Growing up as a South Asian kid, I never came across a child in the books I was exposed to, who looked like me. While my white child heroes were busy feasting on donuts and ham sandwiches, I wanted someone who shares my enthusiasm for samosas and soan papdi. While the lack of representation did bother me as a kid, I didn’t have the political consciousness to willfully pick literature that tells my tale instead of featuring kids I could never relate to. So, here is a list of children’s literature for everyone looking to reinvent their childhood through books with characters of color, to finally discover a piece of themselves in their literary heroes.
Mama’s Saris By Pooja Makhijani
Our young protagonist has been eyeing her mother’s suitcase full of saris for a while now. Gauging her high regard for saris, she decides to dress her little girl up in a blue sari for her 7th birthday. A deep sense of nostalgia for a forgotten childhood and our deepest longing to playact as someone else, even if it’s just for a day, will strike a chord with every adult reading this book.
King For A Day By Rukhsana Khan
It’s that time of the year (no, I’m not talking about Christmas)! The spring festival Basant is here and Malik is all prepped up for the battle of kites. With his kite, Falcon, he does take other kites down. But his bully is not too happy with his success rate. To massage his hurt ego, he tries to snatch away the kite of a little girl. But our Malik is stronger and braver than anyone could have imagined. He will figure out the perfect solution to help the girl. A great book about the interrelation of traditional festivals and communal fraternity, this one is a must-read.
Amal Unbound By Aisha Saeed
Amal has a quiet but mostly peaceful life. Her ordinary background has never stopped her from dreaming about the day she would become a teacher. But being the eldest daughter, she is soon stopped from going to school as her younger siblings need her to attend to their needs. To make things worse she has to start working as a servant at her corrupt landlord’s house to pay off her family’s debts. However, perseverance saves the days. Her unwavering courage and determination to get her life back help her get back on the road leading to her dreams.
Bronze and Sunflower By Cao Wenxuan
A young city girl named Sunflower moves to the village and falls in love with the vastness of the sky, the friendly buffaloes, and the river that seems to have no definite ending. But more often than not she also feels lonely. Then Bronze, a village boy whose inability to speak has had him ostracized by his peers, comes into the picture. The kids become the best of friends. However, Bronze’s family is barely able to feed themselves and Sunflower staying with them makes things harder. Now the question is, will Sunflower be able to stay at a place where she has finally found a brother and the happiness that every child deserves?
A New Year’s Reunion By Yu Li-Qiong and Zhu Cheng Liang
Little Maomao’s father works in a faraway land and only comes home during the Chinese New Year. Maomao barely knows him, but every time he is home her family unites to make rice balls, listen to the firecrackers, and watch the dragon. Before she can completely immerse in the festivities of the upcoming year it’s always time for her father to leave. This book is an endearing tale of how families always find a way to convey and hold onto their love for each other even with miles keeping them apart.
The Umbrella Thief By Sybil Wettasinghe
Kiri Mama lives in a small Sri Lankan village. One day he visits the big city and comes across this amazing invention called ‘umbrellas’. He gets one for himself, but very soon it gets stolen. He will keep going back to the city and buying umbrellas but every time he will be robbed of his prized possession in some way or the other. He is determined to find out who the thief is and what comes next will indeed be a sweet little surprise for the readers.
The Story of a Pumpkin: A Traditional Tale from Bhutan By Hari Tiwari
A childless couple adopts a pumpkin who toils in their land until the day he leaves to find a wife. In a surprising turn of events, he gets married to a princess and breaks into pieces after falling off a mango tree. From the debris steps out a handsome young man. This folktale has been published both in English and Nepali. The kind, new residents of New Hampshire of Bhutanese origin have come up with the illustrations for this book, thus adding to its charm.