My daughter has blonde hair and blue eyes. It is not difficult for her to look through the shelves at our library to find characters that look like her. Her best friend is Filipino-American, and few things excite my little girl more than when she finds a good book with a main character who reminds her of her bestie. Books are a very simple way to help young kids explore how people around the world are all very different and yet exactly alike. In honor of AAPI month, here are some Hannah-approved stories by Asian and Asian-American authors and illustrators that feature Asian or Pacific Islander characters you can find easily at the Louisville libraries or purchase to add to your family library.
Ling and Ting Series by Grace Lin
Grace Lin is the winner of the 2022 Children’s Literacy Legacy Award. We first discovered her by reading one of Indie’s favorite books “Big Mooncake for Little Star.”
The Adventures of Ling and Ting are an early reader (Passport to Reading Level 3) series inspired by the author’s experience reading “Flick, Dicka, and Ricka” books growing up. Hannah has been using these during her homeschool lessons for learning “ing” words. Sometimes, early reading books are dry and boring, but Lin is somehow able to package all the silliness and charm of her more advanced books into something anyone can enjoy on their own.
Hannah rates these books 5/5 unicorns and says they are “so funny!”
Ocean Meets Sky by Terry and Eric Fan
In our literature-based homeschool, we often use picture books to supplement what we are learning from a long novel. When I asked for librarian guidance for books about boats and sailing to help us expand our understanding of “Treasure Island” last year, this one was at the top of the pile.
The Fan brothers are phenomenal artists. Their illustrations are easily beautiful enough to hang on gallery walls, but instead they choose to surround them with stories on the pages of books for children. (They also happen to often work on pieces at the same time, which is mind-blowing to watch.) “Ocean Meets Sky” tells a story of Finn who, while grieving the loss of his grandfather, builds a ship to find the magical place he heard about in his grandfather’s stories. It is a gentle and sweet exploration of loss and keeping the memory of loved ones alive after they have passed on.
Hannah rates this book 5/5 unicorns.
Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi
I could have chosen something else from this Japanese author and illustrator. He has published more than 350 books, so there are lots to choose from, and the LFPL has several options. I could pretend that I pulled this off the library shelf because identifying animal feces is part of a science study we are doing. I could also just be honest and say that I knew this one would crack up all my kids and make me feel like a “cool mom” for thirty seconds. Somehow, Gomi brilliantly makes this topic seem less inappropriate with his simple and brightly colored paintings of…well, you know. If your kids are…ahem…drawn to artists like Eric Carle or Tomi DiPaola, they will love exploring this delightful author/illustrator.
Hannah rates this book 100/5 because “IT WAS THE FUNNIEST BOOK I EVER SAW!”
Paper Son by Julie Leung
If you are as in love with the beautiful artwork of the Disney film “Bambi” as I am, you need to know about Wong Geng Yeo (American name Tyrus Wong). This groundbreaking watercolor artist immigrated to the US from China as a boy and worked as a janitor to pay for art school as a young man. His art work was the main inspiration for the rich, but minimal beauty of the Disney film, but he was credited only as one of the “background artists”. (You can blink and miss his name in the film credits.) This book is a wonderful account of his life, passion for art, and gives the credit he is due for his craft.
Hannah rates this book 5/5 unicorns. She loved the illustrations specifically (and the fact that we watched “Bambi” afterward).
Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math by Dr. Rajani LaRocca
I love books that cover multiple learning subjects. This title is written by an Indian-American author who just happened to spend a majority of her childhood here in Louisville (though she now resides in Boston). Her tale of the multi-talented Bhagat and his quest to make a better life for his family explores Indian folklore AND mathematic puzzles. We had lots of fun trying to figure out the solutions to Bhagat’s problems before we turned the pages, but he outsmarted us every time.
Hannah gave this 3/5 unicorns, but I believe that was because the puzzles were a little more advanced than her current learning level, so she didn’t enjoy it as much as her brothers. They both rated it 5/5 Army men.
Lastly, an article of recommendations from a five year-old girl would rarely be complete without princesses. Nearly every culture has a “Cinderella” who overcomes adversity through kindnesss (and a little magic) to become a princess or escape her difficulty. Here are just a few Asian folktales that will satisfy any princess-loving child’s tastes.
We have already read Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie, illustrated by Ed Young. It was a definite 5/5 unicorns! Here are a few we have not explored yet. If you have, let us know which ones are your favorites!
The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo is available at the Louisville libraries. I will be adding this one to our list!
Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn
Wishbones: A Folk Tale from China retold by Barbara Ker Wilson
Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella adapted by Myrna J. de la Paz
Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella by Jewell Reinhard Coburn and Tzexa Cherta Lee
Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India by Lila Mehta
Kongi and Potgi: A Cinderella Story from Korea by Stephanie Plunkett
The Golden Slipper: A Vietnamese Legend by Darrell H. Y. Lum
Do you have any books that we should add to our list of Asian-American authors and illustrators?