Books by Theme
A good book can open a child's eyes to new places, new customs. From family stories (Grandfather's Journey) to folktales (Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story) to feeling connected to a new culture (The Name Jar): discover the rich culture, humor, and traditions of Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Hawaii in this collection of picture books for kids 3-9 years old.
Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic
While on a visit to her aunt and uncle in Illinois, the narrator and her family unexpectedly find a field of growing soybeans which begins a 40-year tradition. Based on the author's experiences, text and child-like illustrations reveal a caring, surprisingly modern family story from times past.
What's better than just eating a favorite dish? Anticipating it while preparing it, of course! Rhythmic, rhyming language and playful illustrations capture the joy of making this special Korean dish — and the joy of sharing it.
Country of origin: Korea
Boy of the Three Year Nap
Though Taro is known for his laziness, he is also clever and so finds a way to become wealthy. Realistic illustrations place Taro and his mother in a long ago Japan in this spritely retelling of a traditional trickster tale.
When Vinson's grandfather visits from China, the boy has conflicting feelings about his grandfather's old ways. A visit to Chinatown to experience the lion dancers celebrate the Chinese New Year bring Ming Da (Vinson) and his grandfather closer. Watercolor and ink illustrations add power to the warm, plausible story.
This remarkable story is based on the life of Billy Wong, a Chinese-American who travels to Europe, becomes fascinated with bullfighting, and decides to become a matador. Eventually, Billy's determination and recognition of what makes him unique helps him realize his dream. Luminous watercolors illustrate this sensitive picture book biography.
Froggy Goes to Hawaii
Once you've joined Froggy and his family on their Hawaiian vacation, find out more about what many have called a tropical paradise in the Pacific Ocean. You can read about the geography of the Aloha State in Hawaii.
Country of origin: Hawaii, USA
Say narrates the saga of his grandfather who as a young man travels to the United States in the early 20th century, marries, and returns to Japan. Watercolor portraits of people and places glimpse the contrast of cultures and parallel the lives of grandfather and grandson. It could lead to a discovery of family histories. Country of origin: Japan
Henry's First Moon Birthday
Jen helps her Chinese-American family get ready for the traditional celebration of her brother Henry’s one-month birthday. Lively, stylized illustrations move the story at a quick pace to its satisfying conclusion.
How My Parents Learned to Eat
When an American sailor meets a Japanese woman, they both try in secret to learn the other's way of eating. Their courtship and growing love culminates in marriage. This realistic family story explores cultural similarities and differences and is told with humor and honesty by the couple's daughter.
Hush! A Thai Lullaby
A loving mother asks animals from a water buffalo to a lizard to "hush" so her baby can sleep. Once the noises stop, the mother herself sleeps — and the baby is now awake! Textured illustrations evoke the Thai setting and convey the understated humor of this unique bedtime book.
An elderly kamishibai man travels the route on which he once told stories using his paper theater. Though the city is now crowded and noisy, the children — now grown — remember and stop once more. A note about kamishibai and stunning illustrations create broad reader appeal.
Traditional wooden Kokeshi dolls inspired this introduction to Japanese words and culture while presenting a participatory book with flaps to lift, fold-outs and more.
The young narrator describes how she and her family each contribute to a handsome kite which they then enjoy flying. Signature illustrations show traditional Chinese kite designs combined with an author's note about kite history. The result is the celebration of an ebullient family tradition that readers may want to take up themselves!
Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel / Si Lakas at ang Makibaka Hotel
This engaging story of how one community comes together to save their home is told in English and in Tagalog. Bright illustrations help move the story of successful resistance along while conveying a bit of Filipino history and culture.
Country of origin: Philippines
Red Kite, Blue Kite
Tai Shan and his father fly kites from "the tippy-top of our triangle roof" where they are free like the kites. Tai Shan's is small, nimble, and red while Baba's is a strong, large blue kite. The widow and his son are separated during China's Cultural Revolution though are ultimately reunited. A difficult period is touchingly presented while remaining child-friendly.
Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
A family shares a nighttime picnic with traditional mooncakes and other foods to honor the moon. Each silently shares a wish that is sent to the moon. The quiet celebration is presented through Lin’s signature illustrations and simple text. An endnote provides a bit more information about the festival.
The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale
Have you wondered why frogs croak on the edge of streams? It all started long ago with two disobedient frog brothers who decided to obey their long-suffering mother only after her death. Humor and grimness combine for a memorable Korean pourquoi tale.
Country of origin: Korea
The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China
With war approaching, Baba (the author's father) builds a sturdy home for his family in Shanghai. The family, their activities, and house unfold in stunning, varied art and lyrical language in an expansive format to reveal a glimpse of an historical time through the lens of one family.
The Seven Chinese Sisters
Sisters each use their special talent while working together to save the sister who was snatched by a not-too-scary dragon. Uncluttered illustrations add detail to the crisply told original tale likely inspired by a Chinese folktale.
Country of origin: China
The Trip Back Home
Based on the author's experience, a child visits the village in Korea where her mother lived before immigrating to America. The simplicity of the text provides rich details of everyday life in the small Korean village, enhanced by realistic illustrations.
The Ugly Vegetables
In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.
Toad Is the Uncle of Heaven: A Vietnamese Folktale
The small toad, with the help of other animals, gets the attention of the Emperor of Heaven to end Earth's drought before all is destroyed. There is humor in this colorfully illustrated, respectful retelling of a traditional folktale.
Country of origin: Vietnam
Tuko and the Birds: A Tale from the Philippines
Birds sing the people of Maynilad on the Philippine island of Luzon to sleep at night — until Tuko the haughty gecko prevents the birds from doing their job. Repetition and onomatopoeic animal sounds make this a lively, memorable folktale to share aloud. Tagalog is sprinkled throughout and is included in a glossary.
Country of origin: Philippines
Lyrical text and rich collage illustrations combine to tell the story of a brown cat named Wabi Sabi as he discovers the meaning of his name. As Wabi Sabi's journey unfolds so, too, does the reader's understanding of Japanese culture and sensibility.
Country of origin: Japan
What Will You Be, Sara Mee?
On Sara Mee's first birthday, her family made sure to have a tol, a celebration based in an ancient custom that includes guests, special foods, and gifts for the child that will predict what the child will be when he or she grows up. Realistic illustrations capture the warmth of Sara Mee's family, her birthday festivity, and the warm relationship shared with her older brother. An author's note and glossary round out this attractive book
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Based on an ancient Chinese story (which pre-dates European versions), a girl overcomes her wicked stepmother to marry the prince. Jewel-like illustrations by Caldecott medalist Ed Young bring this variation of the classic tale to life.
Country of origin: China
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