Adele has been a youth services librarian for 25 years and a mother to a daughter from China for 20 years.
A List of 20 Picture Books Featuring Asian and Asian-American Children
Here is a list of the best books for children ages 4-8 that feature Asian and/or Asian-American children.
There is a little something for everyone here: funny books, folktales, picture books, and beginning chapter books. I hope you find something you like.
1. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho - NEW!
In Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, author Joanna Ho celebrates Asian eyes, the feature my Asian friends say they get the most comments about. We start with a girl who looks about 10 years old and tells us, “Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons… Not me. I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”
She goes on to describe how she sees those eyes in her mother, her grandmother, and her little sister. Her language is evocative and poetic: “My eyes crinkled into crescent moons/and sparkle like the stars./Gold flecks dance and twirl/while stories whirl/in their oolong pools,/carrying tales of the past/and hope for the future.”
Illustrator Dung Ho’s accompanying paintings are absolutely radiant. She fills the backgrounds with images of Chinese princesses, flowers, dragons and phoenixes. It’s a lovely book that celebrates Asian eyes, family togetherness, and Chinese culture.
2. Dumplings for Lili by Melissa Iwai - NEW!
On the dust jacket of Dumplings for Lili, Iwai said she was inspired to create the book when she “realized how the humble dumpling – a little dough based package of savory or sweet filling – appears in so many cuisines around the world.” Her charming little story will leave readers appreciating the rich cultures in our country and quite likely make them hungry for some sort of dumplings of their own.
The story starts with the Chinese-American girl, Lili, and her grandmother deciding to make baos, wheat –dough buns with a savory pork filling. Then the grandmother discovers that they are out of cabbage. She sends Lili up to the fifth floor to Babcia’s apartment to borrow some. When Lili arrives, she discovers that Babcia has cabbage, but she needs potatoes in order to make pierogis. Lili agrees to go to the second floor to borrow some potatoes, and the story continues on with her running up and down stairs to get things like olive oil for ravioli, cumin for tamales, and garlic for beef patties.
At the end, all the women from different cultures bring their version of dumplings and they have a picnic in the yard, complete with the newest addition to Lili’s family, a baby brother wrapped up in a blanket that makes him look like a “little dumpling treasure.”
Iwai includes a recipe for bao at the end of the book that I am looking forward to making. My Chinese-American daughter, who has made it her life’s mission to explore Chinese food, tells me that it looks delicious and authentic.
3. Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon by Kat Zhang - NEW!
Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon is a book after my own heart. It includes two of my favorite things: Chinese dragons and arts and crafts. As the story begins, little Amy Wu, who looks about preschool or kindergarten age, is listening to a book about dragons during story time at school. After the story, the children all make their own dragon, and Amy draws one that has a long thin body, “horns like a stag and claws like an eagle.” Some of the other children in out that it doesn’t look like the dragons they saw in the book. Amy tries to change her dragon to look more like dragons in the book, but nothing looks right, and she’s not finished by the time they have to clean up.
When she goes home, her grandmother tells her stories about Chinese dragons who can bring rain, are wise, and don’t need wings to fly. (I’m hoping that books like this can serve to reinforce the difference between Eastern and Western dragons in people’s minds.) Amy remembers that she has seen such a dragon up in the attic, the kind of dragon that looks almost like a huge puppet, the kind that is used for the dragon dance in New Year’s parades. She realizes what kind of craft project she wants to make, and adds brightly colored fabric, scarves and sequins to the dragon head from the attic. She unveils her creation at school the next day, a long dragon the children can use for their own dragon dance.
Charlene Chua’s lively and colorful illustrations compliment the story perfectly, and the book includes traceable dragon crafts at the back so that children can decorate their own dragon.
