APALA best asian american books for kids 2013

2014 Asian American Children’s Book Awards & Kid Lit Blog Hop

Have you heard of the APALA children’s book awards? Of course not. I blogged for three years on children’s books seeking out the best Asian American KidLit and I didn’t know about it. That’s a shame because Asian American children’s books are slowly coming into their own, well on the heels perhaps of the Asian American novel trend started by Amy Tan. Still, I am thrilled to see this genre flourishing.

The first point of confusion:

APALA = Asian Pacific American Librarians Association

The second point of confusion:

The APALA Literature Awards are called the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

The goal of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature is to honor and recognize individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit.


You’d think their awards would be included as part of the American Library Association (ALA) awards but they are not. I have no idea why. I’d love for someone to enlighten me.

But I digress!

TheAsian/Pacific American Award for Literature 2013-2014 winners are …

Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book Winner

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang

When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, fly kites from their roof and look down at the crowded city streets below, they feel free, like the kites. Baba loves telling Tai Shan stories while the kites–one red, and one blue–rise, dip, and soar together. Then, a bad time comes. People wearing red armbands shut down the schools, smash store signs, and search houses. Baba is sent away, and Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Though father and son are far apart, they have a secret way of staying close. Every day they greet each other by flying their kites-one red, and one blue-until Baba can be free again, like the kites. 

Asian/Pacific American Award Picture Book Honor

Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss,  illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

As a boy, Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura dreams of playing professional baseball, but everyone tells him he is too small. Yet he grows up to be a successful player, playing with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig! When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, Zeni and his family are sent to one of ten internment camps where more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry are imprisoned without trials. Zeni brings the game of baseball to the camp, along with a sense of hope.

This true story, set in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, introduces children to a little-discussed part of American history through Marissa Moss’s rich text and Yuko Shimizu’s beautiful illustrations. The book includes author and illustrator notes, archival photographs, and a bibliography.

Asian/Pacific American Award  Children’s Literature Winner

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

Summer knows that kouun means “good luck” in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan—right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.

The thing about Obaachan and Jiichan is that they are old-fashioned and demanding, and between helping Obaachan cook for the workers, covering for her when her back pain worsens, and worrying about her lonely little brother, Summer just barely has time to notice the attentions of their boss’s cute son. But notice she does, and what begins as a welcome distraction from the hard work soon turns into a mess of its own.

Having thoroughly disappointed her grandmother, Summer figures the bad luck must be finished—but then it gets worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan. Because it might be the only way to save her family.

Asian/Pacific American Award Children’s Literature Honor

The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley

Things aren’t looking good for fourteen-year-old Mehrigul. She yearns to be in school, but she’s needed on the family farm. The longer she’s out of school, the more likely it is that she’ll be sent off to a Chinese factory . . . perhaps never to return. Her only hope is an American woman who buys one of her decorative vine baskets for a staggering sum and says she will return in three weeks for more. Mehrigul must brave terrible storms, torn-up hands from working the fields, and her father’s scorn to get the baskets done. The stakes are high, and time is passing. A powerful intergenerational story of a strong, creative young artist in a cruelly oppressive society.

Asian/Pacific American Award Young Adult Literature Winner

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

This was a page turner with a surprising twist.  Jet Black is a 17-year-old female ninja who must return, now newly orphaned, to her mother’s village in Japan to save a rumored family treasure.  She has no idea what it is, but it must be valuable because she’s being stalked by assasins.

A really interesting twist woven into this storyline is the Navajo Code Talkers. Jet grows up on a Navajo reservation and her surrogate father is somehow connected with this mysterious family treasure.

There is also a love interest for Jet and his story is equally fascinating. While they have an attraction that connection that is undeniable, they are on opposite sides of this conflict.

While my 14-year-old mocked the cover — I thought it was a good cover! — I found the story fascinating with great pacing that had me turning the page with eager anticipation. Husband and wife team Lowitz and Oketani manage to pen a ninja YA story that, while rooted in Japanense history, is riveting modern story sure to draw in a teen audience. And it would make for a great movie!

Asian/Pacific American Award Young Adult Literature Honor

Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata

Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother’s muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko’s mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She’d much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all. And a side trip to Lourdes might just change her life.


Multi-Cultural Highlights from Previous Kid Lit Blog Hop

Jump Into a Book‘s Guest Author Visit by Elsa Marston

Jump Into a Book, The Compassionate Warrior

The Hoop Kid from Elmdale Park from Kristi’s Book Nook

The Hoop Kid from Elmdale Park from Kristi's Book Nook

18 Chinese Folk Tales from Marie Pastiche

18 Chinese Folk Tales from Marie Pastiche

Julie Black Belt picture book series from Squishable Baby

Julie Black Belt picture book series from Squishable Baby

The Susu Pals from Mother Daughter Book Reviews



Kid Lit Blog Hop

Welcome to the 34th Kid Lit Blog Hop where twice per month (the 1st and 3rd Wednesday) we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!


Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hostesses. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! 🙂


Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews Facebook * Twitter

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max Twitter * Facebook

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews Twitter * Facebook

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Reshama @ Stacking Books Twitter * Facebook

Stacie @ BeachBoundBooks Twitter * Facebook

Destiny @ Reading and Sharing Twitter * Facebook

Maria@ Music Teaching and Parenting Twitter * Facebook

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom Twitter * Facebook

2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*

* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you! 4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links! 5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…


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

APALA best asian american books for kids 2013

I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay for postage and handling for my giveaways.

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Multicultural Books for Kids on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I had no idea there was a separate APALA book awards. It is sort of odd it’s not included in the main ALA awards. I would also like to know why? Thanks for the great list of books!
    Erica recently posted…Math Art for Kids: Pi SkylineMy Profile

  2. I am so looking forward to checking out The Vine Basket – thanks for recapping the APALA Literature Award winners and honors!
    Marie-Claude Leroux recently posted…Our Weekend in a NutshellMy Profile

  3. Nat

    I did not know about APALA, thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Some of those books are already on my TBR list, he he, but there are a couple that I didn’t know about. Thanks so much for a great round up and for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop
    Julie Grasso recently posted…Kid Lid Blog Hop #34My Profile

  5. I just want to read Jet Back and the Ninja Wind is all.
    Jeanette Nyberg recently posted…Little Tiny the SupermodelMy Profile

  6. Mia,
    What a great list of books! With spring break for the kids coming up, this would be a great time to catch up on some reading for them. Thanks for the list
    The Funster recently posted…The LEGO© SIMPSON’S HOUSE REVIEW!My Profile

  7. “Red Kite, Blue Kite” sounds excellent. Thank you for sharing these books!
    maryanne recently posted…Plant Biology for KidsMy Profile

  8. Lesley

    Hi Mia, this is a wonderful blog hop. I only just discovered you, through twitter, and missed joining in but will visit some of these great book sites. I have signed up to your newsletter and hope it will notify me when next blog hop is so I can join in. I review picture books by Australian authors and illustrators. Thanks.
    Lesley recently posted…Isabella’s Bed by Alison LesterMy Profile

  9. What a great multicultural reading list you’ve put together! Thank you for sharing these awesome books, Mia! My children and I are forever enlightened from your blog. Thanks for this!
    Lisa Nelson recently posted…METAvivor for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research and AwarenessMy Profile

  10. More great books to check out! Thanks for sharing at After School!

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge