What to Read: Children’s Books About South America

Planning to study the history and culture of South America in your homeschool? We’ve got you covered with this fun list of children’s books about South America. 

Are you building a reading list to help your kids learn about the South American countries? You’re in luck. We’ve got a fun list of children’s books about South America to share with you today.

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This list of children’s books about South America takes us through the continent by visiting several countries and exploring their individual geographies, cultures, and histories, but also how they’re linked together.

Children’s Books About South America

Before we jump into this list, keep in mind that the descriptions below all include Amazon links. If you’d prefer to support independent booksellers through your purchases, know that you can find the same list of books through this Bookshop.org list.

Children’s Books about the Amazon Rainforest

Most of the titles on this list represent a specific South American country, but there’s no way to cover the Amazon rainforest through the lens of one South American Country since it’s so massive. While the majority of it is contained in Brazil, the rainforest also reaches into Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and even Venezuela. 

And that’s where this group of books about the Amazon rainforest comes into the picture.

  •  Zonia’s Rain Forest – This sweet picture book explores the Peruvian Amazon through the eyes of an Indigenous girl named Zonia. An added bonus, it includes information about the Ashaninka group, facts about the Amazon, and recommended resources at the end of the book. 
  • The Great Kapok Tree – Written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, this beautiful book shows the importance of conservation efforts and how those efforts impact all who depend on the Amazon to sustain life. 
  •  Unfolding Journeys Amazon Adventure – This one isn’t a narrative picture book, but I included it because it contains tons of visuals and snippets about the Amazon river, the communities and landscapes it runs through, and other points of interest connected to the river. 
  • All the Way Down: Amazon Rainforest – It’s similar in premise to Unfolding Journeys, but it focuses on the ecosystem and brings it to life through the amazing illustrations. 
  • Where Is the Amazon? – If you want to dig a little deeper into the Amazon rainforest but prefer a something that’s closer to typical read-aloud style, this one is written in a kid-friendly nonfiction style and covers geography, history, animal and plant life, people of the rainforest, and more. 

The Magic Bean Tree

Set in the South American lowlands, The Magic Bean Tree: A Legend from Argentina tells the folk story of a boy named Topec and the carob tree. The story itself is an interesting read and provides some cultural background for the pampas region, but the folk art illustrations steal the spotlight in this one.

Ada’s Violin

My kids and I LOVE this one! Ada’s Violin tells the incredible story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. (Not familiar with this orchestra? You can learn more about it in this NPR article from 2016.)

While it doesn’t represent life in all of Paraguay, I love how this book shows the reality of life in the Cateura area while celebrating the power of music and determination to make something special despite the slum-like surroundings. 

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Chilean Pablo Neruda was known as a diplomat and politician during his life, but Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People focuses on him as a poet and writer and how he used his words to inspire and serve the people of Chile.

If you’re unable to find this one, look for Ode to an Onion. It’s another colorful picture book about Pablo Neruda and also does a good job capturing his life as a poet.

Children’s Books about Brazil

Living in… Brazil is a level 2 reader that shares an overview of life in Brazil through the eyes of a child. It also includes a page of facts about Brazil at the end of the book. If You Were Me and Lived in … Brazil is a similar title to consider if you can’t find Living in… Brazil.

Overviews like the above books are helpful for learning about a country, but be sure to jump into some narrative books like these to zoom in and experience life for specific people and communities in Brazil:

  • The Dancing Turtle – Though this Brazilian folk tale, author Pleasant DeSpain and illustrator David Boston showcase plant and animal life in the Amazon rain forest.  
  • From My Window – You can see my full review of this colorful picture book here, but this one is a great way to explore life in a favela.
  •  Along the Tapajos – Explore another famous Brazilian river, the Tapajos, through this lovely picture book. The story introduces readers to siblings in a small community near the river and the challenges that come during the rainy season. 
  • The Best Tailor in Pinbauê – This one is another look at a small river community in Brazil, but focuses on life in a factory town named Pinbaue.
  • Pele, King of Soccer –  This bilingual picture book celebrates the life and accomplishments of Pele, Brazil’s world-famous futbol player.

Biblioburro

Celebrate the work of Luis Soriana and his traveling library in northern Colombia through Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro. It’s hard for many of us to imagine borrowing library books brought to town on a donkey, but that’s true for the remote areas in northern Colombia we visit through these pages.

Worth noting, Waiting for Biblioburro is another picture book that tells this story.

Digging for Words

After reading Biblioburro, it’s interesting to learn that city-dwelling Colombians don’t necessarily have more access to books and libraries. Through Digging for Words, we’re introduced to Jose Gutierrez from Bogota, the library he built by searching through trash, and his continuing literacy work in Colombia.

Where Is Machu Picchu?

This one isn’t a picture book, but it’s super helpful for learning about Peru’s Machu Picchu. It’s a chapter book that explores the Incan civilization, the rediscovery of Machu Picchu in 1911, and the cultural significance it holds today.

From a picture book perspective, check into Up and Down the Andes to learn about the Inti Raymi festival and its significance to the Incan empire.

Tuki and Moka: A Tale of Two Tamarins

Through the picture book Tuki and Moka, we visit Ecuador with a boy named Eduardo and the two tamarins he regularly sees while working to gather Brazil nuts in the rainforest.

Island: A Story of the Galapagos

We finish out this list of children’s books about South America with a look at Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands through Island. It’s full of beautiful illustrations and is a great way to explore these unique islands and their inhabitants without leaving home.


What about you? Do you have anything you’d add to this list of children’s books about South America? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Are you building a reading list to help your kids learn about the South American countries? You’re in luck. We’ve got a fun list of children’s books about South America to share with you today.

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