4. My Day with Gong Gong by Sennah Yee - NEW!
In this picture book a mother drops off her daughter (who looks to be four or five years old) to spend the day with her grandfather, her Gong Gong. At first it doesn’t go well. He turns off the TV in the middle of her cartoon. When they go to the dim sum restaurant, he only orders tea even though she is hungry and has asked him, “Can we eat?” And he stops to play cards, which the little girl finds incomprehensible. The last straw comes for her when a pigeon poops on her coat.
At that point, her grandfather realizes that she has been having a tough day, and he gives her the treats that he has been collecting along the way. They end up having a very nice day together.
My Chinese-American daughter pointed out to me that My Day with Gong Gong is notable because so few books deal with language barriers among different generations in the family. The grandfather is a loving, kind man, but he doesn’t understand the words his granddaughter is saying. The book shows how the two of them manage to find other ways to communicate.
The illustrations are absolutely adorable, using a gentle color palette to give us a wonderful sense of the Chinatown where most of the story takes place. I recognized so many of the things I remember so fondly from visits – the toy shops, the dumplings at the restaurant, the fish market, the card games at the park, the fruit and vegetable stands, the roofs and signs on the buildings.
Yee sprinkles Cantonese phrases throughout the story and includes the page that gives the Chinese characters, the phonetic spelling, and the English translation.
5. Hot Pot Night! by Vincent Chen - NEW!
Every generation seems to see a new wave of Asian food that has become popular in the United States. We had chow mein, then stir fries, then sushi, and now the Vietnamese soup called pho, and the milk tea known as boba. Judging from this book Hot Pot Night! the next trend is a communal soup called hot pot, which happens to be my Chinese daughter‘s favorite thing to get at restaurants.
Essentially, you have a boiling pot of broth at your table which you use to cook a variety of things: thin slices of meat, vegetables like bok choy and bean sprouts, tofu, mushrooms, shrimp, noodles. Once the items are cooked, you fish them out of the broth, put on different sauces, and eat up.
Which is exactly what the people in this book do. On the first page we see different apartments with people asking “What’s for dinner?” Together they all say “Let’s have hot pot!” One person has the pot, another has the broth, and everybody in the complex comes together bringing meat and greens, noodles and seafood. They toss it into the pot and then eat together, a story told with short simple text and refrains like, “Hot pot, hot pot, tasty hot pot!”
It’s a perfect book to introduce the themes of community, multiculturalism, and a new food-- a healthy one at that. It’s also perfect to read to a group because the pictures on the pages are quite large and there are only a few words per page. When I read to the story time kids at my library, I am always looking for a book like this which can showcase different cultures with pictures large enough to be seen at the back of the room. It’s also short enough and lively enough to keep the attention of even the wiggliest kids. And of course, there’s a recipe for hot pot in the back.
6. Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum by Natasha Yim - NEW!
The purpose of Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum is to introduce children to the concept of fractions, but it also serves as a great multicultural book that introduces children to the Chinese custom of going to a restaurant for dim sum.
On the first page, we learn that a girl (she looks around eight years old) named Luna is having a birthday and her whole family is going to a dim sum restaurant to celebrate. The children especially like char siu bao, pork buns, and they order six of them. Since there are three children, it works out neatly to two buns a piece. But then Luna drops one of hers, and now the children are left trying to figure out how to divide five buns among three children. Spoiler alert – they each have one whole bun and they divide the other two in half. They each get half a bun and they give away the remaining fourth half because they don’t want to divide it any further. So there’s your math.
What I was more interested in is the depiction of the family and the dim sum restaurant. Being an adoptive mother, I appreciate that the parents seem to come from two different cultures. I would guess that the father has Chinese heritage because the family uses the Chinese terms Ma Ma and Ba Ba to refer to the parents. It looks like the mother has some Caucasian heritage because she has brownish/blonde hair, though she does wear a traditional Chinese dress.
Children can get a good idea of how a dim sum restaurant works. We see the carts loaded with bamboo baskets the servers will around and some of the traditional dishes that are served at dim sum. There is also some nice interplay with the children as they discuss who is most worthy of having a larger portion, whether it’s because they are the oldest in the family or because of their zodiac sign.
