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Inspiring Lives: Asian Pacific American Heritage

A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

By: James Yang
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Stones look like birds. And birds look like stones. Imagine a day in the boyhood of Japanese American artist, Isamu Noguchi. Wandering through an outdoor market, through the forest, and then by the ocean, Isamu sees things through the eyes of a young artist ... but also in a way that many children will relate. 

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

By: Misuzu Kaneko
Illustrated by: Toshikado Hajiri
Genre: Biography, Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This sensitively crafted picture book offers a glimpse into the life and work of Japanese poet Kaneko (1903–30). Accompanied by colorful, soft illustrations, the first half recounts Kaneko's short life along with a selection of her poems that thematically complement the text. The second half is a larger (also illustrated) collection of her poems in English and Japanese.

Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us

Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us

By: Analiza Quiroz Wolf
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This book sharesthe stories of 16 trailblazing Asian Americans. The stories bring to life Vietnam Memorial architect Maya Lin, Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, musician Yo-Yo Ma, astronaut Ellison Onizuka, anchorwoman Lisa Ling, activists Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, and more! Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, discover role models, and meet ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Whether they were breaking Olympic records, bringing education to millions of people around the world, or speaking up for the rights of others, these Asian Americans broke stereotypes and took a stand to make the world a better place. 

El Chino

El Chino

By: Allen Say
Genre: Nonfiction
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.

Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight: Patsy Takemoto Mink and the Fight for Title IX

Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight: Patsy Takemoto Mink and the Fight for Title IX

By: Jen Bryant
Illustrated by: Toshiki Nakamura
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Meet Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first Asian American woman elected to Congress. From a young age, Mink learned that striving for goals came with challenges, but to never give up. As the Japanese proverb says: fall down seven times, stand up eight. That spirit helped Patsy through school. She went to law school, ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress, and helped create Title IX, the law that requires federally funded schools to treat boys and girls equally.

Fever: How Tu Youyou Adapted Traditional Chinese Medicine to Find a Cure for Malaria

Fever: How Tu Youyou Adapted Traditional Chinese Medicine to Find a Cure for Malaria

By: Darcy Pattison
Illustrated by: Peter Willis
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Courage, resilience, and perseverance — follow the struggles of Nobel Prize scientist Tu Youyou as she works to find a cure to malaria. Working in the 1970s, Chinese scientist Tu Youyou reviewed the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) scrolls for ideas on where to start her research. She found 640 traditional treatments, and methodically started extracting compounds and testing them against malaria. Would any of them work?

Finish the Fight

Finish the Fight

By: Veronica Chambers
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

“It took the better part of a century to pass a law saying American women had the right to vote.” The 19th Amendment was the result of a massive effort by “tons of women beyond Susan and Elizabeth’s demographic…” Black, Native, Asian, and white women who contributed are presented here in an attractive format to broaden the understanding of women’s history.

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Fall) of a Rock Climbing Champion

How to Solve a Problem: The Rise (and Fall) of a Rock Climbing Champion

By: Ashima Shiraishi
Illustrated by: Yao Xiao
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Not everyone aspires to be a champion rock climber like Ashima. Her skill and passion grow with practice and study. The athlete’s story is likely to provide inspiration for all those who aim for greatness in any field. Color illustrations capture the climber’s determination.

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education

Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education

By: Raphaële Frier
Illustrated by: Aurelia Fronty
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Malala’s story is one of the resilience that comes from strong conviction. It is told through a present tense narrative and dramatic, vivid, stylized illustrations. The early life of the girl and her supportive family, her struggle against the Taliban and her ultimate recovery from a murder attempt is further enhanced by extensive back matter which includes photographs and additional information and resources. 

