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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 and Sarah Burns

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.

Perfect for Preschoolers

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

Roaring Book Press

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.

Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth

What’s in a name? When Anjali gets the bike she’s longed for, she’s super excited to get a matching license plate like her friends have.There’s plenty of “A” names like Alice, Anne, and Ashley – but no Anjali. Other kids are no help either, and even make fun of her for having a “different” name.  Angali is determined to change her name, but her parents object. More determined than ever, Angali takes matters into her own hands, and learns what’s really in a name. 

Bravo Anjali by Sheetal Sheth

Back with another heartwarming story, Anjali has been practicing the tabla, and that practice paid off – she’s pretty good! But not everyone can keep up, and it seems like the harder she works to become a better drummer, the meaner the other kids are. This is a tale about letting your light shine bright for the world to see, and teaches kids to never diminish themselves for anyone, or anything!

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel

Ganesha is a magical little kid with the head of an elephant, a mouse friend as his primary form of transportation, and a weakness for sweets. His weakness gets the better of him in the form of an ever-lasting jawbreaker laddoo – and it breaks poor Ganesha’s tusk! Ganesha is distraught, but wise Vyasa helps him to see that sometimes what appears to be broken is exactly the right fix. Vibrantly and adorably illustrated, this is an updated twist on a classic tale, filled with humor, and brilliantly expressive characters. 

Tiny Travelers China Treasures by Susie Jaramillo

Explore the treasure of China in this colorful, page-turning quest! Visit the city of Shanghai, learn about the Great Wall, discover interesting facts, and take in the beautiful illustrations. You’ll learn more about delicious foods, the mysteries of the Forbidden City, traditional clothing and so much more in this engaging “search and find” adventure! 

Elementary School Reads

Little People, BIG DREAMS: Mahatma Gandhi by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Little People, BIG DREAMS offers up this charmingly illustrated introduction to the father of India. Follow the life of Mahandas Gandhi from his early childhood when he first learned and embraced Hindu principles, to the rebellious young adult who challenged his parent’s values. He would go on to lead protests that would peacefully put an end to British rule in India, and emerge as one world’s most influential civil rights activists. 

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh

Union Square Kids

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.

Little People Big Dreams: Malala Yousafzai by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Malala Yousafzai was still just a little girl living in Pakistan when her parents told her she could be anything she dreamed. But what do you do when your government tells you you can’t go to school? Malala protested – her voice and message were so powerful that they scared her cowardly opponents, who made an attempt on her life. She awoke in a hospital in England, where she spent many months in and out of surgeries, and eventually recovered. Malala continued her studies at Oxford University, and has committed her life to fighting for the right of girls and women worldwide to receive the education they deserve.  

A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu

A-Morning-with-Grandpa-9781620141922

Lee & Low Books

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!

Little People, BIG DREAMS: Bruce Lee by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

A San Francisco native, young Bruce Lee was raised in Hong Kong where he quickly became a child film star. When he stirred up trouble in his teens, Lee’s father sent him to live in America. There weren’t many roles for Asian American actors, but Lee’s martial art’s skills wowed American audiences. He would go one to star in Blockbuster film hits, and created a long-lasting cultural frenzy that encompassed the practice, teachings, and principals of martial arts. 

Middle Grade Books

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte

Measuring Up Book

HarperCollins

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

While I was Away Book

HarperCollins

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

a-pho-love-story-3d

Simon & Schuster

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

We Are Not Free Traci Chee

Clarion/HarperCollins

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

Frankly+In+Love+med

Penguin Young Readers Group

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 is Here

Scholastic

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.