My friend from college, Lionel, is a hands-on uncle to his young nephews in California. The nephews are multiracial Mongolian-American so Lionel asked for a book list to learn more about their Mongolian heritage.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot, especially through my public library system, but I found more books than I thought I would. Can you help me add to this list? Thank you!
Children’s Books About Mongolia
My Little Round House by Bolormaa Baasansuren, adapted by Helen Mixer
Baby Jilu is born in the summer in Mongolia and we follow his life for one year as he and his family travel from their summer quarters to their autumn camp and then return to their summer location. Throughout all their journeys, the round ger is their home. Beautiful illustrations depict vibrant life in Mongolia [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Betsy Lewin
Ted and Betsy Lewin travel to Mongolia to witness the horse races for Nadaam, the Mongolian summer festival. Both lend their illustration talents to this picture book in both gorgeous watercolor spreads and smaller more casual watercolor drawings. The watercolor paintings lend drama and a timeless gravitas to the story; the more cartoon-like watercolor drawings give the story a contemporary and comedic flair.
They follow 9-year-old Tamir, a young boy, whose family trains horses. He will be racing in the Naadam. The Lewins capture the culture and food of the nomadic Mongolian people making the reader feels like he or she is living alongside the Lewins at this camp for horse trainers. It’s a wonderful way to see what life is like in Mongolia today. [advanced picture book, ages 6 and up]
The Kahn’s Daughter: A Mongolian Folktale by Laurence Yep, illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng
A poor sheep herder, Mongke, follows his father’s advice and seeks the hand of the Khan’s daughter. To win her hand, he must accomplish three impossible tasks. First, he must defeat seven demons and bring back their treasure. Luck is on his side and he accomplishes this task. Next, he must defeat the Khan’s enemy who is advancing with a great army. Again, luck is on his side, and he is able to do this. Finally, he must conquer Bagaur the Clever the Mighty. There is a twist to this task but Mongke and the Khan’s daughter end up happily ever after, because, after all, always respect your wife! [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Sorghaghtani of Mongolia (The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses) by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Albert Nguyen
I had never heard of Sorgphaghtani. She was one of the most successful princesses in the series, managing to be both an exceptional ruler and mother. She was the granddaughter of the Great Genghis Khan but keeping the empire intact is a more difficult job than just conquering foreign lands. Sorghaghtani had the wisdom to respect other cultures and recognize and reward talent regardless of race or religion. She is a great example of how the world would be if women ruled! [picture book, ages 8 and up]
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop
The snow leopard is an endangered large cat that lives in Mongolia. Follow along with Tom McCarthy, conservation director of the Snow Leopard Trust, author Sy Montgomery, and photographer Nic Bishop as they track the seldom-seen snow leopard in their research expedition. People living among the snow leopards their entire lives might never see one and this is because they are elusive and well camouflaged in their environment. Hence, the snow leopard is the ghost of the mountain. Yet, to save them, the snow leopard needs to be studied. Scientists are not even sure how many are left in the wild. One-third of the wild snow leopards are believed to live in Mongolia. This book also includes a brief history of Genghis Khan, as well as follows a Mongolian family to learn about their rural life. But at its heart, this is a story about conservation and how intervention can make a difference in saving the snow leopard from extinction. [nonfiction middle grade, ages 10 and up]
The Un-Forgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Frank Cottrell Boyce is one of my favorite middle grade authors and this book does not disappoint. It’s the story of two Mongolian brothers, Chigis and Nergui, that drop into Julie’s 6th-year class (it’s set in the UK). They walk into the classroom in big, furry coats and hats. Chigis is very protective of his younger brother and talks of the devil that is out to get him. Julie gets appointed as their “Good Guide,” a task she takes to heart. As she gets to know these mysterious brothers, she and her classmates, learn about Mongolia, Genghis Khan, and polaroid photos that Chigis shows them. It turns out that the devil is indeed out to get Nergui and it’s up to Julie to get Chigis’ coat back to him. Use this book to talk about the plight of refugees and undocumented immigrants. Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Afterword gives more insight into the origins of this story. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Valley of the Giant Skeletons by Geronimo Stilton
Geronimo Stilton goes on an adventure in Mongolia with his family. Despite undercover foes, he manages to unearth a rare dinosaur skeleton related to T. Rex. I’m not sure why it’s ok for Geronimo Stilton to take the fossil back to New Mouse City to display it at the Mouseum of Natural History. Wouldn’t the dinosaur belong to the Mongolians? The tribal chief in the story says to the bad guys, “We will not allow you to seat the Giant Skeleton. It is a true scientific treasure of all to enjoy.” And yet, the skeleton is donated by the Stilton family to the Mouseuem of Natural History. This has a colonizing message which I disagree with. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]
Alien Expedition by Pamela F. Service, illustrated by Mike Gorman
Zack seems like an ordinary adopted kid, except for one thing. He is developing special powers due to the fact that he’s actually an alien that has been adopted by unsuspecting parents. Not only that, but he’s a junior agent for The Galactic Union. In other words, Zack is an alien superagent! Now add to the mix, the other young agent, Vraj, whom Zack works with, looks like a dinosaur.
