May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, and Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US. Here are ten titles by Asian-Canadian creators to share with young readers.
Picture Books, Ages 3-7
My Day With Gong Gong (Annick Press) is a charming story about a child spending the day in Chinatown with a grandparent. May speaks very little Cantonese and the grandfather speaks very little English, but they spend a fun day together going for dim sum, visiting the market, and learning to understand each other.
Great Job, Dad (Tundra books) is by author and felt artist Holman Wang. The art consists of meticulously crafted miniature sets and felted people and is the kind of art kids and adults can stare at for ages. There is also a companion book, Great Job, Mom, and both of these books subvert gender stereotypes associated with being a mom or a dad.
Ten Little Dumplings (Tundra Books) is a modern spin on the Chinese folk tale The Ten Brothers, inserting a female child who watches the brothers succeed from the background. The sister is hidden in the illustrations and it isn’t until half way through the book that she steps into the spotlight. This story also addresses a traditional Taiwanese belief that sons are prized over daughters, providing a contemporary feminist perspective.
THAO (Owl Kids) is based on author-illustrator Thao Lam’s experiences having to explain and pronounce her name as a child. Featuring collage art and photos of the author as a child, this book is both very personal and also describes a common experience many kids (and adults) can relate to.
The Doll (Second Story Press) is another true story written by Nhung Tran-Davies, who arrived as a Vietnamese refugee in Canada in 1979. The book is inspired by a doll that Nhung was given when she arrived in Canada, a simple act of kindness that has changed her life. Years later Nhung pays it forward by giving a doll to a Syrian refugee. In addition to a writer, Nhung is a doctor, activist, and part of the UN I am a Migrant Campaign.
Genie Meanie (Orca Books) is a great chapter book for emerging readers ages 6-9. In this funny story, Kiara releases a genie found in a bottle labelled zayn garam masala. With a little encouragement from her new genie friend, Kiara learns to deal with a bully.
Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field (Tundra Books) is a voice-driven, gentle story for readers 9-12. Peter loves dinosaurs, but when his asthma keeps him from his dream field trip he turns his scientific skills and journaling instincts to solving a mystery closer to home. Told in diary style with spot illustrations, Peter’s voice is frank and funny.
Teen, Ages 12+
Zara Hossain is Here (Scholastic Canada) is a powerful story about social justice and the immigration experience. Zara is the only Muslim student in a Catholic high school and is drawn into a racist incident with tragic consequences.
The Forest of Stolen Girls (Macmillan) is an intoxicating, totally fresh mix of historical fiction, detective novel, and family saga. Thirteen girls have disappeared in the same forest in rural Korea. Two estranged sisters come together in 15th century Korea to solve the mystery their detective father disappeared trying to solve.
Made in Korea (Simon and Schuster) is a contemporary rom-com with an entrepreneurial spin, featuring two Korean students who find their high school businesses in direct competition, this witty love story feels made for Netflix.