Between Two Worlds: Asian Pacific American Heritage

Bridging two cultures can bring challenges to families and children — as well as many opportunities! These stories highlight the experiences of families of Asian Pacific American heritage who are living and moving between two (or more!) worlds, and they will resonate across cultures.

A Gift for Gita

Illustrated by: Alice Priestley
Age Level: 6-9

Gita has made friends in her adopted home, but is now faced with the possibility of returning to India where most of her relatives still live. A Gift for Gita is a touching story about the importance of friendship and stability and the meaning of "home." This is the final book in the critically acclaimed series.

A Jar of Dreams

Age Level: 9-12

"I never thought one small lady from Japan could make such a big difference in my life, but she did." So begins Rinko's story about the time that Aunt Waka came to visit. From Mama's new business to Papa's new courage in standing up to Depression-era discrimination against the Japanese, Rinko can barely keep up with the way that everyone in the house (herself included) is changing. Rinko and her relatives are unforgettable characters whose stories are told with an easy familiarity, warmth, and gentle humor.

American Born Chinese

Age Level: 9-12

Three storylines — contemporary and mythic — intersect in this tale of a boy who is not comfortable with his culture or himself. This fresh, sometimes surprising, revealing novel is told in image and text. This graphic novel was the first of its format to win the Printz Award for best work of Young Adult Literature.

Apple Pie 4th of July

Illustrated by: Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Age Level: 6-9

"No one wants to eat Chinese food on the Fourth of July," says a young girl to her parents who insist on keeping their Chinese restaurant open on Independence Day. An honest portrayal of the tug between traditions old and new, as well as what it really means to be American.

Behind the Mask

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Halloween is coming. "What are you going to be?" the children ask one another. Kimin says he will be his grandfather. "Going as an old man is not very scary," They tease. What the children don't know is that Kimin's grandfather was a Korean mask dancer. And Kimin doesn't know that the mask holds a secret for him. With vibrant illustrations, Yangsook Choi joins Korean and American folk traditions in her story about a boy who finds a link to his grandfather, behind the mask.

Breadcrumbs

By: Anne Ursu
Age Level: 9-12

Hazel is having trouble fitting in to her new school, although based on her experience of having been adopted, she is no stranger to feeling like an outsider. The only tolerable thing about school is that her best friend and next-door neighbor, Jack, is there with her each day. Then Jack disappears into an enchanted forest with a winter witch, and Hazel realizes that only she alone can rescue her friend. As she sets out on her treacherous journey, she soon discovers that the hard part may not be finding Jack — it may be convincing him to come home.

Cooper's Lesson

Illustrated by: Kim Cogan
Age Level: 9-12

Cooper, a young Korean-American, is part of two worlds, but he feels that he doesn't belong in either. He is particularly ashamed when Mr. Lee speaks to him in Korean and he can't understand or respond. That frustration gets him into some trouble at Mr. Lee's shop, until he begins to realize that he and Mr. Lee have more in common than he realized. Cooper's story speaks to the frustration that many bicultural young people will recognize as they continue to search for their own identity.

Dear Juno

Illustrated by: Susan Kathleen Hartung
Age Level: 6-9

Juno can barely wait to open the letter that has arrived from his grandmother in Seoul, but he needs his parents to read it since it's written in Korean! Finally he decides he can wait no longer and he finds inside a leaf and a photo of a cat. Juno responds by drawing pictures for his grandmother, and when she sends him a pack of colored pencils, he knows she would like more of his letters. This quiet, beautiful story celebrates the joy of exchanging letters with a loved one and the importance of maintaining strong family ties no matter the distance.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

Dumpling Days

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Pacy is back! This summer, Pacy's family is going to Taiwan for an entire month to visit family and prepare for their grandmother's 60th birthday celebration. Pacy's parents have signed her up for a Chinese painting class, and at first she's excited. But everything about the trip is harder than she thought it would be. At least the dumplings are delicious…

First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Fleeing from political violence in Venezuela, Amina and her family have settled in the United States. Sarah, adopted, is desperate to know her Korean birth parents. Adrian's friends have some spooky — and hilarious — misconceptions about his Romanian origins. Whether their transition is from Mexico to the United States or from Palestine to New Mexico, the characters in this anthology have all ventured far and have faced countless challenges.

