When it comes to creating empathy and developing a commitment to justice and respect in my children, I tend to turn toward good children’s books. While we’ve recognized AAPI Heritage Month through children’s books in the past,  the recent increase in violent anti-Asian discrimination is leading me to choose bedtime stories that highlight the incredible accomplishments of so many AAPI people.

So, if you’re also looking for some suggestions for terrific children’s books about inspiring Asian-Americans, here are a few of my top suggestions. Some are brand new, while others are only a few years old, and they’re all worth a look. I hope your kids enjoy them as much as mine do.

And if there are others your kids love, please leave them in the comments! There’s always room on bookshelves and library queues for more books.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission from certain purchases to help support the work we do at no additional cost to you. All books are available from Amazon, Indiebound, or please support your own local booksellers. 

Related: 6 fantastic children’s and YA books for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: It Began with a Page by Kyo Maclear

A book about Gyo Fujikawa, illustrator

The first book I’d pick is It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way (Amazon or bookshop.org) by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad. If you don’t know activist Gyo Fujikawa, you can learn about her fight against racial injustice in picture books alongside your kids. Gyo focused her efforts on a world she knew so well: picture books. She was absolutely determined to depict diverse children in her books — an idea that was rejected by her publishers, by the way. In case anyone is still taking the notion of diverse children’s book characters for granted.

It’s a wonderful book to spark conversation with your kids about about doing what you can, where you are, to support the causes you care about,


7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: Queen of Physics by Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang

A book about Wu ChienShiung, physicist

If your kids love science, you need to read this remarkable story of a lesser-known figure in 20th-century science. Hidden Figures has (rightfully) gotten tons of attention, but The Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Amazon or bookshop.org) by Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang depicts how Chien Shiung defied the odds by even attending school in the first place…to her remarkable achievements in the world of physics. It’s very honest about how she was often overlooked for jobs and awards because she was a woman…and an Asian American woman at that. This is an important read, and it’s great for classroom discussions about how a lack of recognition doesn’t equal a lack of achievement.

Related: The ultimate girls in STEM book of but-kicking Women in Science

7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang and Billy Thao

A book about Kao Kalia Yang and the children of the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp

The memoir Yang Warriors (Amazon or bookshop.org) by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Billy Thao has so much to love. It shows how fierce, determined, compassionate — and of course, committed — children can be heroes too. Here, Yang tells the story of her own time as a child in the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. After a week without food, a group of ten young cousins embark on a dangerous mission to find food to bring back to the family. It’s a story of hope, resilience, and inspiration, offering an excellent history lesson that isn’t often covered in elementary school history classes.

Related: 6 books to read during Asian and Pacific Island Heritage Month. Beyond Moana.

7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: Paper Son by Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki

A book about Tyrus Wong, artist and Disney animator

My son has been so captivated by Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist (Amazon and bookshop.org) by Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki. Not surprisingly it was also the winner of the American Library Association’s 2021 Asian/Pacific American Award for Best Picture Book. The story details Wong’s journey as a Chinese immigrant to America from janitor, to art school student, to ultimately, an artist creating the iconic visual style of Disney’s Bambi. The hard work, honesty, and determination it took to accomplish his dreams comes through beautifully, and I absolutely would add Paper Son to any school biography lists for “living history” days, teachers and homeschooling parents.


7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: Maya Lin by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Dow Phumiruk

A book about Maya Lin, architect

Minimalist parents and fans of art and design will adore reading Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines (Amazon and bookshop.org) by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Dow Phumiruk. And not just with the kids! The clean lines and beautifully sparse design echo Lin’s own work as the esteemed architect best known as the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. In fact, she is likely the best-known AAPI hero on this list.

You may think that the life and mind of an architect is an esoteric subject for young kids looking for a children’s book about inspiring Asian-Americans, but not here; Harvey and Phumiruk weave Lin’s childhood as the daughter of a clay artist throughout the narrative of her work on the memorial, keeping the entire book relatable and compelling.

I might add this is a must-read if you live near DC and have visited Lin’s memorial, or are planning to visit soon.


7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: Mountain Chef by Annette Bay Pimentel and Rich Lo

A book about Tie Sing, trail cook and inspiration behind the National Park Service

Have your kids visited or read about Sing Peak in Yosemite National Park? Then they’ll especially be fascinated by Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service (Amazon or bookshop.org) by Annette Bay Pimentel and Rich Lo. It’s the true story of Tie Sing, a Chinese-American mountaineer who played a part in creating the United States’s National Park Service. Talk about a true American immigrant story!

In 1915, a time that most Chinese Americans were working in restaurants or laundries, Sing had dreams of being a chef. As a trail cook, he was invited to cook for a group of 30 wealthy, influential people who happened to be exploring the idea of a park service. When disaster struck several times, Tie’s experience, creativity, and ingenuity enabled him to continue to feed the group. More than that, it gave him the opportunity to remind them that protecting the mountains was their highest calling.

7 must-read children's books about inspiring Asian-Americans: The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung and Julie Kwon

A book about Hazel Ying Lee, pilot

In 1932, fewer than 1% of all pilots were women. At that time, no Chinese American woman had ever flown a plane at all. And yet Hazel Ying Lee was determined to fulfill her dreams, with perserverance that shines through in The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee (Amazon or bookshop.org) by Julie Leung, and lovingly illustrated by Julie Kwon. It’s a special picture book choice if you are looking for a children’s book about inspiring Asian-Americans who broke through some major glass ceilings. Especially because it reminds our children that the “names we know” aren’t always the only names to know.

And that’s why we always seek out and share diverse heroes in our children’s books in the first place.