(More) ASIAN TITLES CELEBRATING UN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS & SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Consider this part two of the June 21st post where I highlighted mainly books from Singapore on the newly released booklist from the AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content) and the Singapore Book Council highlighting Asian titles celebrating UN SDG goals & social emotional learning. Now let’s look at some books on the list from other countries in Asia, such as India and Japan — and particularly ones not previously mentioned in any other posts on this blog.


A recent book from India —“Jamlo Walks” — highlights the desperate fate of many migrant workers in India when the COVID 19 lockdown began, and is listed under both UN SDG 1: No Poverty and UN SDG 2: Zero Hunger. Because of the seriousness of the situation depicted, we have put it for “Younger” readers (age 7-9) rather than “Early Years” (age 6 and under).

In this interview, the author, Samina Mishra, talks about how she came to write the book, which was inspired by a report about the death of the real-life 12-year-old Jamlo, published on PARI (The People’s Archive of Rural India) in May 2020.

Penguin Books has made a 1-min. booktrailer for “Jamlo Walks,” which you can view here.


Several of the books from India on the list are published by the non-profit Pratham Books, which runs a free, online reading platform and digital repository of multilingual stories for children, and the book below — “That Night” — about a child’s experience of community violence — is one of them.

Note this book is available in 6 versions in 5 languages on Storyweaver — and is on two of their own UN SDG booklistsDifferent is Good: SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities and Far Away From Home: SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

The author, Bijal Vachharajani, who was both a speaker and a panel moderator at the most recent AFCC, has written about the roots of this story in her own childhood.

__The night was dark. The fire-breathing dragons have swallowed the stars that dot Delhi’s landscape. I stood in the corridor of our house, clutching my blanket – dubbed the Shawl, it was hand painted with red and blue feathers by my mother – close, as loud, angry noises punctured the smoke-filled air. My mother stood on the balcony, and I was flooded with a sense of dread.It’s a memory from 1984 that refuses to leave me. I was all of five years old, too young to know what had happened, and not old enough to be apprised of anything by the grown-ups. All I remember is that I woke up the next morning, and our neighbours were no longer our neighbours. And their car was no longer a car – it was a smouldering pile of burnt metal.Thirty-five years later, I turned to literature to make sense of that memory. That story became That Night, a picture book illustrated by Shrujana Shridhar. It’s a fictional account of that night, when a mother and child try to talk about the source of those angry, loud voices, and battle a feeling of dread as their father is pulled into them.__

— via [When there is so much darkness in the world, should it really be kept out of children’s books? – Bijal Vachharajani]


NB: Both Indian books above are on the shortlists for the 2022 Neev Book Award, which recognizes “outstanding writing that leads to a fuller understanding of India, Indian lives, and Indian stories.”


“The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out” is a book that has been featured on this blog before – in a May 2018 post about Japanese picture books by the translator Andrew Wong, where he mentioned that he was working on an English translation of it. In this 5-min video (recorded in 2021), Wong talks about and reads from his translation — and in this interview, he discusses how came to translate it.

The text is a version of a powerful speech the President of Uruguay, Jose Pepe Mujica, gave at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (also known as Rio+20, Rio 2012, or Earth Summit 2012). You can watch him give the speech in Spanish with English subtitles here (10 min.).


Another Japanese translation on our list is “There Must Be More Than That” under both UN SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being and UN SDG9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. I just love its positive reassurance for children that they do have agency in the world, to imagine and contribute to meaningful change.

Note: The author/illustrator Shinsuke Yoshitake was a presenter at the recent AFCC conference, speaking on the humor that can be found in the ordinary.


Please explore the AFCC SDG/SEL list yourself.

If you want to order any of these books, contact Denise Tan at Closetful of Books and she can either supply you or advise you. You can also buy books via the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Bookshop.org page here.

If you would like to recommend new titles to be added to the list over time, see the “Recommend Titles” link on the UN SDG booklist homepage.

Again, huge thanks to both my collaborators — Denise Tan and Evelyn Wong — for the many delightful hours of discussion we had in deciding which books to put on the inaugural SDG/SEL list. Thanks also to all the dedicated individuals at the Singapore Book Council who maintain the online resources and make the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) happen every year, whether online or in person. It is an incredibly valuable event that promotes Singaporean and regional literature for children of all ages.


Katie Day is an international school teacher-librarian. An American with a masters in children’s literature from the UK and a masters in library science from Australia, she has lived in Asia since 1997, including 12 years in Singapore, first at United World College of Southeast Asia and now at Tanglin Trust School.  She has also lived and worked in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and the UK. Online​ ​she​ ​uses​ ​“The​ ​Librarian​ ​Edge”​ ​as​ ​her​ ​blog​ ​and​ ​Twitter​ ​handle (@librarianedge).

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