Asian American

Written and Illustrated by Grace Lin

Are you harvesting veggies from your garden or selecting something delicious from your local grocery store or farmer’s market?  Did you buy any ugly vegetables?

This short and cute book, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, tells the story of one family whose garden is really different then their neighbors.  While the little girls’ neighbors plant a rainbow of flowers, her mom insists on digging deep into the soil and planting things that look like weeds and grass.  And when they finally have fruit – boy, are they ugly!

Then the harvest day comes and the mom begins preparing a dish so delicious that it brings the neighbors running to her front door.  When they try the soup made from ugly vegetables, everyone can appreciate what’s been growing in that little girl’s backyard.

This book is a fun introduction to vegetables used in Chinese and Asian cooking such as Jeou Tsay (Chinese leeks), Kuu Gua (bitter melon) and Sheau Hwang Gua (bumpy Chinese cucumbers).  The book comes complete with an easy recipe for Ugly Vegetable Soup and is inspiring for it’s larger lesson about learning to appreciate the many gifts that come from our heritage and family background.


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Written by Michele Maria Surat, Illustrated by Vo-Dihn Mai

It can be really difficult to adjust to a new country and a new school.

Little Hoa knows this well.  Her family had to leave Vietnam and did not have enough money to pay for their mother’s passage to America.  The family is resettling in America and busy raising money so their mom can join them.  But the new life not been easy for Hoa who is also called called Ut at home, a loving term for he youngest daughter.   Her new school is completely different, the language is difficult and some kids are downright mean to her and her sisters.

However, when Ut gets into a fight with a boy in class who is taunting her, something exciting happens.  During their “time-out” the boy learns about Ut’s life and how her family is missing their mother.  In the sharing of their stories, the boy who had bullied her actually becomes an advocate and a friend.  He even plays a key role in helping Ut’s family be reunited in this short but moving story.

This beautiful book is fictional but based on real life teaching experiences of the author and is beautifully illustrated by Vietnamese artist, Vo-Dihn Mai. Can a new country and a new home become a beautiful place to live?   Ut’s story answers this question with a resounding yes!


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Written by Yoshiko Uchida

Years ago I stumbled across several volumes of books for young readers by Japanese American writer, Yoshiko Uchida.  I fell in love with her ability to tell a compelling story from the eyes of a young person and this is one of my favorite volumes by her – the Rooster Who Understood Japanese.

It’s about a little girl named Miyo and her neighborhood.  Although a handsome rooster lives next door and is the pride and joy of her elderly neighbors, it becomes a problem for another resident who threatens to call the police because of it’s early morning crowing. Miyo is afraid the beloved pet will have nowhere to go and will become someone’s meal.  So she takes on the mission of finding a home for this special bird – a rooster that understands Japanese.

Uchida has a gift for weaving realistic details into her stories in regard to prejudice and the difficulties faced by Japanese Americans in the USA during the 1950s – 1970’s. Her young heroines succeed by using grace, cleverness, persistence and patience and have a way of making their world a better place, despite the obstacles they are forced to overcome.

And the rooster?  There’s happy ending there, too.  But you have to read the book to find out how it all turns out.

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Written by Valerie Petrillo

This book is a great way to learn about the culture and traditions of people who came to the US from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  There is a series of 70 crafts exploring cooking, art, dance, folklore and holidays as well as language, history and outstanding historical figures.

Some of my favorites from this book are the Mehndi hand painting, the Japanese fish printing craft, ribbon dancing activities, origami, taiko drumming and even a snakes and ladders game from India and a “kick-the-can” game from the Philippines.  There are lots of wonderfully easy recipes for such goodies as rice balls, Banana Lassi (yogurt drink), Vietnamese beef noodle soup and Cambodian spring rolls plus lots of suggestions for sweets!  Lastly, there are also pages for learning basic phrases in several languages such as Mandarin and Hindi.

All in all, this book is a treasure of information as well as fun activities that can liven up the home or classroom at Chinese New Year or any time of year!

Highly recommended!


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Written By Geof Smith
Illustrated By June Goldsborough
Tina Lau is one happy elementary school student.  She has the lead role of Little Red Riding Hood in the school play.   But her teacher says each student can only have two tickets and Tina has a large, extended family.
How does she find a solution that works for everyone?  This book with an Asian-American main character is a great conversation starter.  How can kids help solve problems?  How can they think creatively when difficulties arise?  What are their families like – large or small?  Have they ever overcome a problem through creative solutions?  A great little book and an excellent conversation starter  starter!
Suggested Reading Level – Grade 2

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Categories : Asian American
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Written By Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman
Mei Mei is a bright young girl who moved to the US and lives in Chinatown.  She misses her friends and relatives from China and is not having an easy time learning English. In fact, she’s convinced she can get along fine without it.  One day a caring teacher/tutor makes a breakthrough and Mei Mei learns that knowing and using both languages makes for double the happiness and possibilities in life!
Reading level: Ages 4-8

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