Learn more about Asian historical events with these Asian history picture books for children, including books about Asians in America.
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Asian History Picture Books
Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco – Philippines
While stationed overseas during WWII, a scared teenager from Kentucky meets a little girl who gently tends to his bug bites. The two form a bond as Tucky Jo endears himself to her family and begins to share his rations with them. This heartwarming tale about their unlikely friendship is based on a true story.
Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki – Lithuania/Japan
Chiune Sugihara is a Japanese diplomat living in Lithuania during WWII. Everywhere around him, Jews are being rounded up and herded into train cars like animals to be sent to work camps. The Japanese government rejects Chiune’s plan to help them, but at the inspiration of his young son, this brave ambassador decides to do what he can, no matter the cost.
Moon Bear by Gill Lewis – Laos
Tam suddenly finds himself the man of the house when his father is killed. To make money to support his family, he signs up to work at a bear farm. Tam soon realizes that the conditions the bears are subjected to are horrific, and he desperately wants to create change for them. However, making waves could threaten his job, and Tam’s family really needs the money. An inspiring story about one boy’s integrity and determination to stand up for what’s right.
Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges – China
Most girls that little Ruby knows just want one thing–to be married. Ruby, however, has other aspirations. She wants to grow up and attend university like her brothers. The only problem is, going to college isn’t something girls usually get to do.
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say – Japan/U.S.
Based on a trip taken by the author’s grandfather, Grandfather’s Journey tells the story of one man who grew up in Japan and still holds a great love for that country in his heart. Now living in the United States, the grandfather wonders how to balance his love for the new country with that of his homeland.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai – Pakistan
As a young girl, Malala made a wish. She wanted a magic pencil to come and wipe away the sadness from people’s eyes and take away the stench of the city. As she grew into womanhood, Malala realized that while she might not own a physical magic pencil, she certainly had the ability to create change and make a positive difference in the lives of the people around her.
Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter – Afghanistan
After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996, women’s freedoms were severely restricted. Girls were prohibited from attending school, but Nasreen’s grandmother was determined to find a way for her granddaughter to learn.
Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami – India
In a bustling city in northern India, a young girl keeps her head turned upward, waiting for the cooling rains to fall. Around her, humanity keeps moving–buying things in the marketplace, herding cattle, drinking tea.
The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park – Korea
Sang-hee’s father is one of the king’s firekeepers in 1800s Korea. It is his job to light a signal fire on the mountaintop each night to assure the king that all is well. One night, Sang-hee’s father is unable to light the fire, and keeping the peace of the kingdom falls to the small Sang-hee.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter – Iraq
Alia is very proud of her extensive library and the opportunities it affords for the people in her village. But with war knocking on the doorstep of her town, Alia fears that the collection of books she has loving curated over the years will be lost forever.
Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Patty Heide – Lebanon
10 year old Sami longs to play outside freely, to be able to see his friends, to not be afraid anymore. Living in war-torn Beirut, those dreams seem far off to Sami. Yet despite the hatred moving freely about the streets of his village, Sami maintains an unquenchable hope for the future.
Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shibab Nye – Palestine
Mona visits her grandmother in a remote village in Palestine, and although the two do not share a common tongue, they find creative ways to communicate. Mona learns about Sitti’s village, and Sitti is interested in Mona’s United States neighborhood. When the time comes for Mona to return home, the two realize they have created a bond that will connect them even across continents.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams – Pakistan
A new clothing donation coming into the refugee camp means a flock of people, all crowding for whatever they will be able to snag. Two young girls each find one sandal of a pair, and decide that sharing the pair will be better than keeping only one sandal to themselves.
Grandfather’s Dream by Holly Keller – Vietnam
In the aftermath of the Vietnam war, a village is working to rebuild and move on. Nam and her grandfather are hopeful that the construction of new dikes will rejuvenate the wetlands and bring the majestic cranes back to the city. The other villagers want to use the water towards their rice crops, but Nam still hopefully watches for the return of the beautiful birds.
Yunmi and Halmoni’s Trip by Sook Nyul Choi and Karen Dugan – Korea
Yunmi’s grandmother Halmoni is taking her on a plane across the ocean to be in Korea for her husband’s birthday, who died some time back. Halmoni fits right back in to her old homeland, but Yunmi struggles with the strange culture, family members, and sights around Seoul. She begins to wonder if Halmoni will want to remain in Korea forever.
Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom by Dia Cha – China/Thailand
Dia’s aunt and uncle created a story cloth to help them remember their journey as refugees leaving China and fleeing to a camp in Thailand in the 1950s. Forced to leave everything behind after their city was invaded and bombed by communist forces, Dia’s relatives remain true to their heritage, even while being pushed from place to place. The story cloth helps Dia remember that the spirit of her people, the Hmong (which means “free people”), cannot be broken.
Sorghaghtani of Mongolia by Shirin Yin Bridges – Mongolia
Princess of Mongolia, Sorghahgtani, knew how to wield her influence for the prosperity of the people. She united a nation torn apart by war, brought profit back to a failing society, and ensured that her family line would continue to reign even after her death.
T is for Taj Mahal: An Indian Alphabet by Varsa Bajaj and Robert Crawford – India
Each letter in this delightful alphabet adventure is accompanied by a famous person, place, or snapshot from the rich history of this country.
Chachaji’s Cup by Uma Krishnaswami and Soumya Sitaramon – India
Neel and his great uncle Chachaji often take tea together and swap stories. Each time the two drink tea, Chachaji uses the same teacup, well-loved and slightly chipped. During the Indian Partition, Chachaji’s mother had to leave her home and travel on foot to a new place. She took the fragile teacup with her to inspire her soul to stay whole and strong, even in the face of great change.
Gope and Meera: A Migration Story by Ritu Hemnani – India
It’s 1940s India, and the country is being divided. Two young friends, Gope and Meera, realize that freedom from Britain’s rule has actually not changed their situation for the better. The two are Hindus and their families are no longer welcome in the newly formed Pakistan. They must relocate to India. Time and the journey stretch their friendship, but the two promise that one day they will find a way to see each other again.
Asian History in America
An emotional tale about a family who visits Manzanar, site of a former Japanese internment camp, to pay their last respects to a family member buried on the site. Laura’s grandpa was one of the last to pass away while at Manzanar. As the family says goodbye in meaningful ways, Laura reflects on the struggles her relatives have faced.
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
Following the Pearl Harbor attack on Hawaii, Shorty’s family is forced to move to a Japanese camp. Everyone in the camp is struggling to maintain their dignity, and Shorty’s dad wants the people to have some form of entertainment. They work to create a baseball field in the dust and sand, and begin to hope anew.
The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida
In one of the United States’ most egregious civil rights violations, Japanese-Americans were ordered to move to internment camps. Emi and her family receive very little notice that they are to be evacuated from their home, and the seven year old struggles to understand why she must leave her friend, possessions, and home behind.
The Wall by Eve Bunting
A father takes his son to visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. Together, boy and man search for their relative who lost his life in the war. When they find his name, they take some paper and make a rubbing, all the while reflecting on the high price of the war.
Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss
Maggie Gee’s family lived near an airport, and Maggie grew up staring in fascination as giant planes landed and took off on the grassy runways. Despite discouragement from her family, Maggie joined the brave WASPs and and eventually became one of only two Chinese American pilots who flew with the women’s Airforce in WWII.
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo
Sammy’s Korean American family has put a lot of pressure on him to grow up and study to be a doctor. Sammy is more interested in learning how to dive, a talent which he works to develop on the one day per week that people of color are permitted to swim in the city pool. Sammy’s hard work in the water eventually earned him a spot on the Olympic team and his desire to please his father earned him a medical degree. Although the Olympics was cancelled that year due to the war sweeping the world, Sammy did not let his diving dream die.
Shining Star by Paula Yoo
Anna May Wong has always wanted to be an actress on the big screen. Her career is starting out small and she is lucky to land even background roles as an extra. She endures microaggressions and racism on nearly every set. After a trip to China to visit her family that remains there, Anna May recognizes the importance of maintaining and upholding the dignity of her people. She promises to use her career to help promote positive stereotypes about Chinese people.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi
A Vietnamese American father/son duo rise early in the morning to go fishing for the day’s meals. They must go before dawn so the father can be home in time for his second job. While the two are fishing, the father tells his son about leaving Vietnam during the war.
Fish for Jimmy by Katie Yamasaki
Two brothers and their parents are being held at one of the many camps Japanese-Americans were forced into during WWII. Together the boys fight for a sense of normalcy and levity while they endure camp life.
Mari and her family are living in Topaz, one of ten Japanese internment camps across the U.S. Her art teacher instructs her to draw something beautiful, but Mari can’t seem to find anything around the camp to fit the bill. Written in Japanese and English, this poignant tale will draw readers into the story of the internment camps through the eyes of a child.