May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI) in the United States. In May, we celebrate the histories of Americans hailing from across the Asian continent and from the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.
The legislation to annually designate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month was instigated by two key dates: May 7 and 10. May 7, 1843, marks the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the U.S. May 10, 1869, or Golden Spike Day, recognizes the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S., which had significant contributions from Chinese workers. We use this month as an opportunity to learn and educate our community about the history, food, culture, and music of Asian Pacific Islanders and their contributions to the United States.
As an AAPI children’s author of Cora Cooks Pancit, Kailani’s Gift (coming in 2024), and mother of avid readers, it’s important to me to have books on our shelves from a diversity of authors. My daughters read in a variety of genres, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, fantasy, contemporary fiction and more. This list focuses on new and old picture books that are favorites in our collection. We hope this list introduces your family to some great new reads. Truth be told, we could have added dozens of books to this particular list. These books will appeal to kids of all ages and make great gifts.
10. Rapunzel by Chloe Perkins & illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan
This is a story of a girl locked away in a tower, the witch who climbs her heair, and the prince who falls in love with her. Rapunzel follows her dream to see the outside world and takes readers with her! This timeless tale is set in India with vibrant illustrations as part of the Little Simon Fairy Tales board book series. We also love the Snow White board book set in Japan.
9. Bindu’s Bindi’s by Sypriya Kelkar & illustrated by Parvati Pillai
Bindu has different bindis for every mood. And Bindu especially loves to wear matching bindis with her Nani. When Bindu signs up for the Talent Show along with Nani, she finds she doesn’t want to wear her bindi in front of her. Will she ever be brave again. This beautiful book focuses on the bond between granddaughter and grandmother and the joy of celebration their culture together.
8. Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak & Debbi Michiko Florence & illustrated by Yuko Jones
When Niki was a kid, she hungered to create her own life story. She loved designing her own recipes. She went on to become one of the most celebrated chefs, earning two Michelin stars for her dynamic take on traditional Japanese cuisine. This is the story told in 13 bites of how one little girl grew up to prove the critics wrong.
7. Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals by Liana Romulo & illustrated by Corazon Danan-Albano
In the Philippines, people love to celebrate! Holidays are filled with music and dancing, sometimes wonderful costumes, and always great food. This book gives readers a glimpse into the major holidays and family gatherings celebrated by many Filipino families. From these pages, children will learn the history of each holiday, its cultural influences and the variety of ways people celebrate across the regions.
6. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia & illustrated by Ken Min
When Aneel’s grandparents come from India to live with his family, he delights in their customs, stories, an especially their tradition of abking homemade roti. Here’s another food story that combines contemporary Indian-American life, good old-fashioned storytelling and delicious eats.
5. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & illustrated by Kerascoet
When Malala was a child in Pakistan, she wished for a magic pencil. But as Malala grew, her world changed and so did her wishes. Her right to attend school was threatened – just because she was a girl. Instead of a magic pencil, Malala picked up a real one and wrote in her room about the challenges she faced. People from all over the world read her words. This book is based on a true story about the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by Myrna J. de la Paz & illustrated by Youshan Tang
As Abadeha wept and prayed, she was a beautiful woman, bathed in radiant light, who appeared to take her worries away. Her fairy godmother walked her through her trials and triumphs as a young girl faces her oppressors. This book is a retelling of the Cinderella story set in the Philippines, which captures the charm of the the indigenous culture of the Filipinos.
3. Hula Lullaby by Erin Eitter Kono
In Hawaii, the warm breeze often carries the sound of ocean waves, the rustling of leaves, and the rhythmic chants of the hula. This book takes readers on a poetic journey, introducing traditional hula dance sounds and instruments. This book features a sweet relationship between mother and child while celebrating Polynesian culture. A wonderful bedtime book to read aloud!
2. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho & illustrated by Dung Ho
A young girl notices that her eyes look different from her friends’. Her eyes kiss at the corners like her mother’s, sister’s and grandmother’s eyes. They help her gain confidence in her own beauty and strength.
1. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore & illustrated by Kristi Valiant
Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brothers head out, Cora finally gets the change to be Mama’s sous chef. She learns to make a traditional Filipino noodle dish called pancit and some family history in the process! We know this one will make you hungry!
Stay tuned for more lists coming soon! Leave a comment with some of your favorite picture books by AAPI authors!