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15+ Amazing Picture Books for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and, after so many hate crimes against Asian Americans in 2020, it feels even more important to celebrate the many varied experiences that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have. I have listed some amazing picture books you can read as a family to learn about the lives and experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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Picture books are a great way to expose kids to new cultures and ideas in a positive and casual way. Personally, I’m super thankful to all the recently published picture books that showcase different Asian foods. I remember, in elementary school, my classmates making fun of what my parents had packed for my school lunches because they weren’t traditional “American” school lunches. And even though it’s been many years since I’ve been in elementary school, I’m glad to see a change in book publishing to include more diverse books that cover different experiences and help normalize the “weird”.

In case you didn’t know, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month happens during the month of May! There’s a few different ways it’s titled, from Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month to Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to Asian Heritage Month and a few other variations. No matter what the title is, this month is all about celebrating and acknowledging the experiences and cultures of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders!

Picture Books about Asian Food & Food Culture

In honor of my elementary school lunches, let’s kick-off this list of picture books for Asian American Pacific Islander Month with some picture books that cover all the amazing varied foods from Asian and Pacific Islander countries!

Bee-Bim Bop!

Author: Linda Sue Park
Illustrator: Ho Baek Lee

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon


Dim Sum for Everyone!

Author & Illustrator: Grace Lin

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon


Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao

Author: Kat Zhang
Illustrator: Charlene Chua

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

Pssst! Did you know there’s a sequel to this picture book? Check out “Amy and the Patchwork Dragon” on Amazon!


Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

Author: Ginnie Lo
Illustrator: text

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
A family discovers a soybean field, a favorite Chinese food of theirs, and they begin a tradition of hosting a soybean picnic. Every year, the picnic grows and grows until it becomes a community event that pulls everyone together.


The Discovery of Ramen

Author: Philip Amara, Oliver Chen
Illustrator: Juan Calle

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
An adventurous story about the creation and growth of ramen. Learn about Japanese food history and culinary culture. Amazing artwork that celebrates a delish dish.

Picture Books with Asian Protagonists

While picture books about food are a super accessible way to learn about new cultures, especially when you can make a recipe and read the picture book, but it’s also important to showcase diverse characters in everyday situations.

Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes

Author: Eva Chen
Illustrator: Derek Desierto

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
Juno’s favorite shoes are a basic kind of shoe but they’re still her favorite. One day they go missing and Juno discovers a closet full of amazing shoes. Juno begins a fun adventure stepping into the shoes of female icons, while learning that her very own shoes might be the best shoes.


Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon

Author: Kat Zhang
Illustrator: Charlene Chua

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
Amy’s teacher asks the class to create their own dragon. Amy feels stuck creating a dragon, especially when she compares hers to her classmates. In the end, Amy creates a dragon that reflects her culture and feels all her own.


I Dream of Popo

Author: Livia Blackburne
Illustrator: Julia Kuo

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
A young girl moves from Taiwan to the United States but leaves behind her popo, grandmother. Though their visits are short, it’s so cute to see their love across the pages.

This book pulled me in because I call one of my grandmother’s popo but I had never seen that word used in a picture book!


Piece by Piece

Author: Susan Tan
Illustrator: Justine Wong

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
Emmy explores the Peabody Essex Museum’s Chinese house, Yin Yu Tang, but loses her blanket made by her Nainai. I loved the information about the history of the Chinese house presented at the back of the book.


Ten Little Dumplings

Author: Larissa Fan
Illustrator: text

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
This is basically a hide-and-seek book. A cute story about a family with ten brothers. We follow them as they get older and grow-up until a final surprise reveal at the end that will have you reading it twice in one sitting.


Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms

Author: Robert Paul Weston
Illustrator: Misa Saburi

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

About the Book:
Sakura moves from Japan to the United States after her dad gets a new job. Sakura has a hard time adjusting to her new life, especially after finding out her grandmother is sick. Her new friend Luke tells her to wait until spring for a fun surprise that will remind her of her grandmother.

Picture Books about Inspirational Asian-Americans & Pacific Islanders

Picture books can provide some great biographies as well. Biographies can vary greatly in text length, so it’s always a good idea to preview the picture book and make sure it’ll be appropriate for your child’s age and attention span (or plan to break up the book into multiple readings)! Let’s take a look at some amazing biographies focusing on Asian American and Pacific Islander lives!

Yoko Ono
(Little People, Big Dreams)

Author: Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrator: Momoko Abe

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon


Shark Lady: The True Story of how Eugenie Clark became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

Author: Jess Keating
Illustrator: Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon


Brush of the Gods

Author: Lenore Look
Illustrator: Meilo So

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon


Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Dow Phumiruk

Get the Book:
Bookshop
Amazon

Additional Blog Posts to Check-Out about Picture Books for AAPI Heritage Month

As usual, I like to seek out other blogs that might have a more detailed view than I do. In this case, I found a few blog posts that are more specific with their Asian-American or Pacific Islander picture book choices due to a more detailed experience than mine. Even though I’m part-Chinese, I did not grow up with ties to that culture except in the generalized way of enjoying certain cuisines and being made fun of at school for liking that cuisine.

Chalk Academy’s “100 Picture Books that Celebrate Asians and Asian Americans”: I loved the structure of their blog post and the way they divided the many picture books into relevant Asian-American topics (like by country for protagonist characters). The introduction is super helpful in understanding how the books are listed. There’s also a table of contents!

Asian Lit for Kids is actually an Instagram account, not a blog, but they share some really great picture books with Asian protagonists and stories.

Social Justice Books is another great blog and they’ve got a great list of books for all ages about Asian American stories. If you’re looking for more social justice resources, check-out this blog post.

Pragmatic Mom’s Asian American Book Lists for Kids is another great blog post to check-out. She links to all kinds of themed book lists that focus on different topics, like stories about Asian American women for Women’s History Month or books about Chinese New Year.


Growing up, I definitely felt like an outsider due to my Chinese and Peruvian heritage. I don’t remember reading many picture books where I felt super connected to the characters with their heritage or culture so it’s been super inspiring to see more picture books come out with more culturally diverse characters.

I hope this list was helpful as you look for new culturally diverse characters and stories for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Let me know in the comments if there was a book that really stood out to you!

This is a picture book list post about
Picture Books for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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