Please welcome my guest author/illustrator, Qing Zhuang. We are both in the Soaring 20s picture book group, and I remember meeting her in a workshop at Kweli years ago with Bryan Collier! It is a small world!
We are giving away 2 copies of her writing debut picture book, Rainbow Shopping. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom.
Asian Immigrant Family Children’s Books
Rainbow Shopping by Qing Zhuang
I wrote Rainbow Shopping because immigrating to this country is something I will never forget. The early days of living here felt sharp and lonely. What softened it was the warmth and sense of safety family provided through everyday acts, from tilting the umbrella towards me to cutting the bittermelon thin enough to reduce the bitterness for a child’s palate. Like many working-class immigrant families, everyone was busy! It was important for me to show that the father worked for a Chinese restaurant, the mother a seamstress, and the grandmother a nanny. Not only are they common starter jobs for many immigrants, but they also lend context to the significance of spending time with your family on everyone’s rare day off. Much of the story is set in a Chinatown supermarket, which for many Chinese American children is an important link to their family and culture. The art is also an ode to my home, New York City, as well as its immigrant enclaves of Chinatown and South Brooklyn. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Geraldine Pu and Her Lucky Pencil, Too! by Maggie P. Chang
I love all the books in the Geraldine Pu series, which talk about things like diverse lunches and owning your appearance in the most lovable and spunky way. In this book, Geraldine has to write a story about her family for school but believes that her Taiwanese-American family is too boring. Then grandma comes to the rescue! The book features words in Mandarin Chinese in a fun and natural way. At the end of the book, there is a message prompting readers to learn more about their family history as well as instructions on how to make a scrapbook! [early chapter book graphic novel, ages 6 and up]
Goodbye, 382 Shin Dang Dong by Frances and Ginger Park, illustrated by Yangsook Choi
This is a realistic fiction written and illustrated gorgeously with a sensitive and poetic spirit. Our protagonist, little Jangmi, has to adjust to a strange new country that she did not have a say in moving to. She misses her best friend in Korea, the weather, and all things big and small that are home to her. In the end, when she moves into her new home in Massachusetts, she shares delicious treats with her kind neighbors, then she sits beneath a tree and writes to her best friend back in Korea. She thinks that one day, she might adopt an English name and that she might even like some things in her new home more than her mother country, but it might take time and that is okay. What a beautifully moving portrayal of homesickness, yearning, and hope. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Sumi’s First Day of School Ever by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Joung Un Kim
Published in 2003, this story is one of the more honest depictions of what it’s like going to school as an Asian immigrant that I have seen. Without getting too into the nitty gritty, the story actually portrays that moment when some kid does the racist pulling up of the eyes! Sumi feels that school is “scary” and “mean”. I like that the teacher makes the kid apologize to Sumi and that Sumi was able to express herself and even make a new friend by expressing herself through drawing. I might be a bit biased being an artist myself! However, as a teacher, I feel that this is an excellent book for the beginning of the school year, especially if there are new students in the class. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
The Name Jar by Yangsook Cho
As an elementary school art teacher, I see this book all the time around the school and I can see why! The book explores a common painful experience of immigrant children, whose names are sometimes mocked by their peers. In many East Asian naming traditions, our names are often carefully considered by our parents. My mother told me she looked through the dictionary searching for the just-right characters to carry her feelings and hopes for me to use in my name. Even though our names lose context and meaning when romanized, and are sometimes disrespected by others, I decided to keep my Chinese name because like our protagonist, Unhei, nothing else felt right. I wish I had an affirming book like this as a child! [picture book, ages 5 and up]
A Different Pond by Bao Phi, Illustrated by Thi Bui
What I love about A Different Pond is how visceral the writing is: the peppercorn in the sandwich, a predawn sky freckled with faint stars, and the way a tired father chews with his eyes half closed. The art, illustrated by Thi Bui (author of The Best We Could Do, an amazing and intense graphic novel about Vietnamese refugees for ages 13+) has a brisk yet quiet quality that matches the feeling of the book. What I love most, however, is the tenderness with which the parents treat the young boy even as they deal with the economic hardships and trauma of being refugee immigrants from Vietnam. While the goal of the fishing trip is for food, it is also a way for the father, who fought in the Vietnam War, to share a part of himself–memories both wistful and painful– with his son and to lend gentle encouragement. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin
What stands out for me in Watercress, is the exploration of the topic of shame. Similar to A Different Pond, where the father fishes for food before dawn, the family in Watercress stops in the middle of a rural Ohio road to cut wild watercress for food. The narrator is the daughter who feels embarrassed by her family and perhaps their socioeconomic class as well. The child comes to a better understanding of her family as she learns about the great famine her parents experienced in their motherland. My own family has spoken about the sheer brutality and chaos of the famine in China during the 1960s and 70s and it’s interesting to see it mentioned in this book. It is harder to be ashamed of your family when you get to know them and what they have survived. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Living with Viola by Rosena Fung
Livy lives with the voice of her anxiety which she names “Viola”. Meeting her judgmental aunties, navigating friendships at school, and just plain old trying to be her true self in middle school can sometimes feel so overwhelming. She eventually sees a therapist who teaches her different techniques to ground herself. One of those techniques is to think about making dumplings, which she loves doing with her mom–this scene was particularly moving. Another thing I appreciate is that there is more than one Asian character in this book, and she is also facing her own set of obstacles, judgment, and stereotyping from others and she actually inspires our protagonist to be confident in who she is. This is an excellent book to talk about not only cultural appreciation but anxiety and mental health. What a treasure. [middle grade graphic novel, ages 9 and up]
Friends are Friends Forever by Dane Liu, Illustrated by Lynn Scurfield
Dandan has to leave her best friend, Yueyue, and her snowy northern province in China for America. On the Lunar New Year’s Eve before her immigration, the two best friends make cut paper ice ornaments and Yueyue even gives Dandan a set of supplies to make them in America. Dandan eventually makes them again with her new friend in her new country. The writing is poetic and rolls off the tongue, while the art is lively, and compelling and complements the writing so well. Young readers can be asked to think about who their good friends are and if they also have a special “tradition”. As an adult reading this book, I recall my childhood best friends, many of whom I have lost touch with one way or another, but they truly will be a part of me forever. Such is the incredible mark of friendship! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
This is written for the Asian immigrant teenager experience, which is obviously distinct from the immigrant child experience. Robin Ha’s memoir graphic novel, written with this older audience in mind, is a lot more specific, raw, and personal, detailing a realistic and complicated mother-daughter relationship as well as the many setbacks and disappointments one might meet when starting life in a new country. With the support of her mother, Robin finally makes new friends at a comics club. One really feels for Robin’s arduous journey settling in this country and I think many teenagers will relate to Robin’s sense of alienation and ultimately “finding her tribe”. A gripping read with a subject matter that seems rarely explored. [young adult graphic novel, ages 12 and up]
2 Copies of Rainbow Shopping GIVEAWAY!
We are giving away 2 copies of her writing debut picture book, Rainbow Shopping. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below. We can only mail to U.S. and A.F.O. addresses.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Qing Zhuang is a writer and illustrator of children’s books. She was born in China and grew up in New York City, where she is also a proud art teacher to elementary and middle school students. She currently lives in Queens with her pediatrician husband and brand new baby daughter!
Rainbow Shopping (Holiday House) is her first writer-illustrator project. Booklist has called it “engaging”. The Horn Book says it “beautifully reflects how it feels to relocate to a completely different country and still try to feel at home”. To learn more, check out her website and follow her on Instagram at @Qingthings.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.