Good-Bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong

Illustrated by: Yangsook Choi
Age Level: 6-9

"My heart beats in two places." So begins the tale of Jangmi, a young girl who is preparing to leave her home in Korea (382 Shin Dang Dong) for a new home in Massachusetts (112 Foster Terrace). Jangmi can't bear the thought of leaving her house, her favorite willow trea, the monsoon rains, and most of all, her best friend Kisuni. Jangmi's story and its hopeful conclusion will resonate with children who have left a beloved home or friend behind.

Grandfather Counts

Illustrated by: Ange Zhang
Age Level: 6-9

Helen has trouble communicating with her grandfather who has just moved to the United States from China. She speaks no Chinese, Gong Gong speaks no English. Nonetheless, they begin to learn from the other as they watch and count trains together.

Grandfather's Journey

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9

A young man travels from his native Japan to the vast country called America before returning to visit his home with his bride. The exquisite watercolors give the appearance of a family photo album as it relates this autobiographical but universal story of immigration.
Country of origin: Japan
 

Heroes

Illustrated by: Dom Lee
Age Level: 6-9

From the author of Baseball Saved Us comes an intergenerational story that describes how a Japanese-American family deals with the painful legacy of war. Set against the backdrop of the 1960s and talk of Vietnam, it offers a universal message of dignity and courage to anyone who feels they are different. Full-color illustrations.

Hiromi's Hands

Age Level: 6-9

Meet Hiromi, a young girl who wants to follow in her father's footsteps as a sushi chef in New York City. Although Papa is reluctant to take Hiromi to the fish market at first, he soon realizes that she is truly interested in his craft, and he begins to train his daughter, who will eventually become one of the first female sushi chefs in New York. Based on a true story, this story offers a kid-friendly and fascinating look into the art of sushi, as well as the possibilities that America offers in bringing different cultures together.

How My Parents Learned to Eat

Illustrated by: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9

When an American sailor meets a Japanese woman, they both try in secret to learn the other's way of eating. Their courtship and growing love culminates in marriage. This realistic family story explores cultural similarities and differences and is told with humor and honesty by the couple's daughter.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

Illustrated by: Marc Simont
Age Level: 9-12

Meet Shirley Temple Wong, a delightful heroine who has come from China and arrived in Brooklyn in 1947 — the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. Based on the author's own experiences, the story captures the highs and lows of coming to live in a new country, learning English, and falling in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers during moments that are both heartbreaking and hilarious. A must-read for teachers working with ELLs and newcomer students.

Mai Ya's Long Journey

Age Level: 9-12

Mai Ya's Long Journey follows Mai Ya Xiong, a young Hmong woman, from her childhood in Thailand's Ban Vinai Refugee Camp to her current home in Wisconsin. Mai Ya's parents fled Laos during the Vietnam War and were refugees in Thailand for several years before reaching the United States. But the story does not end there. Students will read the challenges Mai Ya faces in balancing her Hmong heritage and her adopted American culture as she grows into adulthood.

Mama and Papa Have a Store

Age Level: 6-9

Amelia Lau Carling's children loved her childhood stories about Guatemala so much that she wrote them down for others. In this story, a young girl goes through the day at her family's store in Guatemala City. While the girl's parents and their friends talk about their hometown in China from where they emigrated many years ago, she and her siblings play games on the rooftop terrace, float paper boats, and make shadow puppets under the glow of flashlights.

My Name Is Yoon

Illustrated by: Gabi Swiatkowska
Age Level: 6-9

Yoon narrates the difficulty she experiences when her family moves to the United States from Korea. Her struggle with the transition focuses on the moment when she must learn to write her name in English rather than in Korean, and she remains resistant to learning a new language. Her imaginative voice is child-like and plausible, augmented by inventive illustrations.

Nadia's Hands

Illustrated by: Jonathan Weiner
Age Level: 6-9

Nadia's aunt is about to get married, and Nadia has been chosen as the flower girl. This means that her aunt will be putting mehndi on Nadia's hands, covering them with beautiful designs for the wedding. Nadia isn't sure she wants hands to look so different, and she worries that she will be teased at school. Little by little, though, Nadia comes to appreciate the special Pakistani tradition that she shares with many generations of women in her family. Readers will be fascinated by the lovely oil paintings of the mehndi tradition and designs.

Ruby Lu, Brave & True

Illustrated by: Anne Wilsdorf
Age Level: 6-9

Eight-year old Ruby experiences life with a contagious joie de vivre. However, she really hates Chinese school and worries about the new cousin from China along with other easily recognizable concerns in this episodic, engaging novel. Ruby's life continues in the equally engaging Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything (2006).

