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
The Hoop Kid from Elmdale Park from Kristi’s Book Nook
18 Chinese Folk Tales from Marie Pastiche
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!
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20 thoughts on “2014 Asian American Children’s Book Awards & Kid Lit Blog Hop”
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!
I am hoping someone will fill us in too! I have no idea but not being included in the ALA awards keeps the APALA awards in the fringes where NO ONE knows about them which is a shame!!
I am so looking forward to checking out The Vine Basket – thanks for recapping the APALA Literature Award winners and honors!
I am looking foward to reading more of the APALA winners myself! The Vine Basket is on my list too.
I did not know about APALA, thanks so much for sharing!
I wish the APALA awards were more well known amoung Asian Americans too. We would like to read these books if only we knew about this great children’s literature award!
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
Thanks so much Julie!
I just want to read Jet Back and the Ninja Wind is all.
It will make you want to train to be a ninja … be warned! We’ll both have to learn to walk on wet tissue paper without tearing it but I think we can do it!
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
Hi The Funster,
Thanks so much! I’m so glad you will be reading the books from APALA’s award list! That makes me so happy!!!
“Red Kite, Blue Kite” sounds excellent. Thank you for sharing these books!
Thanks MaryAnne! I want to read that one too!!
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.
It’s so nice to meet you! The blog hop is twice a month on the first and third Wednesday. We look forward to having you join us!!!
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!
Thanks so much Lisa for your kind words. I hope you and your kids enjoy the books!
More great books to check out! Thanks for sharing at After School!
Thanks for stopping by Stephanie!