31 Children's Books to Celebrate AAPI Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! During this month, we recognize the contributions the AAPI community has made to American history, culture, industry, science, education and more.
Celebrate with the children in your life by reading some of these beautiful books by AAPI authors and illustrators. These books represent a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and tell all kinds of stories, from ancient myths and morals, to biographies of influential people, to modern stories of navigating different cultural identities, to celebrating traditions together with loved ones and experiencing the joy of family, to simply growing up and learning new things.
This list of 31 books, a book for each day of the month, was curated from General Board of Church and Society’s Sacred Worth Books database. Sacred Worth Books was created with the recognition that our earliest understandings of ourselves and others are often related to what we see around us, including our family and close community, books and other media. This in addition contributes to the way we understand how God views us and others. The Sacred Worth Books list exists in order to provide families and church libraries access to picture books that represent a diverse array of main characters, so that children may decrease the bias they learn as they get older, value all children as part of God’s creation, and see themselves represented in affirming ways as part of the big tapestry God has woven.
Some of these books represent NEW additions to our database! We love receiving book recommendations for our list, so if there’s a book you or the kids in your life love, contribute to the Sacred Worth Books database!
A Different Pond by Bao Phi, Illustrated by Thi Bui This 2018 Caldecott Honor Book tells the story of a boy named Bao who goes fishing early one morning with his father in Minneapolis. As they fish for food for their family, Bao’s father tells him about the pond where he once fished in Vietnam.
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, Illustrated by Charlene Chua Amy loves to make bao with her family, but hasn’t quite mastered all the skills required to make this dish yet! With a great idea and her family’s help, can she finally achieve the perfect bao? Also check out the second book in the series, Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon!
Asian Americans Who Inspire Us by Analiza Quiroz Wolf with Michael Franco Illustrated short biographies of 16 Asian-Americans whose trailblazing work shaped our country and the world.
Awesome Asian Americans: 20 Stars Who Made America Amazing by Phil Amara and Oliver Chin, Illustrated by Juan Calle This book is a collection of mini-biographies of famous Asian Americans featuring colorful and captivating comic-book style illustrations. The book highlights 10 women and 10 men, from activists, to artists, to athletes and more, from various backgrounds, who have made a difference in American art, culture, science, business, and politics.
Bee-Bim Bop! By Linda Sue Park, Illustrated by Ho Baek Lee This rhyming tale follows a Korean-American girl helping her mama to cook a delicious dinner of bee-bim bop from shopping at the grocery store to enjoying eating with her family. There is even a recipe for the dish at the end of the book, so that your family can make it, too!
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, Illustrated by Lillian Hsu Marisa, who lives in Oahu, helps her family, made up of many diverse backgrounds, to make dumpling soup for a New Year celebration. The celebration is made up of many different traditions and many different kinds of food, and the family’s joy and love jump off the page as they enjoy every bit of it together.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho A Chinese-American girl sees the beauty in her own eyes reflected in the eyes of her mother, grandmother, and little sister. A gorgeously written and illustrated story about appreciating one’s history, culture, and unique beauty.
Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq, Illustrated by Stevie Lewis Fatima, an Indian-American immigrant who is struggling to be accepted in her school, is excited to go camping for the first time with her family at a state park. Fatima gains confidence in herself through all her adventures learning how to camp and exploring nature alongside her family.
Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family’s Experience in a Japanese-American Internment Camp by Katie Yamasaki Taro and Jimmy, two young Japanese-American brothers, have their lives completely changed when their family is forced to leave their home in California to stay in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the camp, Jimmy is so sad that he refuses to eat, so Taro sneaks out of the camp, and catches seven fish to bring back to his brother. This is a story about a family’s love, and about the unjust actions of the American government against its residents of Japanese descent.
Fly Free! by Roseanne Thong, Illustrated by Eujin Kim Neilan Mai loves to visit and feed the birds that are caged outside the Buddhist temple in her town in Vietnam, but she longs to see the birds fly free. One day, she shares her sweet joy in feeding the birds with a friend, Thu. This good deed leads Thu to do her own, and a chain reaction of good deeds spreads throughout the community. A message of the ripples that are sent out when we are kind to one another and to creation. This is a story based in Buddhism with a moral message we can appreciate from a Christian perspective.
Henry’s First-Moon Birthday by Lenore Look, Illustrated by Yumi Heo Jenny helps her grandmother get everything ready to celebrate her baby brother Henry’s one month birthday, called a First-Moon Birthday in their Chinese culture. A sweet and funny story, and a look at some cultural traditions through the eyes of a young child, with fun, bright illustrations.
Home is In Between by Mitali Perkins, Illustrated by Lavanya Naidu A story of a young girl who has moved from India to the United States with her family, and the ways she navigates between her two cultures which can sometimes feel like two different worlds.
I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne, Illustrated by Julia Kuo A young girl emigrates from Taiwan to the United States, but her connection with her grandma (Popo), stays constant even across the many miles and all the changes that moving to a new country brings.
