
    2. Can You Count 10 Toes? by Lezlie Evans (count to 10 in 10 different languages)
    3. Can You Greet the Whole Wide World? by Lezlie Evans
    So much fun!
    Thanks for the recommendation of Madlenka…I’ve requested it from the library!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2011 at 2:46 am

    One series that my 3 year old loves are the Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems. Knuffle Bunny Free (the third one) is about travel a bit. They’re all cute though and even though they tell a story that isn’t relevant to my kids, they still really enjoy them.

  • Reply
    May 3, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I will second the recommendation of books by Alison Lester — my one and a half year old loves Magic Beach, ABCs, and Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo. The last one is about a young white boy who spends a year with Australian indigenous children, and it does a lovely job of introducing its readers to different ways of being a child.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    May 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for all the recommendations! I’ve just put some of them on hold at our library. Can’t wait to read them!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Jean, Another great find from our local library: SAY HELLO! by Rachel Isadora. It’s a bit like Madlenka in that the female main character, Carmelita, walks around her neighbourhood meeting people from all over the world, and learns how to say “Hello” in their various mother tongues (9). Beautiful mixed-media illustrations that are a feast for the eye. Also, Julia Donaldson’s books (The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Tyranosaurus Drip, among many others) are great for the five-year-old age range. Other favourites: Lynley Dodd (Hairy Maclary), anything by Jan Brett (Gingerbread Baby’s Friends was one recent “discovery”). I love the work of Janet and Allan Ahlberg (The Jolly Postman, Peepo, Each Peach, Pear, Plum) and find it entertains me and the little ones equally). Thank Goodness for the public library: otherwise I would squander a fortune on children’s books… : ) Ellen

  • Reply
    May 3, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I can’t wait to check this book out! We read a lot of books about different countries and cultures, and are always on the lookout for new ones.
    As for our favourites, we really love all of the books by Laurie Krebs
    We also really like “Elephant Dance” (about India), The Perfect Orange (Ethiopia), Wangari’s Trees of Peace (Kenya),
    Barefoot books is a great source for books about diversity both in terms of culture and in many other ways.
    The UNICEF book “Children Just Like Me” is a beautiful nonfiction book that profiles kids from around the world.
    Finally, the Global Fund for Children has a really great series of books that looks at what life is like for children around the world. The book “To Be An Artist” might particularly appeal to you!'3'&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1

  • Reply
    May 4, 2011 at 12:25 am

    My daughter favorite book is The Colors Of Us by karen Katz.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    We love this book. My awesome friend gave it to my 4 yr old for her birthday. We are both NYers and really, that’s how it is. The grocer from Africa always asks, “how’s the baby,” if I don’t have him with me. We’ve only lived on the UWS for about a year and everyone knows us. I guess we stand out as I schlep 3 kids around the hood.

  • Reply
    Diana Dickert
    November 23, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    My kids love “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak (the book, not the movie). The boy in the story undergoes something akin to traveling; only, it’s by way of imagination. But your book here would be a worthwhile distraction from the real experience of losing a tooth.

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