In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Jennifer Rothschild, collection engagement librarian at Arlington Public Library, is sharing 12 children’s books that explore the wide range of cultures, traditions and history of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
“Bilal Cooks Daal”
Written by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Bilal invites his friends over to make his favorite food, daal, a slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia. After waiting and waiting for it to finish, Bilal worries his friends won’t like it as much as he does.
“Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao”
Written by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua
Amy loves eating steamed bao buns but struggles to make them as well as the other members in her family. Her determination to master the skill will inspire readers to try the bao recipe in the back of the book.
“Ohana Means Family”
Written by Illima Loomis, illustrated by Kenard Pak
In this gently rhyming cumulative poem, a Native Hawaiian family goes through all the necessary steps to make poi for their lu’au. Includes a glossary of Hawaiian terms.
EARLY ELEMENTARY BOOKS
Written by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly
In four different stories, second-grader Yasmin, a Pakistani-American, navigates school projects, boredom, and family outings with her own creativity and imagination.
“Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things”
Written by Lenore Look, illustrated by Leuyen Pham
The first book in a series for fans of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” introduces Alvin Ho, an Asian-American second-grader who is so afraid of school that he can’t he can’t speak. At home, however, Alvin is a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man.
“Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen”
Written by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Everyone over the age of 10 in Jasmine’s Japanese-American family makes mochi by hand for New Year’s. Although she’s only eight—and a girl—Jasmine hatches a plan to help pound the mochi rice.
Next, check out these children’s books about kindness
MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS
Written by Kelly Yang
Ten-year-old Mia must balance school with helping her parents manage a motel, where they secretly shelter recent immigrants. Despite not being a native English speaker (her family moved to America from China when she was eight), Mia is determined to win a writing contest to give her family more financial security.
“This is Just a Test”
Written by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg
In the early 1980s, David Da-Wei Horowitz struggles to balance the competing expectations of his Chinese and Jewish grandparents as he prepares for his Bar Mitzvah. He’s also worried about the Cold War and digging a fallout shelter with a friend—but who does David like enough to share it with?
“The Best At It”
Written by Maulik Pancholy
Rahul’s grandfather tells him the way to survive middle school is to pick one thing and be the best at it. But Rahul, an Indian-American in a mostly white town who is also struggling with his sexuality and possibly OCD, just can’t figure out what that special thing is.
YOUNG ADULT BOOKS
“There’s Something About Sweetie”
Written by Sandhya Menon
After being dumped by his girlfriend, 17-year-old Ashish Patel gives into his parents’ attempts at matchmaking. They choose Sweetie, a smart but overweight high school track star, but Sweetie’s mother doesn’t think she’s worthy of Ashish and rebuffs their advances. Tired her mother’s criticism, Sweetie accepts anyway in this delightful rom-com.
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Rumor has it, this is the year the Dragons are going to take the state championship. In this nonfiction documentary-style graphic novel, Yang, a teacher at the school, follows the men’s varsity basketball team and its players for an unforgettable season.
“The Epic Crush of Genie Lo”
Written by FC Yee
Genie’s not pleased when she learns the weird new boy at her high school is really the Monkey King and needs her help to round up 108 demons that have escaped from hell. Now Genie must divert her attention from acing the SATs and getting into Harvard to saving the world, but first she needs a crash course in Chinese mythology.—JENNIFER ROTHSCHILD
A version of this article appeared in the May 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY magazine.