Celebrate and learn more about Asian culture with these picture books by Asian authors, perfect for diverse children’s libraries.
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Picture Books by Asian Authors
Diverse literature drawing from different experiences is a great way to help children expand their worldview and learn more about the world around them. Here are a variety of picture books written by Asian authors. For more picture books about Asia and Asian culture, check out these book lists:
A young Chinese girl and her family stop by the side of the road. She is embarrassed – why can’t her family get food from the grocery store like a normal family? In the end, she learns to appreciate the watercress and what it means for her family. This story was inspired by the author’s experiences. It has beautiful illustrations, but I did have to read it twice to fully appreciate the beginning. Still, it’s a beautiful story and is an excellent resource for books about Chinese immigrants, immigrants, and Asian culture.
A young Chinese boy grows up and develops a talent of painting horses that is unmatched across the country. When a warrior comes to the boy and asks him for a horse, the boy paints one that gallops off of the canvas and rides bravely into battle with the warrior sitting astride him. Together the two face many battles bravely, until the horse suddenly disappears.
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.
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.
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.
A Chinese-American girl sees the gardens of her neighbors full of bright and colorful flowers. She longs to have a garden just like theirs, but instead her mother plants bumpy, ugly vegetables. Her mother tells her to wait because the “ugly vegetables” are better than flowers, but the girl isn’t sure she believes her. That is, until harvest time comes and those vegetables turn into a delicious soup that smells so good it brings the neighbors over.
A young boy whose family has just moved to America from Korea finds comfort and a reminder of home in a stately plum tree that stands tall in the backyard. When a fierce storm sends Plumee crashing to the ground, the boy learns a valuable lesson about holding on to precious memories while also appreciating new beginnings. I didn’t love this one as much as some of the others on this list. The illustrations are great, but I think the message could have been stronger.
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. Allen Say is incredibly talented and this Caldecott award winner is a must-read.
Poppy the Pig wants to be a star, and when she discovers she has a gift for gliding on the ice, she begins a journey of building on her talents and gaining self-confidence.
Poppy the skating pig is heading to a brand new place to focus on developing her talents. But when she arrives, she sees all sorts of animals that act a little funny and some that even seem a bit scary. Soon, however, Poppy realizes that diversity is something to be celebrated and that everyone smiles in the same language.
Alvin, a Chinese-American in the second grade, sometimes feels trapped by his anxiety. His many phobias can keep him from making friends, riding the elevator, speaking out in class, and more. As he grows in confidence, Alvin learns to love himself and overcome his fears, one step at a time.
If you’ve ever experienced teasing because of your unique name, this picture book is the one for you! In this story, a young girl learns to appreciate her name and its significance in a whole new way.
A great way to introduce the history of fortune cookies and their integral part in Chinese culture. Mei Mei discovers that her fortunes, as told by the cookies, are really coming true!
When a boy goes to visit his grandpa, the two sit in silent frustration. It seems like they have no way to communicate with each other since they both speak different languages. But when the two begin to draw together, something magical happens as drawing becomes a way of speaking without words. The illustrations of this book are beautiful!
Toasty, a piece of toast, has always wanted to be a dog. In the end, he realizes he will never be a dog, but learns he is perfect the way he is. Author Sarah Hwang grew up in South Korea and knew what it was like growing up feeling different, but learned how to embrace her unique-ness.
In this story, the cats are too picky to try kimchi! Of course, when they finally do give it a taste, they realize they enjoy it immensely and can’t wait to have more. Inlcudes a recipe for Kimchi Pancakes.
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.
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. I highly recommend this one. Grab my picture book guide here.
Little Star can’t seem to get enough of the soft, sweet mooncake her mother bakes. Problem is, her mother has given her strict instructions not to eat the cake just yet. Little Star can’t quite resist just a small bite–surely no one will notice–right?
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.
As Hmong refugees, the author’s family experienced financial and material hardship in their flight from Vietnam and resettlement in the United States. Here, Kao Kalia Yang tells a story from her childhood in which her grandmother helped her appreciate her smile and the legacy it represents.