The back matter includes an explanation of dim sum, a little more about the Chinese zodiac, and some questions that asks the children to explore the math concepts in more detail.
7. One, Two, Three Dim Sum by Rich Lo - NEW!
One, Two, Three Dim Sum is a little board book that shows children how to count to 10, using items that you would find at a dim sum restaurant. Even though it’s a simple concept, I am impressed with how much Chinese language it is able to include. On the left side of each two-page spread, we see an Arabic numeral along with the English word. Then we have the Chinese way of writing the numeral and then the pinyin word which shows us how the word is pronounced in Mandarin. On the next page, we see a picture of whatever is being counted, and then the word written in Chinese characters, English, and pinyin.
As such, it works as a counting book for a young child or a beginning text for a beginning Mandarin language learner. The pictures are clear and recognizable and include things like the menu, chopsticks, dumplings, potstickers, and barbecue pork buns. Be prepared to be hungry for dim sum once you are finished with the book. I also like the fact that the pages include patterned backgrounds, much as you see in traditional Chinese items. It’s a nice book that promotes multiculturalism.
8. Little Messy Marcy Su by Cherie Fu
Little Messy Marcy Su is the kind of book I like best. It features a Chinese-American character having normal, everyday adventures. They call it everyday diversity, a book that features diverse characters in contemporary, everyday situations.
And the commonplace situation of this book is a child that has a messy room. Marcy’s mother calls to her one day, “Messy Marcy, your room is a sty!/Why can’t you clean? Oh, why, Marcy, WHY?” As you can see, the book is written in rhyme.
When her mother points out how messy her room is, Marcy Su gets to her work, much to her credit. In fact, “Marcy Su never did shrink from a task./She thought, ‘I’ll do more than my mama had asked.’”And indeed, we see her loading washing machine, running the vacuum, and taking a bath. Unfortunately, in her zeal to clean, she leaves laundry strewn all over the floor, knocks down several things with the court of the vacuum cleaner, and leaves soapy water and towels all over the bathroom.
In an ironic and fun little twist, when Marcy Su’s grandparents come at the end of the story, her room is sparkling clean, but the rest of the house is a mess and her grandparents comment on how she has done a better job than everyone else in the house.
Sprinkled throughout, the mother and grandparents use a variety of Mandarin words, and I appreciate that the author gives translations in a pronunciation guide at the back of the book. We have words like waipo (maternal grandmother), waigong (maternal grandfather) and hao ganjing (so clean).
Julie Kwon’s sweet and lively illustrations capture the book perfectly.
9. Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang
If you have been to a restaurant for dim sum, you are likely familiar with bao, buns made of yeast dough, filled with meat or sweets, and then steamed until done. Since most of the breads we have in this country are baked in an oven, these buns have an otherworldly look to them, bright white, and yet cooked to perfection.
In Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, little Amy Wu is having trouble getting the ones she makes to turn out perfect. Sometimes they are too big, sometimes too small, too full, too empty, and sometimes “they fall apart before they reach her mouth.” I can relate. They would seem an easy thing to make, but it’s hard to get them the right thickness with the right amount of filling, and then pleated so that nothing falls out. My daughter on the other hand, has her technique down just right, and her creations turn out just the way she wants them to.
When Amy’s whole family gathers together to make bao, her attempts do not measure up to those of her parents and grandmother until she figures out that she just needs smaller bits of dough because she has smaller hands. Finally, “The steam clears. There are Amy’s perfect bao. They are not too small. They are not too big. They have just the right amount of filling, and they do not leak. They are soft and fluffy and so, so delicious.” A happy ending for all involved. And along the way, we get to see all the steps in making bao, which comes in handy because there’s a very nice recipe in the back.
While I was enjoying this picture book, I was especially struck by the illustrations. They are adorable and colorful, and more than that, they are just bursting with energy. Amy’s face is so expressive, and her actions make us feel her frustration and her joy.
