During Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, TODAY shares community history, pain, joy and continuation for the AAPI movement. We’ll be posting personal essays, stories, videos, and specials throughout May.
As Asian American communities grapple with rising anti-Asian hatred, this year’s AAPI Heritage Month looks more urgent than ever.
For children learning identity, there is no better time to present various stories that reflect their experiences or expose them to the wider world.
We asked four best-selling authors to choose must-have children’s books for Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month in May. Our panelists are Joanna Ho, author of the “Kissing Eyes in the Corners” picture book; Karina Yan Glaser, author of the series “Vanderbeekers”; Rajani LaRocca, author of “Red, White and Whole”; and Minh Lê, author of “Drawn Together”.
Best Picture Books for AAPI Heritage Month
“Laxmi’s Mooch”, by Shelly Anand and Nabi H. Ali
“This is a cheerful and positive picture book about a Native American girl’s journey to come to terms with her hair after being teased about her mustache,” Ho says. is not only able to kiss, but she also shares this love with her friends at school. My 4 year old daughter loves this book and asks to read it every night before bed. “
“Watercress”, by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin
“This beautifully illustrated lyrical picture book draws on the author’s memories of his childhood in Ohio and how his parents stopped by the side of the road to pick wild watercress,” says Yan Glaser. . “While the task initially fills her with shame – she only wanted vegetables from the grocery store! – her feelings change as her mother recounts her own life growing up in China.”
“Calls of the Ocean: A Mermaid Haenyeo Story”, by Tina Cho and Jess X. Snow
LaRocca loves this wonderful picture book about “a young Korean girl who is afraid of the ocean even if she wants to be like her grandmother, a haenyeo who collects fish and shellfish from the sea, as these divers have been doing for ages. centuries. The grandmother – the granddaughter relationship is heartwarming and the illustrations are breathtaking. “
“Hannah’s Night”, by Komako Sakai
“I love this little miracle of a book, tiptoe with young Hannah as she wakes up in the middle of the night and walks through a quiet moonlit house,” says Le. “Sakai captures the magic and the (sometimes mischievous) pleasure of being awake and having the whole house to yourself.”
Best Graphic Novels for AAPI Heritage Month
“Up to it”, by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu
Ho and LaRocca both recommend this graphic novel about a girl who moves to Seattle from Taiwan and feels out of place. “Cici takes inspiration from both his grandmother and Julia Child in this sweet and fun story of friendship, family and fantastic food,” says LaRocca.
“Stargazing”, by Jen Wang
“This charming graphic novel tells the story of two very different girls living in the same Chinese-American community and how they realize the strength in themselves through their friendship with each other,” says Yan. Glaser. “The illustrations in this book are beautiful, full of humor and heart.”
“The magic fish”, by Trung Le Nguyen
“This one broke my heart in the best possible way,” said Le. “Weaving together fairy tales with heartfelt family tales, ‘The Magic Fish’ is a testament to the power of stories: the stories we read, the stories we share with the world, and the stories we tell ourselves.”
“The Prince and the Dressmaker”, by Jen Wang
Ho also likes this graphic novel by Jen Wang. “This romance between a genre-flowing prince and his best friend and fashion designer explores identity, love, friendship, family and dreams. It resists traditional fairy tales and recovers them in subtle and subversive ways.” , she says.
Best Documentary for AAPI Heritage Month
“All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team”, by Christina Soontornvat
Our panelists were unanimous in recommending this meticulously researched and Newbery Honor-awarded story of the 2018 rescue of a boys’ soccer team trapped in a cave in northern Thailand. LaRocca called it “absolutely captivating”.
“This brilliant book is also an example of the perspectives, nuances and stories that are brought out when Asians tell our own stories instead of having them told by others,” Ho added.
