20 Children’s Books To Read by AAPI Writers and Illustrators
This list of children’s books by AAPI writers and illustrators was originally published in our children’s books newsletter, The Kids Are All Right. Sign up for it here to get children’s books news, reviews, deals, and more!
I write this newsletter with a heavy heart. After a year of rising anti-Asian hate, we witnessed the murder of six Asian women in Georgia on Tuesday as well as attacks on and murders of Asian elders across America. As an Asian-American woman, I am devastated by the news. This past Friday, I took over Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers’ Instagram account (my publisher) to recommend books by Asian authors and illustrators. I thought I would share these books with you, as I truly believe that one of the things we can do is read and recommend diverse stories so our new generation can be surrounded by stories of different cultures and experiences.
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
I love Ellen Oh and her fantasy series. Spirit Hunters is a deliciously chilling story about Harper Raine, the new 7th grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother.
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
Also check out Newbery Medal winner When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, a gorgeous book based on Korean folklore about the perils of bargaining with tigers.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
I love Grace Lin’s fantasy trilogy beginning with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the story of a young girl named Minli who sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune.
A Wish In The Dark by Christina Soontornvat
And one of my favorite books published in 2020, A Wish In The Dark by Christina Soontornvat, is a Les Miserables-inspired fantasy set in Thailand about a boy named Pong who discovers that life outside of the prison he grew up in is no fairer than the one behind bars.
These three picture books are all about family, one of my favorite book themes.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui
Check out A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, a gorgeous book about a father and his son waking up in the early morning to fish.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and Dung Ho
I love Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho, a book that celebrates of Asian-shaped eyes.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat
Drawn Together by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat is a book I’ve given to so many friends. It’s a gorgeous story of a young boy and his grandfather and how they cross a cultural divide through art.
I have a video up talking my nonfiction recommendations — check it out on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers’s Instagram account. Books mentioned are All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat, Paper Son by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki, and The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung, illustrated by Julie Kwon.
The Boring Book by Shinsuke Yoshitake
If your young readers love silly picture books, check out The Boring Book by Shinsuke Yoshitake, a book about that universal phrase: “I’m so bored!” (Another favorite of mine by Shinsuke Yoshitake is I Can Be Anything, which is hilarious!)
Hooray for Books! by Brian Won
Hooray for Books! by Brian Won is a love letter to books by a turtle who has misplaced his absolute favorite story
Bus! Stop! by James Yang
I love the unique size of Bus! Stop! by James Yang, a funny story about trying to find the right bus.
I have another video with some more wonderful picture books, which you can see on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers’s Instagram account. The books mentioned are The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Alina Chau, Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi, Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak, The Piano Recital by Akiko Miyakoshi, and Drawing from Memory by Allen Say.
Here are some recommendations from my favorite genre, middle grade realistic fiction.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Hello, Universe, the Newbery Medal winning book by Erin Entrada Kelly, is a story told in four points of view on one day where their lives intersect in surprising and important ways.
Checked by Cynthia Kadohata
Checked by Cynthia Kadohata is one of my favorite middle grade books. It’s beautiful story about a boy who loves hockey who has to put aside lessons so his dog Sinbad can have cancer treatments.
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh is a poignant book about a lonely seventh grader learning to find her way in the world.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Author Extraordinaire, the first book in a wonderful series by Susan Tan, is great for younger middle grade readers who are looking for a spunky, hilarious heroine.
I love graphic novels, and there are so many great ones being published these days.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
For upper middle grade readers, I highly recommend Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops. This autobiographical graphic novel is about Gene’s time as a high school teacher and his friendship with the basketball coach and the Varsity basketball team, the Dragons.
Stargazing by Jen Wang
This is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time! Jen Wang’s Stargazing is a beautiful story of a young girl who befriends her neighbor.
The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Konata
And finally, my favorite cat book! The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Konata is a wonderful series about a young cat discovering the world.
I have learned so much from reading historical fiction. Laurence Yep was one of the first Asian authors I read as a child. He is a true trailblazer! And, of course, I couldn’t just share one book by the legendary Linda Sue Park — I had to share three!
Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
Dragonwings was inspired by the story of a Chinese immigrant who created a flying machine in 1909, and his story touches on the struggles and dreams of Chinese immigrants navigating opportunity and prejudice in San Francisco.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Linda Sue is my hero, and I just adore all of her historical fiction books. A Single Shard is about a young boy who is tasked with bringing pottery from a master artisan to the Korean royal commission.
The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park
The Kite Fighters is set in 15th century Korea about two brothers with a passion for flying kites.
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
And finally, Prairie Lotus is about a half-Asian girl growing up in America’s heartland in 1880 facing deep rooted prejudice within the community she lives in.
Sending you peace in this turbulent time. To continue the conversation, find me on Twitter at @KarinaYanGlaser, on Instagram at @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting, or email me at KarinaBookRiot@gmail.com.