It’s a wonderful creation from this author/illustrator team and I look forward to more of Amy Wu’s adventures.
10. Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim
In Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, author Natasha Yim does a take on “The Three Bears” story—Chinese New Year style. Little Goldy Luck is charged with taking a New Year’s delicacy—fried turnip cakes—to the panda’s house. When she gets there, the bears aren’t home of course, and she proceeds to test out their congee, their chairs, and their beds. What makes this story different from the original is that Goldy starts to have second thoughts once she runs back home, and she returns to the pandas’ house to make amends for the mess she’s made.
This would be an excellent book to read to an elementary school class to introduce Chinese New Year celebrations, as Yim weaves in details about luck, red envelopes, and customary foods. Zong’s adorable illustrations include delightful little details that characterize the clothing, the pottery, and the furnishings. My favorite is a little Chinese zodiac rug on the floor. Yim also includes a note about New Year’s traditions in the back of the book.
11. My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun
I picked up this book because it was recommended to me by one of the biggest names in children's graphic novels: Raina Telgemeier, the godmother of the autobiographical graphic novel. Her book, Smile, is a best-seller and wildly popular with the kids at my library, so I took her advice and read the books she recommended. This one gives a nice sense of everyday life in an ancient part of the city.
My Bejing is a collection of four short stories told in graphic novel format. Using delicate and subtle watercolor illustrations, Nie tells stories about a young girl named Nu'er living with her grandfather in a hutong, a name for a narrow alley formed by lines of traditional family courtyard residences. Once the norm in Beijing, just a few are preserved today as cultural history. One of the characteristics of a hutong is that it encourages neighbors to interact with each other. These stories play off that interaction, showing a neighborhood full of colorful characters and the gentle adventures they have together. (At the end of the book, the author provides some more information about hutongs as well as a photograph and several sketches of daily life.)
In the first, Nu-er (who has a leg disability) wants to train in swimming for the Special Olympics, but she and her grandfather are having trouble finding a pool that will accept her. Grandfather comes up with a clever idea to help her practice. Each of these stories includes an element of magical realism, and in this one, we see Nu'er swimming of into the air, saying "Grampa was right. When we believe in ourselves, we make our own luck."
In the second story, a mysterious little boy introduces Nu'er to a "bug paradise." In the third, she learns the sweet story about how here grandparents connected, and she somehow becomes a part of the story. In the last, she brings hope to a crochety painter in the neighborhood.
The stories have quite a bit in common with some of the anime classics out there like My Neighbor, Totoro or Kiki's Delivery Service.
They're a good choice for short stories with a little bit of sweetness, a little bit of whimsy, and a little bit of magic.
12. The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young
Ed Young specializes in moody cut-paper collage illustrations, and he’s used these techniques brilliantly in The Cat from Hunger Mountain. If you are ever wanting to talk to children about a life of privilege and the trait of gratefulness, this book is your ticket.
The story is almost like a fable. Lord Cat lives at the top of Hunger Mountain, a privileged being “who had everything imaginable, yet never had enough.” Workers had made him the tallest pagoda high above everything else, clothing from the silk and gold, and lavish meals. The mountain was known for its rice, which servants would wash in the river and serve to the Lord, who always wanted them to work faster.
When his lands fell into drought, Lord Cat’s servants moved to the cities and he eventually finds himself wandering and begging in search of food. Two acquaintances take him to a benevolent monk who gives out free food to anyone who arrives hungry. After the cat receives a half bowl of rice, he asks the monk where the food came from.
The monk replies that he is lucky to live at the bottom of Hunger Mountain where a careless lord had his rice washed upstream. The monk collected and stored the rice. He has now accumulated so much that he has plenty to share with others in need. The cat realizes that “he had been fed with his own wasted food. And for the first time ever, he knew what if felt like to be truly blessed.”
It’s an elegant, compact story, but the real draw is the illustrations which utilize photographs and textured paper to evoke the setting and mood. Young rarely has simple, straight-on perspective, and viewers are challenged to put together the story based on glimpses of eyes through the trees and layered shapes which suggest the settings, characters, and emotions of the story.
