Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Best Asian-American Children’s Books
By Meera Sriram
Asian-American Children's Literature-A Thai Lullaby
May is Asian-Pacific American heritage month. It is the perfect time to showcase some of the truly amazing authors in Asian-American children’s literature, who have consistently produced works that bridge cultures.
The reading list includes authors and books that highlight Asian heritage through great stories. This kind of literary exposure can be very enriching as it helps children develop a deeper understanding of cultures and hence an appreciation for the diverse communities in which we live.
We were introduced to Minfong Ho in “Hush- A Thai Lullaby,” in which the author takes us to a remote village in Thailand. Traditional basketry, fabrics and architecture further introduce us to a Thai household where a mother is shushing a mosquito (and later, other animals too), as she prepares to put her child down for a nap. A set of rare animal sounds adds to the fun of trying to find a toddler hiding in thick foliage. We loved this book so much that we hunted down and read Ho’s “Peek: A Thai Hide-and-Seek”—equally delightful and refreshing.
We recently read “Monsoon” again, and we were instantly transported to a hot, dry, and dusty summer afternoon in a bustling city street in India. As a family longs for pregnant clouds to burst and drench, we are drawn into the mood of a city, in impatient anticipation of the monsoon. The author beautifully captures this in the backdrop of authentic events and details, making it a great book to introduce India or its culture to children everywhere. Born in New Delhi, Uma Krishnaswami’s books present glimpses of the subcontinent. And her lifelong passion for writing and reading is very transparent in her work.
Say’s “Kamishibai Man” is about a storyteller in Japan, his traditional form of paper theatre and the special bond Kamishibai Man shares with his audience. Another of Say’s books “Erika-San” takes us to the countryside in Japan, as a young American girl searches for the place to call home, just like in the painting that hung on her grandmother’s wall. Allen Say’s art is realistic and breathtaking in all his books. There is also a certain placidity that nudges a child to effortlessly connect to the story, the characters and the place. I’ve seen this happen in my eight year old several times. It is also astonishing how each of his books has the ability to keep the adult mind completely interested as well.
More picture books we LOVE:
“D is for Dragon Dance” by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by YongSheng Xuan – An alphabet book with everything about the Chinese New Year, from Acrobats to Zodiac. Fun and informative!
“On My Way to Buy Eggs” by Chih. Y. Chen – Through a simple story of Shau-Yu’s enjoyable walk to the local corner store, the award-winning book celebrates traditional neighborhood stores in Taiwanese cities.
For ages 4 and up
“The Dancing Pig” by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Jesse Sweetwater – A Balinese folktale in which an animal band (including a pig in a sarong!), rescues a family’s twin girls from the ogress, Rangsasa.
“The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi – A little Korean girl’s struggle to fit in; Unhei wonders if she needs a new name in a new country and classroom.
For ages 8 and up
“Baseball Saved Us” by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee – The story of how a Japanese-American boy regains confidence, dignity and acceptance at the ball park, after his experiences at a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
With so many to choose from, pick an author or grab a title, and celebrate Asian-American heritage!
© 2012 – 2013, Meera Sriram. All rights reserved.
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