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything

Illustrated by: Anne Wilsdorf
Age Level: 6-9

Ruby Lu is an exuberant second grader who takes her responsibility to help her cousin transition from China to his new school in America. Unfortunately, it lands both children in summer school where Ruby remains daunted by a long book. The humor lies in the ordinary of a likeable, effusive child who just happens to be Chinese American.

Sawdust Carpets

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: The Lau family travels to Antigua, Guatemala to visit their cousins. Although the Laus are Chinese and Buddhist, they adore the pageantry of Easter, and Easter in Antigua is exciting. The best part is seeing the elaborate carpets made of colored sawdust, which the processions walk over and destroy. On the morning of the most important procession, the heroine is invited to make her very own sawdust carpet. But why, she wonders, make something so beautiful, only to have it be ruined?

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

By: Paula Woo
Illustrated by: Lin Wang
Age Level: 6-9

Anna May Wong grew up in San Francisco in the 1920s, working diligently in her family's laundromat but secretly daydreaming of becoming a movie star. When she set out to realize her dream, she soon discovered the lack of opportunity in Hollywood for Asian American actors. After traveling in Europe and China, Anna May ultimately decided to portray only roles she felt presented a positive image of Asians, leading the way for the many actors who followed in her footsteps.

So Far from the Sea

Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Age Level: 9-12

All the more moving in its restraint, this picture-book account of a fictional family reveals, with gentle dignity, a sad chapter in American history. Laura Iwasaki and her Japanese-American family will soon move from California to Boston, so they are making one last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave, which lies near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so far from the sea he loved. Before World War II, he was a fisherman. Then, along with Laura's father, her grandmother, and 10,000 other Japanese Americans, he was sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center.

Tea with Milk

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 9-12

At home, Masako speaks Japanese and sips green tea with her parents. But at her friends' houses near San Francisco, May speaks English and enjoys pancakes and tea with milk and sugar. When May's parents decide to return to Japan, she feels lost. May finally begins to find her way in the big city of Osaka, where she makes a special friend who also speaks English — and drinks his tea with milk and sugar. Allen Say brings tenderness and humor to his mother's unforgettable story in this beautiful tribute to his parents.

The American Wei

Illustrated by: DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
Age Level: 6-9

Wei can hardly believe his luck — he is about to become an American citizen and lose a tooth on the same day! What starts as double luck becomes double trouble, however, when he loses his tooth in front of the federal courthouse. Marion Hess Pomeranc presents a funny, heartwarming story about the blending of cultures and the excitement of becoming a new U.S. citizen.

The Name Jar

Age Level: 6-9

On the way to Unhei's first day of school, a group of kids on the school bus make fun of her name. When she gets to class, she refuses to tell anyone her name, deciding that she wants to choose an American name instead. The next morning, she finds a name jar filled with pieces of paper and finds that her classmates are eagerly awaiting to see which name Unhei will choose. Yangsook Choi (who chose the name Rachael as a child) offers a moving portrait of the importance of names and identity to all children.

The Trip Back Home

Illustrated by: Bo Jia
Age Level: 3-6

Based on the author's experience, a child visits the village in Korea where her mother lived before immigrating to America. The simplicity of the text provides rich details of everyday life in the small Korean village, enhanced by realistic illustrations.

The Ugly Vegetables

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9

In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.

The Wakame Gatherers

Illustrated by: Kazumi Wilds
Age Level: 6-9

Nanami is nervous about translating for her American grandmother, Gram, and her Japanese grandmother, Baachan — especially when the conversation takes a turn towards World War II. As they collect wakame seaweed together, though, she soon realizes that the two wise women have even more in common than she imagined. This lovely tribute celebrates bicultural and bilingual children and the promise of peace.

Two Mrs. Gibsons

Illustrated by: Daryl Wells
Age Level: 6-9

This is the story of two Mrs. Gibsons, a tall African American woman from Tennessee, and a petite Japanese woman from Gifu. While there were many differences in the way they dressed, cooked, and expressed their feelings, the two Mrs. Gibsons shared something much more important — they both loved young Toyomi and her father. Based on author Toyomi Igus' childhood, this heartwarming story about her mother and grandmother is truly a multicultural celebration in the truest sense.