May is Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Celebrate the stories of the Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities that have shaped the United States with the Alachua County Library District.
AANHPI Heritage Month started in 1978 when congress established Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1992, the observance was expanded to include the entire month of May. May was chosen to mark the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in the United States, and to memorialize the Chinese workers who completed the transcontinental railroad in May of 1869.
According to the 2020 census, an estimated 24 million Americans identify as Asian and 1.6 million identify as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Over the past two decades, Asian Americans have seen the fastest population growth of any American racial or ethnic group, increasing 81 percent.
These children's books are a perfect way to celebrate AANHPI stories and cultures with the youngest readers in your life.
The Most Beautiful Thing
When Kalia becomes unhappy about having to do without and decides she wants braces to improve her smile, it is her grandmother―a woman who has just one tooth in her mouth―who helps her see that true beauty is found with those we love most. Drawn from author Kao Kalia Yang's childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money. Weaving together Kalia's story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family's early years in the United States.
Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl's parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail-covered watercress as they can. At first, she's embarrassed. Why can't her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family's time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress.
Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing--which he loved to do--but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime--and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi.
My Day with Gong Gong
May isn't having fun on her trip through Chinatown with her grandfather. Gong Gong doesn't speak much English, and May can't understand Chinese. She's hungry and bored with Gong Gong's errands. Plus, it seems like Gong Gong's friends are making fun of her! But just when May can’t take any more, Gong Gong surprises her with a gift that reveals he’s been paying more attention than she thought. This story expertly captures how small, shared moments of patience and care—and a dumpling or two—can help a child and grandparent bridge the generational and cultural gaps between them.
The Name Jar
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what happens when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious about fitting in. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she decides to choose an American name from a glass jar. But while Unhei thinks of being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, nothing feels right. With the help of a new friend, Unhei will learn that the best name is her own.
The Paper Kingdom
When the babysitter is unable to come, Daniel is woken out of bed and joins his parents as they head downtown for their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. But the story is about more than brooms, mops, and vacuums. Mama and Papa turn the deserted office building into a magnificent kingdom filled with paper. Then they weave a fantasy of dragons and kings to further engage their reluctant companion--and even encourage him to one day be the king of a paper kingdom. This story expresses the joy and spirit of a loving family who turns a routine and ordinary experience into something much grander.
The Ocean Calls
Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea--generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma's abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma's guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean's many gifts.
When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens—with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words. With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picture book about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come.
My First Day
This is no ordinary first journey. The rainy season has come to the Mekong Delta, and An, a young Vietnamese boy, sets out alone in a wooden boat wearing a little backpack and armed only with a single oar. On the way, he is confronted by giant crested waves, heavy rainfall and eerie forests where fear takes hold of him. Although daunted by the dark unknown, An realizes that he is not alone and continues to paddle. He knows it will all be worth it when he reaches his destination--one familiar to children all over the world.
Even though it’s only four simple, familiar letters long, nobody can ever pronounce Thao’s name. She’s been called Theo, Tail, even Towel! But the teasing names―Tofu, Tiny, China Girl―are worse. Maybe it’s time to be someone else? Thao decides to try on a different name, something easy, like Jennifer. It works, but only until she opens her lunchbox to find her mother’s Vietnamese spring rolls, gỏi cuốn―Thao’s favorite! Now, it feels a lot more comfortable to be herself. Simple on the surface, this story inspired by Thao’s own childhood is full of humor, heart, and important ideas of diversity, inclusion, and cultural pride.
Ten Little Dumplings
In the city of Fengfu, there lives a very special family - special because they have ten sons who do everything together. Their parents call them their ten little dumplings, as both sons and dumplings are auspicious. But if you look closely, you'll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent - a sister! As this little girl grows up in the shadow of her brothers, her determination and persistence help her to create her own path in the world and becomes the wisdom she passes on to her own daughter, her own little dumpling.
I Dream of Popo
When a young girl and her family emigrate from Taiwan to America, she leaves behind her beloved popo, her grandmother. She misses her popo every day, but even if their visits are fleeting, their love is ever true and strong. This delicate, emotionally rich picture book celebrates a special connection that crosses time zones and oceans as Popo and her granddaughter hold each other in their hearts forever.
