Asian American Books for kids

My Favorite Asian American Books for Kids

I’m so sorry to be late for the Homeschool Blogging Carninal hosted by hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. I’ve been distracted by racism in a musical at my local high school that has hit a nerve and generated a lot of press including a front page article in The Boston Globe, 2 OpEd articles in The Boston Globe, an article across the pond at The Daily Telegraph and a slew of blog posts both by me and other bloggers. If you want to read them, they are all here.

This makes me realize that multicultural books for kids are, perhaps, the first step for breaking racist stereotypes and introducing diversity in a positive way into the lives of our children. Today, I wanted to share a few of my favorite Asian American children’s books. I hope you enjoy them with your children.

I chose a picture book, easy reader, easy chapter book, chapter book and a young adult novel that portray contemporary Asian Americans.  That’s 5 books. 5 is a lucky number in Chinese culture. 4 is bad because it signifies death.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia and Ken Min

Food is often a way that kids experience diversity whether it is what their families cook or from visiting family and friends. But sometimes, a child (or an adult) can feel weird introducing their ethnic food to guests. Will they like it? Will they think it’s too smelly or strange? What is wonderful about this picture book is that the foods and cultural traditions of India are celebrated; indeed it is what makes Dada-ji so strong and powerful in his old age. I love this message that foods from around the world are to be celebrated and even revered! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Ting and Ling Share a Birthday by Grace Lin

Ting and Ling are identical twins but they are not the same. Grace Lin depicts Asian American girls as they go about celebrating their birthdays in short, charming stories that show, indeed, that Ting and Ling are not the same, but they are both good at sharing! A subtle message is that despite their Chinese names,  Ting and Ling are assimilated Americans. There is nothing foreign about them, and their easy personalities make you want to befriend them. [easy reader, ages 5 and up]

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho is afraid of everything from girls to school. He won’t speak in class but he has a rich life outside of it with his friends, going on adventures that test his courage. Alvin is the 2nd grade Asian Americanboy version of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and draws in the same audience of reluctant readers as well as readers who enjoy a funny early chapter book. [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

There aren’t many chapter books that depict life for a second or third generation Asian American– that of straddling assimilation versus the old country. Wendy Shang nails this typical dilemma of Asian American kids trying to fit in with her chapter book about Lucy Wu. She’s a basketball star who wrestles with her relationship with her great aunt who comes from the old country to stay with her ( in her room), as well as the “perfect” Asian student, Talent Chang, that she detests. Lucy discovers that finding your place and figuring out what matters most can sometimes come together around the family dining table. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

Jet Black and the Ninja Wind by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani

This YA book won an APALA award. It has a strong teen female character who is trained as a ninja to protect a family treasure she knows nothing about. Navajo code talkers also figure into the plot. I thought this was an exciting page turner! [young adult, ages 10 and up]

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are talking about Multiculturalism.


Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival where we will be talking about Homeschool Mythsconceptions .
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Please take the time to read the submissions by other Carnival participants:

  • Keisha at Unschooling Momma will talk about Multiculturalism in the Home

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

Asian American Books for kids

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I’m loving these books! Especially the Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji. Damian has cultural day coming at school and he’s feeling embarrassed about me bringing in anything that we usually eat, so he wants me to make hot dogs…Will definitely grab this book. Thanks Mia!
    vanita recently posted…The 5 Necessities of Successfully Launching Anything OnlineMy Profile

    • Hi Vanita,
      I can totally understand Damian’s embarrassment as my kids were like that too when they were younger. True story: when my oldest was in preschool, her teacher brought kelp from the beach for the water table to let the kids feel it in the water. My daughter said, “We eat that!” The teacher was taken aback and said, “Oh yes, people eat seaweed” along with another positive comment.

      Another great book on food and being embarrassed is Yoko by Rosemary Wells though it about eating sushi at school for lunch. I love that message.

      As kids get older, I think they will take more pride in their culture and foods they eat. Mine have but it’s ten years post-preschool!

      Maybe you can bring in Roti for his cultural day and ask the teacher if you can read the book first aloud to the class.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Huge Self Published Kids Book GIVEAWAY and Kid Lit Blog HopMy Profile

  2. Catherine

    I’ve read Alvin Ho, I’ll look out for the others.
    Catherine recently posted…National Poetry Month round upMy Profile

  3. Love your suggestions. I’ve reviewed the Red Kite, Blue Kite, and my favorite MG novel Sylvia and AKi and few others. I may come back for more ideas for great books to review.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2My Profile

  4. Giora

    It’s great that the Boston Globe picked up your blog and interviewed. An important topic. Maybe you can write an essay based on your blog and also submit to The New York Times. Interesting books on your list, and I’ll take a look at JET BLACK which is somehow close to my YA fictions.

  5. Mia, this is where you shine. You draw a light on a problem and you do your best to work it out. These books look so wonderful, and all I can say is thank goodness for pinterest so I can pin them all. When Gigi is a touch older, I know I will want to refer back to these so thank you so much for bringing them to our attention and for joining us on the Kid Lit blog Hop
    Julie Grasso recently posted…Kid Lit Blog Hop #36My Profile

  6. Renee @ MDBR

    I read some of the articles about what happened at your school. Amazing that nobody from the top down anticipated a problem with this play. Knowing how much red tape it takes to get anything approved by a school board, I’m shocked that this slipped through. Very disconcerting indeed. You go Mia!! Thank you for your great book recommendations. I keep looking for the Alvin Ho series but our library doesn’t seem to carry them – gotta fix that! Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
    Renee recently posted…Book Blast Sign-Ups: Mighty Dads by Joan Holub & James DeanMy Profile

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