May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which is a great excuse to dive into some fantastic new children’s books that teach kids about this rich culture — or cultures, I should say. Because Asia and the Pacific Islands cover a lot of territory, as kids are sure to learn this month.
Happily, I have found some excellent Asian and Pacific Island heritage books that have just hit the market (or will soon). Whether you’re trying to broaden your child’s horizons, prime them for a trip East, or just teach them about their own heritage, these books are a great place to start.
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Camp Tiger makes an excellent addition to the canon of coming-of-age books for boys of any background. But I love how Susan Choi subtly draws in her Asian heritage with the addition of a talking tiger guide who helps the boy tap into his courage and his grown-up self.
If you have a slightly older child who’s mature enough to learn about the history of U.S. Japanese internment camps, I highly recommend Enemy Child by Andrea Warren. Warren uses extensive interviews from Norman Mineta, the boy at the heart of the story who went on to become the first Asian mayor of a major U.S. city and a 10-term Congressman. In this month of celebration, it’s important to be aware of our country’s troubled history — and how one man overcame it.
This sweet middle-grade reader follows Shirley Temple Wong as she tries to find her way in Brooklyn after immigrating from China with her family. Shirley finds inspiration in Jackie Robinson as he breaks down his own barriers in the sport of baseball and helps her realize that America truly is for everyone. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord should be essential reading for any kid entering a new environment or trying to empathize with a friend who is.
I’ve always been a fan of the Little People, Big Dreams series, and Bruce Lee will fill a fun, energetic place on your bookshelf with the rest of the line-up. This book, written by Isabel Sánchez Vegara and illustrated by Miguel Bustos, introduces children to Lee’s incredible film legacy as well as his thoughtful philosophies on life. It’s out this summer, but it’s available for pre-order now.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman shines a light on the lives of homeless children living in Chennai, a city in eastern India. With humor and vivid details, the book follows the kids as they scrape out a living in the bustling streets and find the family they’re missing in one another.
I’ve covered some heavy territory in this round-up, so here’s a lighter book that I think teens and tweens will love. And not just for the clever wordplay in the title, although I’m thoroughly charmed by that too. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn focuses on the art and culture of modern-day Japan through the eyes of Kimi, a Japanese-American teen who’s obsessed with fashion. We’ll have to wait till the end of the month to read this delightful new book, but I think it’s well worth a pre-order.