13. The Pandas and Their Chopsticks and Other Animal Stories by Demi
In The Pandas and Their Chopsticks and Other Animal Stories, the pandas have a problem. Each of their chopsticks is three feet long! How can they get their food to their mouths? Children will delight in the solution from a group of particularly generous pandas.
I’ve loved Demi’s detailed and colorful drawings ever since I read The Empty Pot. Here, she gathers together several Chinese fables that illustrate virtues like sharing, intelligence, humility and perseverance. The illustrations are reminiscent of Chinese embroidery, and her whimsical borders add a delightful touch.
14. The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker
The Seven Chinese Sisters is a great book about strong and smart girls. For years, our Chinese heritage camp used the story for a play that the children acted out for the closing program at camp. Inspired by a traditional folktale called the Seven Chinese Brothers Tucker has put a feminine spin on the tale and written about the seven sisters.
Each sister has a special talent. The oldest can ride a scooter fast as the wind; the second knows karate, the third can count beyond five hundred the fourth can talk to dogs, the fifth can catch any ball, the sixth can cook wonderful noodle soup, and no one yet knows what the baby, seventh sister, can do. When the baby is snatched by a dragon, the sisters pool their talents to get their sister back, find out what the dragon wants, and help him as well.
The book has Grace Lin’s trademark illustrations: colorful, patterned, and lively.
15. Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong
Two of Everything is a delightful folktale is about a poor farm couple who find a magic pot. It doubles everything they put into it.
They figure out that they can put their coins into the pot and all night long, they keep doubling them until they are very rich indeed. In the morning the husband runs out to go shopping, but when he comes back, hands full of packages, he accidentally knocks his wife into the pot. Now there are two of her!
By this time, you are probably thinking that the couple has become greedy and will have to pay the price. But this book has a surprise ending. The Haktaks have come into good fortune, and though they have bumps along the way, they come up with a workable solution and find a way to live their life in moderation.
I do storytelling in the schools, and this is one of my favorite stories to share. The kids like to guess what is going to happen when people start tumbling into the pot.
16. Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges
I love the cover illustration of Ruby peeking out at us through huge red doors. Ruby's Wish is a nice tale to give your girl a sense of the history—and progress—of women in China.
In this story based on her own grandmother, the author tells the tale of a young girl born long ago in China who wants to learn more than girls and women are allowed, even in rich families. She tells her grandfather that she wishes to study further, and he listens in gentle amusement. But to her surprise, he makes it possible when the time comes.
17. The Empty Pot by Demi
Demi is known for her exquisite and delicate illustrations. In The Empty Pot, they are reminiscent of Chinese “100 children” embroidery. This is a gentle tale about nature, doing your best, and honesty.
Little Ping, the best gardener around, enters a contest in which the boy who grows the best flower can become the next emperor. He’s distressed when his flower won’t grow, but a little twist at the end shows all his competitors in their true light.
In print for decades, this has become a children’s classic.
18. Katie's Lucky Birthday by Fran Manushkin
These books are geared to children who can read about a paragraph per page, general ages 5-7.
Katie Woo is an everyday American girl who happens to have Chinese heritage.
In this series of books for beginning readers, Katie treads on familiar primary-school ground, getting new shoes, tick-or-treating with friends, celebrating a birthday.
The illustrations are big and bright and should be reassuring children who are making a transition from listening to picture books to reading books on their own.
Though the books consist of 2 or 3 little "chapters," they are quite brief, and parents or grandparents may want to consider buying a handful of them to give young readers a feeling of having a substantial number of books.
In Katie's Lucky Birthday Katie is excited for the birthday party she will have at school. Her friends talk about different traditions their families follow—eating blueberry pancakes or measuring how tall they’ve grown.
Katie’s mom brings a surprise treat, and Katie herself works on a surprise for her classmates. Nutrition-conscious parents will be happy to see that Katie’s treats are strawberries and blueberries.