His newest assignment lands him and his family in Mongolia as part of a scientific archaeology expedition in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Another alien race, the Tirgizians, is also conducting scientific research into whether or not Earth is their planet of origin in the same location. Vraj’s parents are part of the scientists in this group. When to missing, Zack and Vraj, with the help of local children, must find them and set them free. Earth, as we know it, is at stake! [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Who is Genghis Khan? by Nico Medina
There is very little written about the life of Genghis Khan except for a book called The Secret History of the Mongols, now widely available. Genghis Khan, born Temujin, had a difficult life as a teenager surviving war and abandonment. He would go on to unite the warring clans of the steppe as the great Genghis Khan. This version of his biography is perfect for younger readers. [middle grade biography, ages 8 and up]
Genghis Khan: 13th-Century Mongolian Tyrant by Enid A. Goldberg and Norman Itzkowitz
Because there is just a single source of information about Ghenghis Khan, the biography books about him are very similar. This version provides more details including artwork from the time. [young adult nonfiction, ages 12 and up]
Mongolian Folktales retold by Dashdondog Jamba and Borolzoio Dashdondog, edited by Anne Pellowski
This is a comprehensive collection of Mongolian folk tales and mythology. The book also includes photo insets depicting modern-day life in Mongolia. [folktales, ages 8 and up]
Vanishing Cultures: Mongolia by Jan Reynolds
Nomadic life in Mongolia is changing but traditional life can be seen in this picture book which chronicles the day in the life of a family as they get ready to move to a new location. Young brothers are going to get a new horse to help herd the sheep. Out of all the nonfiction books on Mongolia, this is my favorite. [nonfiction picture book, ages 5 and up]
Exploring Countries: Mongolia by Heather Adamson
If you ever wrote a report on a country in elementary school several decades ago, you probably used a book series like this one. It does have facts and photographs but it’s not a book that is visually appealing. Pair it with Vanishing Cultures: Mongolia for a school report. [nonfiction picture book, ages 7 and up]
This has the feel of a social studies textbook and would be good for kids who like to read encyclopedias. [middle grade nonfiction, ages 10 and up]
Mongolia: Enchantment of the World by Ruth Bjorklund
This book also has the feel of a social studies textbook but feels like it was written and designed a few decades ago, and thus, is less visually appealing. [middle grade nonfiction, ages 10 and up]
Big Tiger and Christian: Their Adventures in Mongolia by Fritz Muhlenweg
Published in 1952, this is a nearly 600-page adventure story set in 1922 of a Chinese boy and his German friend who end up in Mongolia through a kite flying mishap in the midst of a war. The length might be daunting for some readers, who might prefer the story as a read-aloud. [middle grade, ages 12 and up]
p.s. Related posts:
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I love these wordless picture books by Asian and Asian American authors/illustrators so much that I made videos of them on my Instagram.
CoolAsianKids made a wonderful list of their favorite Asian American KidLit.
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The Asian Pacific American Libraries Association has announced its 2013 literature award winners
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A friend from Sri Lanka gave me a recipe that he loved as a child and this sparked this post. Finding the books is always the toughest part for me.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.