Included on this page are titles that encompass the cultures from the countries of the Asian continent (including Middle Eastern countries), islands and Asian Americans.
A Different Pond: by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui; Vietnamese/Vietnamese American. A reflective story from the author’s childhood of very early morning fishing with his father, a former Vietnamese soldier. His father rarely speaks of his time in Vietnam, but mentions he used to fish with his brother at a different pond in Vietnam. Elementary and older.
Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq: written and illustrated by Mark Alan Stamaty; Graphic Novel, Iraqui; In 2003, US and British forces invaded Iraq in an attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussien. Head Librarian of the Central Library in Basra, Iraq, Alia Muhammad Baker, orchestrated the removal and protection of over 30,000 books from her library before and during the attacks. Non-fiction, late elementary and older.
Beautiful Warrior: The Legend of the Nun’s Kung Fu written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully; Chinese. Jingyon’s father does not want his daughter raised to be a typical Chinese lady, passing the time idly and having her feet bound, so he has her train with the boys in art, literature, music, medicine and martial arts. When the Manchu warriors attack her city, ending the Ming Dynasty, and Jingyong is separated from her family, she joins a Buddhist monastery where she learns the art of Kung Fu. Afterward/Author’s Note after the story. Middle to late elementary due to length.
The Boy and the Bindi: by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Rajni Perera; Indian/Hindi. A young boy asks his mother about the “dot” between her eyes, her bindi. The story gives a general overview of what a bindi is, but there is little reference to Indian or Hindu culture, aside from the illustrations depicting Indian characters who wear bindis. Would be a good starting point for research and discussion. Elementary and older.
The Firekeeper’s Son: by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Julie Downing; Korean. Sang-hee’s father is a firekeeper for the king in Korea. When he is injured, will Sang-hee be able to take his place lighting the fire and keep Korea safe? Historical fiction. Author’s note explaining the significance of the firekeepers. Elementary and older.
How My Parents Learned to Eat: by Ina R. Friedman, illustrated by Allen Say; Japanese/Japanese American. A young, Japanese American girl tells the story of how her American father, stationed in Japan, and Japanese mother met and how they learned to eat with utensils unfamiliar to each other (forks and chopsticks) to get to know each other better. Elementary and older.
Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories: by Florence Sakade, illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki; Japanese. A collection of traditional children’s stories from Japan featuring origin stories, morality tales and talking animals. Most stories are just a few pages long. Recommended for elementary and older.
One Leaf Rides the Wind: by Celeste Davidson Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung; Japanese. A series of 10 haiku poems accompany illustrations depicting a traditional Japanese garden and its various characteristics. On each page there is a small, detailed description of the characteristic being portrayed. There is a short afterward about Japanese gardens and haiku. Recommended for elementary and older.
Sadako: by Eleanor Coeri, illustrated by Ed Young; Japan - Hiroshima. Based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl affected by the Hiroshima atom bomb. Sadako developed leukemia from the effects of the bomb, and while in the hospital, attempted to fold 1,000 paper cranes. This story is not the full, accurate account of her life and death, but could be a starting point to researching it. Middle elementary and older.
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad: pictures and story by James Rumford; Iraqi. A your boy from Baghdad loves writing in calligraphy and uses calligraphy as a means to keep himself calm during the bombings and conflicts that began in 2003. Author’s Note at the end about Arabic calligraphy. Middle elementary and older.
So Far from the Sea: by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet; Japanese American internment. A family visits the site of the Manzanar War Relocation CAmp to put flowers on a grave there. The father in the story lived there as a child and tells his children about his experiences as they walk the grounds. Recommended for middle elementary and older.
Tea with Milk: written and illustrated by Allen Say; Japanese American. May was born in America to Japanese parents, grew up in the American way and learned to drink her tea with milk, like her American friends. When her parents move her back to Japan, they want her to follow the Japanese ways and forget her American upbringing. Elementary and older.
They Called Us Enemy: by George Takei and Justin Eisinger, art by Steven Scott and Harmony Becker; Japanese American internment. Graphic novelization of George Takei (of Star Trek fame) and his family’s time and treatment in the Japanese American internment camps during World War II. Recommended for middle school and older.
Wabi Sabi: by Mark Reibstein, art by Ed Young; Japanese. Using Japanese literary forms Haiku and Haibum, we learn what “Wabi Sabi” is in the Japanese culture, from the viewpoint of a cat named Wabi Sabi who goes on an adventure through Japan. Explanations of Wabi Sabi, Haiku, Haibum and the imagery throughout the story are provided in the back of the book. Recommended for elementary and older.
Available on MelCat:
Magic Ramen: by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz; Japanese. After World War II, Momofuku Ando noticed the long lines of people waiting for food, specifically: ramen. He set out to make it faster and easier to make ramen, and is known as the creator of instant ramen. Elementary and older.
Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant & Artist: by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki; Chinese. This is the true story of artist Tyrus Wong, who endured being separated from his father when he first arrived in America from China, and how he came into his own and persevered to make it as a successful artist (including working with Disney Studios). Late elementary and older.