19. Mae, the Panda Fairy by Daisy Meadows
If you haven’t been introduced to the Rainbow Magic fairies phenomenon for beginning chapter book readers, this is a good place to start. Mae, the Panda Fairy is a short little 64-page book is the first of seven books in “Baby Animal Rescue Fairies” subseries and features a Chinese fairy who is caretaker of a baby panda.
Here’s the set-up of the story: two girls (Kirsty and Rachel) go to a wildlife reserve and meet up with Bertram, a talking frog and the royal footman from Fairyland, who spirits them off to the Fairyland nature reserve. There, they meet the Baby Animal Rescue Fairies who each have a key chain that attracts their baby animals to them.
Soon, the nefarious Jack Frost (villain in all the fairy books) comes and takes the keychains because he wants to collect all the baby animals into his icy zoo. His first target is Pan Pan, the baby panda.
SPOILER ALERT: The girls help Mae, the Panda Fairy to trick Jack Frost and reunite Pan Pan with his mother, and all ends happily.
These are gentle books with a villain who is more of a mischief-maker than a threat. The fairy is illustrated as a Chinese girl, and children will learn that pandas live in China and eat bamboo, though the cultural context is not emphasized as much as in that other stalwart of easy chapter book series: The Magic Tree House, which actually tries to work in quite a bit of information about history and cultures into the stories.
Still, the Rainbow Magic fairy books have quite a bit of appeal for girls from kindergarten to around 3rd grade. It is the most checked out book series, by far, in the public library where I work, outstripping any other adult, teen, or children’s author. I often see girls come in and leave with both hands full of these books, and it’s nice to see one that includes a little bit of China.
Ruby Lu Books
Meet Ruby Lu, an energetic girl with Chinese heritage, who is the heroine of these beginning chapter books.
These humorous books describes the day-to-day escapades of a spirited little girl.
The reading level is similar to that of the popular Magic Tree House series, or the Junie B. Jones series.
20. Ruby Lu, Brave and True
In Ruby Lu, Brave and True Ruby Lu is a spunky, Chinese-American girl who deals with the things that life throws at her with courage and good grace. The book is a series of little moments, making the chapters good for reading aloud. In this one, we meet Ruby Lu, her mom & dad, and her little brother, Oscar.
Ruby progresses through a variety of 8-year-old adventures like putting on her own backyard magic show, overcoming her fears about going to Chinese school and dealing with a visitor—her cousin Flying Duck, from China.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it also has a scene of her driving herself and her brother to Chinese School. Somehow, the parents were tied up, and Ruby decides to take matters into her own hands. Driving a car seems simple enough, so she turns the key, puts the car in drive and heads the couple of blocks there. Her parents are, of course, frantic, and tell her never to do that again, and she promises not to (though she seems to think that the biggest mistake was to park in the principal’s spot.
I have to think this incident was based on Look’s life. Many 8-year-olds are confident in their abilities, and driving a car doesn’t look too hard to them. (I had the same sorts of situation when I was five and thought I could step in front of a cow to make her stop going out the wrong gate. I learned that 40 pounds isn’t much of a match for 1,500).
I think most kids will appreciate the humor in the scene, rather than being inspired to pick up the car keys. But, just in case, you’ll probably want to talk about how a young child could be seriously hurt if they tried something like that. All the more reason to read this book along with your girl.
These books also provide insights into China and Chinese-Americans.
Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons
I’m not a huggy person, really, but I just want to give Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons a hug. Jon Muth’s loveable watercolor panda wanders through this collection of haiku on the seasons—kind of a Chinese/Japanese hybrid that is tender and whimsical.
I sat my family down (including my teenager) and read the book aloud to them because the delightful little poems just beg to be shared. One of my favorite pages has the panda decked out in a yellow raincoat striking a Gene Kelly pose with an umbrella and a lamppost. The accompanying poem reads: “Dance through cold rain/then go home/to hot soup.”