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

By: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrated by: Dow Phumiruk
Genre: Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

You may be familiar with the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But do you know about the artist-architect who created this landmark? As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is the story of an inspiring American artist: the visionary artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites

By: Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence
Illustrated by: Yuko Jones
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Readers are invited to “Come. Sit. Taste…” a female chef’s determination to succeed. Chef Niki became known for the fusion of Japanese and American foods bringing a unique flavor to America. A brief discussion of kuyashii (defeated feeling) and kaiseki (a traditional Japanese feast) plus a Wonton Pizza recipe concludes this fascinating book.

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

By: Paula Yoo
Illustrated by: Lin Wang
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Anna May Wong grew up in San Francisco in the 1920s, working diligently in her family's laundromat but secretly daydreaming of becoming a movie star. When she set out to realize her dream, she soon discovered the lack of opportunity in Hollywood for Asian American actors. After traveling in Europe and China, Anna May ultimately decided to portray only roles she felt presented a positive image of Asians, leading the way for the many actors who followed in her footsteps.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

By: Paula Yoo
Illustrated by: Dom Lee
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As an Asian American child growing up in California, Sammy Lee was only allowed to use the public pool on Wednesdays. But Sammy was not easily deterred from his dream of becoming an Olympic diver, and at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, he became the first Asian American to win a gold medal in U.S. history. 

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee

By: Marissa Moss
Illustrated by: Carl Angel
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The true story of one of only two Chinese-American women to fly for the U.S. Air Force during World War II, is told as though by Maggie Gee herself. Her dream of flying became reality because of a dream and determination. An author's note provides a short glimpse into where and what the actual Maggie Gee does today as well as period photographs.

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

By: Ellie Crowe, Richard Waldrep
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

"The Pacific Ocean was Duke's backyard." So begins the tale of Duke Kahanamoku, often considered the "Father of Modern Surfing." Duke won six Olympic medals as a swimmer, but surfing was his passion. Duke, who encountered discrimination throughout his lifetime, was also a hero, saving eight people singlehandedly from a capsized boat in 1925. Readers will enjoy discovering the story behind Duke's unforgettable legacy.

The Inker’s Shadow

The Inker’s Shadow

By: Allen Say
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The author/illustrator’s look back at his early years started in Drawing from Memory (2011) continues here. Allen doesn’t really fit in at his father’s friend’s Southern California military academy.  Leaving it was the start of a journey toward finding the artist within. Told through a variety of artistic pieces and styles and a highly person narration, readers will empathize and ache with this Caldecott winning artist. 

The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani

The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka’iulani

By: Fay Stanley
Illustrated by: Diane Stanley
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hawai'i was once an independent country ruled by a royal family. But, while Princess Ka'iulani was at school in England in the 1800s, the small island nation became part of the United States — and she never got a chance to become queen. This intriguing, quiet, bittersweet story presents a little known period and a real-life princess. It is a well-told and handsome book was created by a mother-daughter team.

The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan

The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan

By: Kristen Mai Giang
Illustrated by: Alina Chau
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Pow! Bam! Wow! Jackie Chan has been making movies and amazing audiences with his original and comedic stunts for decades. But before he was an international star, Jackie grew up in relative poverty in China, studied martial arts at the grueling China Drama Academy, and worked for years trying to find his way in film. Discover how Jackie used his goofball acrobatics to make a name and a style all his own.

Two at the Top: A Shared Dream of Everest

Two at the Top: A Shared Dream of Everest

By: Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrated by: Christopher Corr
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary each tell their story, culminating in their thrilling ascent of Mount Everest. Norgay grew up in Nepal, herding yaks in the shadow of Chomolungma, the mountain also known as Everest. He has always dreamed of climbing to the top. He becomes a guide, leading treks through the Himalayas. Across the ocean, in New Zealand, Hillary grew up tending his father’s bees. He climbed his first mountain at sixteen and has climbed all over the world ever since. In 1953, the two men set out on the same expedition to climb Everest. They tramp over windswept glaciers, crawl across rope bridges, hack footholds in the ice … until finally they reach the top of the world!

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