For #AAPIHeritageMonth, I wanted to recognize Asian Americans in children’s books. I’ve tried to include all the Asian American authors and illustrators I can think of, including Asian Canadians for all books except young adult. This list grew out of trying to recognize this group on my Instagram (@PragmaticMom) and on the new Multicultural Children’s Book Day Instagram (@ReadYourWorld MCBD).
I’ve included a few YA authors that my kids personally recommend but for the most part, this is list is picture books, early chapter books, middle grade chapter books, graphic novels, and novels in verse. I’ve also tried to limit this list to books published within the last 12 months.
Who am I missing? Thanks for your help!
Asian American Picture Book Biographies
It turns out that very few picture book biographies were published this year featuring an Asian American.
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
I’m excited to read this picture book biography. I have long admired Maya Lin’s public art monuments and it’s wonderful to see her in a children’s book. I’ll also happy that Dow Phumiruk is the illustrator; I loved her #KidLitSafetyPin artwork.
As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. [picture book biography, ages 4 and up]
Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by
Growing up in Honolulu with the Pacific Ocean as his backyard, Duke Kahanamoku learned to swim and surf at a young age. By his early twenties, Duke’s lightning-fast swimming won him a place on the 1912 United States Olympic team and a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle race. Over the years Duke struggled with racism and financial troubles, but by the end of his twenty-year Olympic career, he was a six-time medal winner. Although a swimming champion, Duke’s passion was surfing. He traveled the world, introducing surfboarding to Australia and the east and west coasts of the United States. Considered the father of modern surfing, Duke spread his love of the ocean and Hawai’i wherever he went. Throughout his life Duke Kahanamoku was beloved for his modesty, sportsmanship, and amazing skill in the water. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, illustrated by Yutaka Houlette
Fred Korematsu liked listening to music on the radio, playing tennis, and hanging around with his friends—just like lots of other Americans. But everything changed when the United States went to war with Japan in 1941 and the government forced all people of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes on the West Coast and move to distant prison camps. This included Fred, whose parents had immigrated to the United States from Japan many years before. But Fred refused to go. He knew that what the government was doing was unfair. And when he got put in jail for resisting, he knew he couldn’t give up. [picture book biography, ages 8 and up]
Step Up to the Plate Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami
Nine-year-old Maria Singh longs to play softball in the first-ever girls’ team forming in Yuba City, California. It’s the spring of 1945, and World War II is dragging on. Miss Newman, Maria’s teacher, is inspired by Babe Ruth and the All-American Girls’ League to start a girls’ softball team at their school. Meanwhile, Maria’s parents–Papi from India and Mama from Mexico–can no longer protect their children from prejudice and from the discriminatory laws of the land. When the family is on the brink of losing their farm, Maria must decide if she has what it takes to step up and find her voice in an unfair world. In this fascinating middle grade novel, award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami sheds light on a little-known chapter of American history set in a community whose families made multicultural choices before the word had been invented. [chapter book biography, ages 8 and up]
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by
Yukari Reads on Instagram gaves me the heads up on this one.
Chef Roy Choi calls himself a “street cook.”
He wants outsiders, low-riders,
kids, teens, shufflers and skateboarders,
to have food cooked with care, with love,
with sohn maash.
“Sohn maash” is the flavors in our fingertips. It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods. For Chef Roy Choi, food means love. It also means culture, not only of Korea where he was born, but the many cultures that make up the streets of Los Angeles, where he was raised. So remixing food from the streets, just like good music—and serving it up from a truck—is true to L.A. food culture. People smiled and talked as they waited in line. Won’t you join him as he makes good food smiles? [picture book biography, ages 4 and up]