Picture Books for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  This month, I will share with you some lovely picture books to read to your child in celebration of the 30th anniversary of this special month.

Did you know that Filipinos were the first Asians to arrive in what would become the United States in 1587?  The landing occurred in Morro Bay, California.

The books I am sharing with you today remind me of the vibrant art that prevailed in the African American picture books that I shared in February.

These bright, pastel-colored books will surely delight you and your child!

Books About Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Grandfather's Journey, book cover

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say

When you open a book by Allen Say, you are sure to receive a visual treat!

Grandfather's Journey was the first book that I read by Say.  His lifelike illustrations perfectly complement the historical stories that he writes about.

Say immigrated from Yokohama, Japan.  In this story his protagonist, an American-born grandson, reflects on how he feels divided between his American upbringing and his Japanese cultural identity.

Say's realistic illustrations add a gravitas to many of the books that he has written.  Mostly about his Japanese background, you are sure to be compelled by both his stories and his illustrations!

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, book cover

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

Author Joanna Ho is interested in presenting books of diversity and inclusion.  She captures her passion in Eyes That Kiss in the Corners that encourages self-love.

Illustrator Dung Ho, who has also illustrated her other book, Eyes That Speak to the Stars, is a best-selling New York Times illustrator.  She is well-known for illustrating the Mindy Kim series by Lyla Lee.

The narrator notes that her eyes are different from other children.  However, she warmly describes her Asian eyes as "kissing in the corners and glowing like warm tea."

She observes that all of the women in her family, her mother, grandmother (Amah,) and little sister, Mei Mei, all share the same eyes.  Here physical features are something to be proud of and not to be hidden.

This is a wonderful tale to inspire self and generational love and cultural pride in any child!

Festival of Colors, book cover

Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal

Festival of Colors is about Holi.  Holi is a fun Asian Indian holiday that is most well-known for its celebration of color, as it is a celebration of spring (March 18, this year.)

Vashti Harrison, who pens her own "Little Leaders" books, has painted an eye-catching book that celebrates all of the vibrant colors of spring.

Author Sehgal shows us how the children gather flowers to mash into fine, colorful powder, which is "poofed" into the air like confetti.

The start of spring is celebrated in many cultures, but Holi is especially entertaining for children, with all of its color and fun!

Drawn Together, book cover

Drawn Together by Minh Le

Drawn Together is an easy to read book by Minh Le and illustrated by Caldecott medalist Dan Santat.

A boy and his grandfather share a day together where both are initially discouraged by a language barrier.  Conversation and watching television become sources of frustration for each character.

Art becomes the commonality that brings the grandfather and boy together, as they both recognize a talented artist in the other.

As someone who also struggled to communicate with an elder, I was touched by this story of how art can transcend language!

The Shark God, book cover

The Shark God by Rafe Martin

This story about ancient Hawaii can be found in the Library's Folk and Fairy Tale section, which is located in the picture book area of the Children's Area in each of our libraries.

Kindness is the theme of Shark God.  Much like Aesop's story of the Lion and the Mouse, the two children in the story rescue a shark that has been caught in their fishing net.

The children live in a village ruled by a cruel leader.  The children's kindness is rewarded after an unfortunate mistake lands them in prison.

Children will learn that kindness and good turns are often reciprocated, in this beautiful book!