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Great Books to Read for AAPI Heritage Month

From picture books to YA, these page-turning picks center Asian American and Pacific Islander stories.

Margo Gothelf · 7 months ago

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kids books for AAPI heritage month

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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by reading books that center AAPI stories, experiences, and everyday heroes in a way no history book can (no offense, 4th grade history teacher). Dive into these excellent stories, from YA novels to picture books.

Picture Books

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

From New York Times best-selling author Joanna Ho, Eyes That Kiss in the Corners celebrates beauty in all its forms through a young Asian girl who becomes aware that her eyes look different from her classmates'. With lyrical text and beautiful illustrations, this picture book reinforces a powerful message about self-love and family pride.

I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne

I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne shows that nothing's stronger or more loving than the bond between a granddaughter and her grandmother. The heartwarming book tells the tale of a young girl and her family as they immigrate from Taiwan to America. In her new life, she discovers just how much she misses her Popo, but learns along that way that nothing can truly separate them. The gorgeous illustrations from Julia Kuo help the emotional story pop right off the page.

A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu

Old traditions combine with new ideas in Slyvia Liu's picture book, A Morning with Grandpa. The heartwarming story follows Mei Mei and her grandfather, Gong Gong, as they try to teach each other tai chi and yoga, respectively. The lovely story shows just how strong the bond between a granddaughter and grandfather can be, despite the age difference. By the end of this book, you'll also be ready to try out some new movements!

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

For Harpreet Singh, no color is too much. The young Indian-American boy finds a way to express himself in color through his patka — his turban — bringing out every color of the rainbow. However, when his mom gets a new job, his family is forced to move to a new town, which seems to cause Harpreet to lose his ability to express himself through color. The young boy finds himself stuck in a world of grey, unable to connect with his new classmates. Read along to see how Harpreet gains back his shine and love for color in this beautiful picture book by Supriya Kelkar.

Middle Grade Books

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte

Cici has just moved to Taiwan from Seattle and is determined to celebrate her A-má's birthday. The only problem? Cici doesn't have any money to buy a plane ticket to go visit her A-má. Her solution? Win a kids' cooking contest and buy a ticket using the prize money! However, Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food, and she's convinced she'll have to learn how to cook American-style food — and fast — to win. Follow along on Cici's journey as she learns to combine her cultures and finds herself along the way.

While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown

Growing up in Kansas, Waka's parents fear she is straying too far from her Japanese background. To make sure she understands where she comes from, Waka's parents send her to live in Tokyo for five months with her stubborn grandmother. As Waka adjusts to life in Japan, she has never felt more alone: She can't understand how to read and write the language and is the outcast of her class. Even though Waka is Japanese, she has never felt more out of place than living in her parent's home country. Follow Waka's adventure to see how she will figure out where she belongs and how she connects back to her family's roots in this debut memoir from Waka T. Brown. 

Young Adult Books

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

On paper, Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai couldn't be more opposite. Bao prefers to blend in the background, while Linh wants to be front and center. The only thing they have in common? They both work at their family's pho restaurants, which have been locked in a feud for as long as they can remember. When they are forced to work together on the school newspaper, they realize they actually have a lot in common and wonder what took them so long to connect. However, they are quickly forced back into reality when they realize their disputing families are the reason they have stayed apart for so long. 

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

Critically acclaimed and New York Times best-selling author Traci Chee travels back in time to World War II for her latest novel, We Are Not Free. The National Book Award Finalist follows the lives of fourteen close-knit Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens who are living in Japantown, San Francisco. When the government forces them and their community into incarceration camps, their lives are quickly turned upside down. However, the Nisei learn they must stick together before fear pulls them apart.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Growing up as a Korean-American, Frank Li has always connected more to his American side. No one, not even his parents, call him by his Korean name Sung-Min, he barely speaks the Korean language, and overall relates more to being an American teen. His parents, however, still expect him to date and eventually marry a Korean girl. This doesn't seem like a problem until Frank falls in love with Britt, a white girl. As Frank tries to hide this from his parents, he enlists his family friend Joy Song — who finds herself in a similar bind — to help solve his problem. Frank is hopeful that this will work until a curveball falls in his lap, changing everything. Follow along on Frank's adventure as he discovers his culture and his self-identity in this much-praised debut novel from David Yoon. 

Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan

Zara Hossain has always tried to lay low. The Pakistani teen has always gone through the motions living in Texas, trying to stay out of any trouble so her family can receive their green cards to stay in America. Things seem to be going in her direction — that is, until a popular football player at her school targets Zara with a threatening note, stirring up a controversy that she never asked for. The situation only gets worse and ultimately puts both Zara's future and her family at risk. The timely novel from Sabina Khan spotlights what it means to be an immigrant teen growing up in today's America.