“It started with a page: How Gyo Fujikawa paved the way”, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad
Ho also likes this picture book about Gyo Fujikawa, the author-illustrator who in 1963 created a racially mixed babies book that helped pave the way for the struggle for representation in children’s books. “This is the story of a determined artist with a militant heart and explores several periods of history, including the Japanese internment in civil rights,” Ho says. “If that doesn’t sell you, maybe that the chubby, round baby pages at the end will! “
“Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist,” by Julie Leung and Chris Sasaki
“This superb picture book tells the incredible story of Tyrus Wong, who was only 9 years old when he boarded a boat with his father in China and headed for America,” explains Yan Glaser. “As an adult he attended art school while working as a janitor, and after graduation he became the artist who created the iconic illustration style for ‘Bambi’ from Disney. “
“From a whisper to a rallying cry: the murder of Vincent Chin and the trial that galvanized the Asian American movement”, by Paula Yoo
“This must-read is a masterpiece of narrative non-fiction as Yoo brings together his prodigious journalism and storytelling efforts to bring back the tragic story of Vincent Chin and the community activism it inspired,” says The. “In doing so, she traces well-worn patterns of racism and injustice that place the disturbing rise in anti-AAPI violence in significant historical context.”
Best Chapter and Mid-Level Books for AAPI Heritage Month
“When you trap a tiger”, by Tae Keller
“A young girl must strike a deal with a tiger as she sets out on a journey – inspired by Korean folklore – to unleash the power of history and save her grandmother,” Ho says. “This book is magical. I could write a book that was half as beautiful as this one day, and I will have achieved all of my goals as a writer. “
“Prairie Lotus”, by Linda Sue Park
“A true master of historical fiction, Linda Sue Park weaves a haunting story of a half-Chinese girl growing up in Dakota Territory in 1880 and the racism she encountered in the predominantly white town of La Forge,” said Yan Glaser.
“Unsettled”, by Reem Faruqi
This novel in verse tells the story of a young girl who moves from Pakistan to Georgia. “Playful and heartfelt, it’s a book about missed family and found friendship, about mistakes, speaking out and learning how to thrive in a new home,” says LaRocca.
“The House Lou Built”, by Mae Respicio
“Industrialist Lucinda ‘Lou’ Bulosan-Nelson plans to build a small house in a desperate attempt to prevent her family from moving to a new town,” Le says. “While her various projects don’t always work out, along the way she discovers hidden truths about the strength of her family and community, as well as the true meaning of home.
Best YA for AAPI Heritage Month
“The Downstairs Girl”, by Stacey Lee
“I have read everything Stacey Lee writes,” Ho says. “She is a master storyteller and often centers the stories and stories of Asian Americans in times that they have been completely erased in the mainstream narrative. . This book is hilarious even though it provides critical commentary on race and gender. “
“We are not free”, by Traci Chee
“This spellbinding book is told from the perspective of 14 Japanese American teenagers living in San Francisco and how their lives were turned upside down following the attack on Pearl Harbor,” says Yan Glaser.
“American Betiya”, by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
LaRocca recommends this novel “about Rani, a Native American teenage girl with a photographer’s eye who dreams of a medical school who experiences first love with a white American boy against his family’s traditions. Beautifully written, this story addresses racism. , identity and learning what you really want. “
“Darius the Great is not going”, by Adib Khorram
“One of my favorite long-time adulthood stories, Khorram takes us on a family trip to Iran with Darius, who drinks tea and enjoys ‘Star Trek’ – a trip that sparks a host of themes. complex, including cultural identity, language barriers and depression, “says Le.” At the heart of it all is a story about the power of friendship and how a true connection with another person can be a necessary liferaft. , something worth keeping in the middle of a storm.
Books from our panelists
“Eyes that kiss in the corners”, by Joanna Ho and Dung Ho
Joanna Ho’s first picture book, illustrated by Dung Ho, is an assertive ode to the beauty of eyes that “kiss in the corners and glow like hot tea.” In his eyes, she sees the warmth and beauty of her family in her own reflection.
“The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street”, by Karina Yan Glaser
Karina Yan Glaser’s chapter book series begins with a tight-knit biracial family working together to stay in their family home in Harlem. The Vanderbeekers bring a touch of diversity to classic children’s chapter book stories.
“Red, white and whole”, by Rajani LaRocca
Rajani LaRocca’s mid-level verse novel follows a Native American girl whose mother has been diagnosed with leukemia.
“Drawn Together”, by Minh Lê and Dan Santat
Minh Lê’s moving picture book of a boy bridging a generational gap with his grandfather shows a connection beyond language, with stunning illustrations by Dan Santat.