Diversify your children’s book library with some Asian culture.
Travel to the East side of the world! Asia has such a rich culture that we could stand to learn a lot about. Some colorful children’s books will help your family dip their toes into Asian culture, and will help to diversify your library even further. Here are twelve picks you can make part of your bedtime story rotation.
Malala’s Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai and Illustrator Kerascoët
This illustrated book tells Malala’s story for a younger audience. It teaches kids about hope, determination, and hard work, and how these things can make dreams come true.
“As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true.”
Dim Sum for Everyone!, by Grace Lin
Perfect for young readers, this book celebrates family connection and the universal love of food. It showcases cultural dishes served in a way your kids, or even you, may not have experienced.
“In English, dim sum means “little hearts,” or “touches the heart,” but to this young girl, dim sum means delicious. On a visit to a bustling dim sum restaurant, a family picks their favorite little dishes from the steaming trolleys filled with dumplings, cakes, buns, and tarts. And as is traditional and fun, they share their food with each other so that everyone gets a bite of everything.”
Dear Juno, by Soyung Park, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
This story is a great introduction to the concept of foreign cultures. It teaches children about communication, especially the desire to communicate with family members who may live far away.
“Juno’s grandmother writes in Korean and Juno writes in drawings, but that doesn’t mean they can’t exchange letters. From the photo his grandmother sends him, Juno can tell that she has a new cat. From the picture he makes for her, Juno’s grandmother can tell that he wants her to come for a visit. So she sends Juno a miniature plane, to let him know she’s on the way.”
The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi
This is a story many children might be able to identify with – being the new kid in school. It teaches them that you can only be yourself and no one else.
“Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.”
Wabi Sabi, by Mark Reibstein
This book uses spare text and haiku to tell a story of finding beauty in unexpected places.
“Wabi Sabi, a little cat in Kyoto, Japan, had never thought much about her name until friends visiting from another land asked her owner what it meant. At last, the master says, “That’s hard to explain.” And that is all she says. This unsatisfying answer sets Wabi Sabi on a journey to uncover the meaning of her name, and on the way discovers what wabi sabi is: a Japanese philosophy of seeing beauty in simplicity, the ordinary, and the imperfect.”
Fortune Cookie Fortunes, by Grace Lin
Fortune cookies are a fun Chinese tradition young kids in the states are probably familiar with. This book tells a fun story while also peeking into the history of fortune cookies.
“Crack, crack, crack! The cookies snap open and the family’s fortunes are revealed. Mei Mei wants to know how hers will come true. Jie Jie scoffs—they never come true. But Pacy isn’t so sure. As she waits and watches, she notices magical things happening in her family. Could the fortunes really be right? And what about Pacy’s fortune: “You will see the world in a new way”? Well, yes, it’s true! Pacy has been seeing the world through fortune cookies!”
A Different Pond, by Bao Phi
This book shares the story of a simple event – a long ago fishing trip. But through it, kids learn about the powerful connection between father and son and old and new cultures.
“As a young boy, Bao and his father awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. ”
A Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin
Learn about the phases of the moon with this book. The gorgeous illustrations give the story even more life.
“Pat, pat, pat…Little Star’s soft feet tiptoed to the Big Mooncake. Little Star loves the delicious Mooncake that she bakes with her mama. But she’s not supposed to eat any yet! What happens when she can’t resist a nibble?”
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, by Natasha Yim
A fun retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this story teaches kids the back story of Chinese New Year. It also sets an example for kids to take responsibility for their actions and make new friends.
“It’s Chinese New Year, and Goldy Luck’s mother wants her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy from trying out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds—with disastrous results.”
Too Many Mangos, by Tammy Paikai
This story is based on the author’s own childhood experiences. The storytelling and illustrations showcase island living while also sharing a message of friendship and community.
“Too Many Mangos is the story of two young Hawaiians, Kama and Nani, who help their grandpa pick mangos from the giant mango tree. They pick large, small, ripe, half-ripe, and even green mangos. But this time, they’ve picked too many, so it’s time to load up the wagon and share the tasty treats with friends and family. Along the way, they show young readers the many ways to enjoy the treasured island fruit, and introduce their friendly neighbors around the block.”
Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes
This book is a retelling of how Ganesha came to write the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata. The offbeat humor will keep your kids engaged in this fresh spin on a classic Hindu tale.
“Ganesha is just like any other kid, except that he has the head of an elephant and rides around on a magical mouse. And he loves sweets, especially the traditional dessert laddoo. But when Ganesha insists on biting into a super jumbo jawbreaker laddoo, his tusk breaks off! Ganesha is terribly upset, but with the help of the wise poet Vyasa, and his friend Mr. Mouse, he learns that what seems broken can actually be quite useful after all. ”
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, by Kat Zhang and Charlene Chua
Learn about the art of making bao with this fun read. It might just make you want to go out and try some for yourself!
“Amy loves to make bao with her family. But it takes skill to make the bao taste and look delicious. And her bao keep coming out all wrong. Then she has an idea that may give her a second chance…Will Amy ever make the perfect bao?“