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Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage

A good book can open a child's eyes to new places, new customs. From family stories (Grandfather's Journey) to folktales (Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story) to feeling connected to a new culture (The Name Jar): discover the rich culture, humor, and traditions of Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Hawaii in this collection of picture books for kids 3-9 years old.

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic

By: Ginnie Lo
Illustrated by: Beth Lo
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

While on a visit to her aunt and uncle in Illinois, the narrator and her family unexpectedly find a field of growing soybeans which begins a 40 year tradition. Based on the author's experiences, text and child-like illustrations reveal a caring, surprisingly modern family story from times past.

Bee-Bim Bop!

By: Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by: Ho Baek Lee
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

What's better than just eating a favorite dish? Anticipating it while preparing it, of course! Rhythmic, rhyming language and playful illustrations capture the joy of making this special Korean dish — and the joy of sharing it.
Country of origin: Korea

Boy of the Three Year Nap

By: Dianne Snyder
Illustrated by: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Though Taro is known for his laziness, he is also clever and so finds a way to become wealthy. Realistic illustrations place Taro and his mother in a long ago Japan in this spritely retelling of a traditional trickster tale.

Crouching Tiger

By: Ying Chang Compestine
Illustrated by: Yan Nascimbene
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When Vinson's grandfather visits from China, the boy has conflicting feelings about his grandfather's old ways. A visit to Chinatown to experience the lion dancers celebrate the Chinese New Year bring Ming Da (Vinson) and his grandfather closer. Watercolor and ink illustrations add power to the warm, plausible story.

El Chino

By: Allen Say
Illustrated by: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

This remarkable story is based on the life of Billy Wong, a Chinese-American who travels to Europe, becomes fascinated with bullfighting, and decides to become a matador. Eventually, Billy's determination and recognition of what makes him unique helps him realize his dream. Luminous watercolors illustrate this sensitive picture book biography.

Froggy Goes to Hawaii

By: Jonathan London
Illustrated by: Frank Remkiewicz
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Once you've joined Froggy and his family on their Hawaiian vacation, find out more about what many have called a tropical paradise in the Pacific Ocean. You can read about the geography of the Aloha State in Hawaii.
Country of origin: Hawaii, USA

Grandfather's Journey

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Say narrates the saga of his grandfather who as a young man travels to the United States in the early 20th century, marries, and returns to Japan. Watercolor portraits of people and places glimpse the contrast of cultures and parallel the lives of grandfather and grandson. It could lead to a discovery of family histories.
Country of origin: Japan

How My Parents Learned to Eat

By: Ina Friedman
Illustrated by: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When an American sailor meets a Japanese woman, they both try in secret to learn the other's way of eating. Their courtship and growing love culminates in marriage. This realistic family story explores cultural similarities and differences and is told with humor and honesty by the couple's daughter.

Hush! A Thai Lullaby

By: Minfong Ho
Illustrated by: Holly Meade
Age Level: 0-3
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

A loving mother asks animals from a water buffalo to a lizard to "hush" so her baby can sleep. Once the noises stop, the mother herself sleeps — and the baby is now awake! Textured illustrations evoke the Thai setting and convey the understated humor of this unique bedtime book.

Kamishibai Man

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

An elderly kamishibai man travels the route on which he once told stories using his paper theater. Though the city is now crowded and noisy, the children — now grown — remember and stop once more. A note about kamishibai and stunning illustrations create broad reader appeal.

Kimonos

By: Annalore Parot
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Traditional wooden Kokeshi dolls inspired this introduction to Japanese words and culture while presenting a participatory book with flaps to lift, fold-outs and more.

Kite Flying

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The young narrator describes how she and her family each contribute to a handsome kite which they then enjoy flying. Signature illustrations show traditional Chinese kite designs combined with an author's note about kite history. The result is the celebration of an ebullient family tradition that readers may want to take up themselves!

Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel/Si Lakas at ang Makibaka Hotel

By: Anthony Robles
Illustrated by: Carl Angel
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This engaging story of how one community comes together to save their home is told in English and in Tagalog. Bright illustrations help move the story of successful resistance along while conveying a bit of Filipino history and culture.
Country of origin: Philippines

Red Kite, Blue Kite

By: Ji-li Jiang
Illustrated by: Greg Ruth
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Tai Shan and his father fly kites from "the tippy-top of our triangle roof" where they are free like the kites. Tai Shan's is small, nimble, and red while Baba's is a strong, large blue kite. The widow and his son are separated during China's Cultural Revolution though are ultimately reunited. A difficult period is touchingly presented while remaining child-friendly.

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo

By: Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by: Istvan Banyai
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Like haiku, sijo – a little known, brief poetic form from Korea – looks at everyday activities from breakfast to the weather. Sophisticated illustrations complement the seemingly simple language to delight readers and listeners.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

As they did for the Lunar New Year, each family member contributes to the preparations for the mid-autumn moon festival. Their special picnic includes mooncakes and tea as well as affection. An author's note not only informs but may inspire other celebrations.

The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale

By: Yumi Heo
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Have you wondered why frogs croak on the edge of streams? It all started long ago with two disobedient frog brothers who decided to obey their long-suffering mother only after her death. Humor and grimness combine for a memorable Korean pourquoi tale.
Country of origin: Korea

The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China

By: Ed Young
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

With war approaching, Baba (the author's father) builds a sturdy home for his family in Shanghai. The family, their activities, and house unfold in stunning, varied art and lyrical language in an expansive format to reveal a glimpse of an historical time through the lens of one family.

The Name Jar

By: Yangsook Choi
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she? Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her.

The Seven Chinese Sisters

By: Kathy Tucker
Illustrated by: Grace Lin
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Sisters each use their special talent while working together to save the sister who was snatched by a not-too-scary dragon. Uncluttered illustrations add detail to the crisply told original tale likely inspired by a Chinese folktale.
Country of origin: China
 

The Trip Back Home

By: Janet Wong
Illustrated by: Bo Jia
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Based on the author's experience, a child visits the village in Korea where her mother lived before immigrating to America. The simplicity of the text provides rich details of everyday life in the small Korean village, enhanced by realistic illustrations.

The Ugly Vegetables

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.

Toad Is the Uncle of Heaven: A Vietnamese Folktale

By: Jeanne Lee
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The small toad, with the help of other animals, gets the attention of the Emperor of Heaven to end Earth's drought before all is destroyed. There is humor in this colorfully illustrated, respectful retelling of a traditional folktale.
Country of origin: Vietnam

Tree of Cranes

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The narrator recalls his first Christmas in Japan and why his mother decorated a tree with a thousand paper cranes as she relives her holidays in California. Based on a family story, Say's illustrations evoke a holiday in two cultures.

Tuko and the Birds: A Tale from the Philippines

By: Shirley Climo
Illustrated by: Francisco Mora
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Birds sing the people of Maynilad on the Philippine island of Luzon to sleep at night — until Tuko the haughty gecko prevents the birds from doing their job. Repetition and onomatopoeic animal sounds make this a lively, memorable folktale to share aloud. Tagalog is sprinkled throughout and is included in a glossary.
Country of origin: Philippines

Wabi Sabi

By: Mark Reibstein
Illustrated by: Ed Young
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Lyrical text and rich collage illustrations combine to tell the story of a brown cat named Wabi Sabi as he discovers the meaning of his name. As Wabi Sabi's journey unfolds so, too, does the reader's understanding of Japanese culture and sensibility.
Country of origin: Japan

What Will You Be, Sara Mee?

By: Kate Avraham
Illustrated by: Anne Sibley O'Brien
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

On Sara Mee's first birthday, her family made sure to have a tol, a celebration based in an ancient custom that includes guests, special foods, and gifts for the child that will predict what the child will be when he or she grows up. Realistic illustrations capture the warmth of Sara Mee's family, her birthday festivity, and the warm relationship shared with her older brother. An author's note and glossary round out this attractive book

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China

By: Ai-Ling Louie, Ed Young
Illustrated by: Ed Young
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Based on an ancient Chinese story (which pre-dates European versions), a girl overcomes her wicked stepmother to marry the prince. Jewel-like illustrations by Caldecott medalist Ed Young bring this variation of the classic tale to life.
Country of origin: China

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Dr. Joanne Meier
February 14, 2014
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