The facing page with the panda eating chocolate chip cookies is adorable, too.
This would be a great gift book for any child, especially one who loves pandas.
A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen
A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road is a wonderful way to introduce children to the Silk Road that flourished in the Ninth Century facilitating trade all the way from China to Italy. A young girl in China gives her father a jade pebble to give to the next trader, and so on down the line, so that she will have a connection with a child at the other end of the road. From Antioch to Baghdad to Torcello, each trader adds something until the boy at the end of the road has a bag of small treasures. Christensen’s colorful paintings illustrate the story perfectly.
Magic Tree House Books
Judging from my experience as a children's librarian, the Magic Tree House series is the most popular beginning chapter book series in existence, and has been for some time.
A magic librarian sends two children, Jack and Annie, back in time to solve problems and gather items.
Kids like the adventure, parents and teachers like the fact that the children learn a little bit about culture and history from each book.
Day of the Dragon King
Jack and Annie go back to ancient China to save a book from the Emperor’s fire.
A Perfect Time for Pandas
In this book, Jack and Annie find themselves whisked off to the mountains in southeastern China and helping out at a panda reserve. They are having a great time, until a devastating earthquake hits, and they are on a panda rescue mission.
After reading the Magic Tree House fiction books, many children become interested in learning more. The non-fiction “Fact-Trackers” provide interesting background and facts in the same engaging and simple style as the novels.
Oldies But Goodies
The following books are no longer available new (though some are available in Kindle format), but they are well worth getting on the used market.
A Book About Growing Up
This book makes a nice gift for an elementary-school girl. It is out of print new, but well worth getting in the secondary market. Rose Lewis, author of the popular book I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, follows up her tender story with this book for older girls.
The "Crazy Cakes" girl is older now, and her mother reminisces about all the things they've done together on her birthday: going to an American citizenship ceremony, kite flying, getting a new puppy, and watching dragon boat races.
Rose Lewis’ trademark watercolors also illustrate this book. They provide the perfect blend of charm and innocence.
School Library Journal calls it, "A sweet, gorgeously illustrated book that's perfect for family sharing."
Chinese Characters in the Snowy Woods
I can’t say enough about books by Huy Voun Lee. They are my undiscovered treasure and have truly made the Chinese characters more understandable for my family. (Too bad the author doesn’t have an encyclopedic set so that I can learn the 1,500 characters needed to be able to communicate.) Lee's books include the titles In the Park, At the Beach, In the Leaves, 1,2,3 Go!, and my favorite, which I am reviewing here, In the Snow.
In this book, a boy by the name of Xiao Ming walks through a snowy forest with his mother. They talk about the Chinese character for “tree,” which looks a bit like a tree with roots and branches. Lee shows us the character, and also an illustration of a tree that looks a lot like the character. Then, we learn that, if you put two of the characters for together, you have written the word “forest.’ Logical, right? My favorite is the character for “snow,” which has the character for “rain” on top of “hand.” As Xiao Ming’s mother points out, “Rain and snow are both forms of water, but we can hold snow in our hands.”
The cut-paper illustrations are lovely and joyous, and Lee includes the characters and pronunciations on the endpapers of the books.
I often take these books into classrooms to give the children of how Chinese characters work. It explains what could be a dry subject in an engaging story format.
American Girl Books
This book, set in the 1970s, is a companion book to the American Girl "Julie" series. Ivy Ling, a Chinese-American girl, is Julie's best friend, and in this book she gets her own story. Ivy loves gymnastics, but the day of the big tournament coincides with an important family reunion. Set in San Francisco. Another book in the series which prominently features Ivy is Happy New Year, Julie which features a Chinese New Year celebration.
Happy New Year, Julie
Julie's family isn't the same since her parents divorced, and she knows Christmas will be hard. When her best friend Ivy, invites her whole family to their new year's celebration, she wonders how everyone will get along.
© 2013 Adele Jeunette