Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is almost over, but it’s always a good time to highlight children’s books that focus on Asian and Asian American cultures! I’m so pleased with the collection of books below because not only are they quite varied in style, they also show just how rich and diverse these cultures are. I also love that they explore Asian Pacific American heritage in ways that celebrate the past but are also very relevant to today’s readers.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of several of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Asian Pacific American Heritage: New Children’s Books
Enjoy this collection of new children’s books that celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage!
Without a doubt, one of my heroes in the blogging world is Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom. She is fearless, co-founding Multicultural Children’s Book Day to promote diversity in children’s books and also using her blog to shine a light on issues like the #MeToo movement in children’s literature. So I was delighted to discover that she is now a children’s book author herself!
Sumo Joe is her debut book, and it is a delightful look at martial arts from a child’s perspective. Sumo is one of those sports that most Americans love to joke about without really knowing much about it, so it’s wonderful to have a book that actually teaches kids about it in a fun way. We watch as Sumo Joe teaches his friends sumo moves and training, and for those that want to know more, there’s an illustrated glossary at the back of the book. But what will Sumo Joe do when his beloved younger sister wants to join in what has traditionally been a male sport? A charming book that is sure to win fans young and old.
Soon after I received my review copy of When Spring Comes to the DMZ, our Global Reads for Grownups Book Club had coincidentally started to read The Girl with Seven Names, a memoir of a defector from North Korea. So it was incredibly poignant to look at When Spring Comes to the DMZ, a gorgeous new children’s book that contrasts the natural beauty of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas with the harsh reality of the razor wire fence and lines of marching soldiers that surround it. Because the DMZ is a no man’s land, it has become a wildlife refuge, though a precarious one that is still full of landmines, under careful watch of heavily armed guards.
This book shows clearly the absurdity of war and the need to make the DMZ an area of true peace with the potential to reconnect a divided peninsula.
Ming’s Adventure in the Mogao Caves is a real treasure for anyone who loves religious or art history. Young readers, of course, will just appreciate it as a young boy’s enchanted adventure! Ming is traveling through the Gobi Desert to visit the famous Mogao Caves – a holy site and a treasury of Buddhist art – when a sandstorm separates him from his parents. He is saved by a nine-colored deer, who leads him to the caves.
Once there, Ming finds himself inside one of the cave’s murals, where he discovers he can use his magic paintbrush to help restore the animals in the painting. A lovely adventure story as well as a beautiful introduction to this important historical site.
Gondra’s Treasure is a fun read for any child that loves dragons, but especially those that comes from a intercultural family. Gondra’s parents are both dragons, but one is from the East and the other from the West. Gondra teaches us about what it’s like to have parents from different places: while Mom (from the West) breathes fire, Dad (from the East) breathes mist. Gondra, of course, can do both! (Though no fire breathing unless Mom or Dad is around!) A cute look at mixing cultures, as well as a fun comparison of how differently dragons are imagined in the different parts of the world.
Mina vs. the Monsoon is another fun read that also has a more serious message. Mina, an avid soccer player, is not happy when the monsoon rains begin. Though most others in her village celebrate the arrival of the rains because of the bounty they bring to the land, Mina can only think about how the monsoon rains will keep her indoors and away from her beloved soccer. Is there anything she can do to stop the rains from coming?
I love that this book shows such a tender relationship between Mina and her mother – and Mina’s surprise when she finds out her mother used to be a soccer player! There is a guide at the back to the Urdu and Hindi words that are sprinkled throughout the book, as well as more about why the author chose to feature a soccer playing girl in her book. In several states in northern India, communities are trying to combat child marriages by teaching girls to play soccer! Learning a sport gives the girls a sense of accomplishment and helps them think they can do more with their lives.
Pashmina I discovered not because it was related to Asian Pacific American heritage but simply because I was looking for a great graphic novel for my son. Pashmina was highly recommended, so we ordered it from our local library. When it came, neither of us could put it down!
It is the story of a young girl intrigued about her past, especially about India, the country her mother is from but never wants to talk about. One day she discovers a magical pashmina (a type of scarf) in her mother’s old suitcase. When she puts it on, she is transported to an enchanted version of India, though one in which she is followed by a mysterious shadow. It is only when she dares to travel to the real India that she is able to confront the mystery of her birth and her mother’s past, as well as the reality of life for women in India.
A beautiful coming of age story that is also woven with growing awareness of the difficulties faced by women in many parts of the world.