Jack and Agyu by Justine Villanueva, Illustrated by Lynnor Bontigao Jack is upset when he notices that he doesn’t see anyone who looks like him in any of the books he reads. He sets out to change this and also goes on an adventure of reconnection with his Filipino ancestors. This story also includes translations into multiple Filipino dialects.
Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales Suhaila longs to know her grandmother, who she never met. One night, she gets the chance to meet her when a golden ladder falls from the sky. A story about the ways we remain connected to loved ones we’ve lost, and about the ways that all of us are connected to one another. Indonesian-American author Maya Soetoro-Ng was inspired to write this book by the questions her own daughter, Suhaila, asked about her grandmother.
My First Day by Phung Nguyen Quang, Illustrated by Huynh Kim Lien An, a Vietnamese boy, sets out for his first day of school, traveling via the Mekong River in his wooden boat. An adventure through the beautiful scenery of the Mekong during “floating season” with panoramic illustrations.
P is for Poppadoms! By Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, Illustrated by Hazel Ito An alphabet of the people, culture, lifestyles, food, and more that makes India unique and beautiful. With bold, bright illustrations and lots of words to learn.
Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong, Illustrated by Grace Lin A book that teaches shapes through the eyes of a young Chinese-American girl observing both the culturally significant items in her home and the everyday parts of her urban neighborhood, from square checkerboards in the park to round cups of jasmine tea. The book also includes a glossary of the items that might be unfamiliar to some readers.
Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee One of a series of books by Wong Herbert Yee that celebrate the seasons for little ones, featuring a spunky Asian-American girl as the main character. Also check out Yee’s My Autumn Book, Who Likes Rain, and Summer Days and Nights.
Sona and the Wedding Game by Kashmira Sheth, Illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi Sona, an Indian-American girl, gets to participate in some fun traditions during her sister’s Hindu wedding ceremony. The author also includes a note where she explains further some of the traditions and describes how this is a semi-autobiographical tale.
Story of the Mongolian Tent House by Dashdondog Jamba and Anne Pallowski, Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal A story of the creation of the Mongolian tent house (ger) in ancient times, how it was inspired by nature and came to symbolize friendship and harmony. The author, Dashdondog Jamba, traveled all across Mongolia to share books with children through his “nomadic library.” He was world-renowned for his storytelling, and his passion for both writing and translating books for children.
Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki, Illustrated by Stephané Jurish Suki wants to wear her blue kimono, a gift from her grandmother (obachan) which holds sweet memories of a summer visit. Her sisters are skeptical of how her fashion choice will be received at school, and some kids poke fun at her when she gets there. But she shares her joy in her family’s culture, and her friends see the beauty of it, too.
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung, Illustrated by Julie Kwon The true story of Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese American woman to fly for the United States military. She dreamed of flying, at a time when hardly any women were pilots at all, and finally got her chance in 1941 when she joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
The Floating Field by Scott Riley, Illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien A true story of a group of Thai boys who, inspired by watching the 1986 World Cup on TV, figure out a way to make their own soccer field even though they live in an island village built on stilts!
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang, Illustrated by Khoa Le A young girl cares for her beloved grandmother, who tells her stories of growing up in Laos that weave together with the girl’s own life stories, and encourages her to appreciate the beauty of life and family. Vivid mixed-media illustrations bring the story to life. This book was selected as an NPR Best Book of the Year among other awards.
The Name Jar Written and Illustrated by Yangsook Choi Unhei is the new student at school when her family moves from Korea to the United States. When she starts school, no one can pronounce her name, so she wants to choose an American name to go by. Her classmates try to help her by filling a jar full of names for her to choose from, but none of the names feel right. With the help of friends, family, and some soul-searching on her own, she decides her own name - Unhei - is her favorite name of all.
The Twins’ Blanket Written and Illustrated by Hyewon Yum The twins have grown up sharing everything, including the blanket they sleep with every night. But they are five now, and it’s time for their own beds and their own blankets. As their mother turns their old blanket into two new blankets for them, they have to learn how to grow just a bit into their own independence.
Too Many Mangos by Tammy Paikai, Illustrated by Don Robinson A Hawaiian brother and sister duo pick so many mangos that they get to share them with everyone in the neighborhood. A sweet story about family, community, and the joy of sharing, with beautiful bright illustrations.
Umbrella Written and Illustrated by Taro Yashima In this Caldecott Honor Book, Momo receives some red boots and an umbrella for her birthday, and can’t wait for there to be a rainy day so she can use them! A classic book by a renowned Japanese-American artist and children’s book author.
Watercress by Andrea Wang, Illustrated by Jason Chin A young girl is a bit embarrassed when her family pulls over on the side of an Ohio road to pick fresh watercress growing there. But when her mother tells her stories of their families experiences in China, she learns to appreciate the fresh food, family stories, and new memories. This is an autobiographical tale from the author’s own experience.
We Are Inspiring: The Stories of 32 Inspirational Asian-American Women Written and Illustrated by Angel Trazo This book highlights 32 diverse Asian-American women, from Anna May Wong to Grace Lee Boggs to Vera Wang to Michelle Kwan to Margaret Cho, with fun illustrations and inspirational biographical outlines.