This charming picture book is about a little girl who loves her bindis (and the many creative shapes they come in!). The bindis are also a connection to her Nani who lives in India. When Nani comes to visit Bindu and brings the bindis to her, it is just in time to wear something new to the school talent show. Bindu and Nani work together to shine their brightest and embrace their sparkle, even when they stand out from the crowd.
How to Wear a Sari
Being a little kid isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes, it’s downright annoying. When a little girl tires of being treated like she’s too little, she sets out to prove to her family that she can do anything she puts her mind to - including putting on a colorful, twinkly, silky sari. Sure they’re long and unwieldy, but that only means her family will be even more impressed when she puts it on all by herself. Naturally, there are some hiccups along the way, but she discovers that she’s not the only one in her family who has set out with something to prove (with hilariously chaotic results). That’s what photo albums are for!
Every morning, a young girl walks her grandmother to the Aajibaichi Shala, the school that was built for the grandmothers in her village to have a place to learn to read and write. The narrator beams with pride as she drops her grandmother off with the other aajis to practice the alphabet and learn simple arithmetic. A moving story about family, women and the power of education. When Aaji learns to spell her name, you’ll want to dance along with her.
Amira’s Picture Day
Just the thought of Eid makes Amira warm and tingly inside. From wearing new clothes to handing out goody bags at the mosque, Amira can't wait for the festivities to begin. But when a flier on the fridge catches her eye, Amira's stomach goes cold. Not only is it Eid, it's also school picture day. If she's not in her class picture, how will her classmates remember her? Won't her teacher wonder where she is? Though the day's celebrations at the mosque are everything Amira was dreaming of, her absence at picture day weighs on her. But a last-minute idea on the car ride home might just provide the solution to everything.
Ohana Means Family
Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration. "This is the land that's never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana's luau." Acclaimed illustrator and animator Kenard Pak's light-filled, dramatic illustrations pair exquisitely with Ilima Loomis' text to celebrate Hawaiian land and culture. Readers can also find additional information in the book's backmatter, including a glossary of Hawaiian terms used and an author's note.
Salma the Syrian Chef
All Salma wants is to make her mama smile again. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. A homemade Syrian meal might cheer her up, but Salma doesn’t know the recipe, or what to call the vegetables in English, or where to find the right spices! Luckily, the staff and other newcomers in her Welcome Home are happy to lend a hand—and a sprinkle of sumac. With creativity, determination, and charm, Salma brings her new friends together to show Mama that even though things aren’t perfect, there is cause for hope and celebration.
Meet Zubi: a joyful Bangladeshi girl excited about her first day of school. But when Zubi sees her mother frowning in the mirror and talking about being “too big,” she starts to worry about her own body and how she looks. As her day goes on, she hears more and more people being critical of each other’s and their own bodies, until her outburst over dinner leads her family to see what they’ve been doing wrong—and to help Zubi see that we can all make the world a more beautiful place by being beautifully ourselves.
Ho'onani: Hula Warrior
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try. Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is–and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.
In the 15th century, four Mahu-- extraordinary individuals of male and female spirit--sail from Tahiti to Hawaii and share their gifts of science and healing. The islanders return this gift with a monument of four boulders in their honor, which the Mahu imbue with healing powers before disappearing. As time passes, foreigners inhabit the island, and the once-sacred stones are forgotten until the 1960s. Though the true story of these stones was not fully recovered, the power of the Mahu still calls out to those who pass by them at Waikiki Beach today.
A is for Aloha: A Hawaii Alphabet
The letters of the alphabet are represented by words, set in short rhymes, relating to the state of Hawaii. Written and illustrated by native Hawaiians, U'ilani Goldsberry and Tammy Yee, A is for Aloha is a lovingly created introduction to one of the most-visited places on Earth. From the meaning of the word aloha to the plight of the state bird, author U'ilani Goldsberry answers questions that most Malihinis have about this lush multi-island paradise.