Tag Archives: Asian-American Experience

Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Korean-American Experience, Lunar New Year, Culture & Traditions, Holidays, Friendship, Single-Parent Family, Lunar New Year, Safety, Social-Emotional Development, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

Happy Lunar New Year!  This book was released on January 14th, but we decided to wait to feature it until the actual holiday.  Mindy Kim is back for another adventure, this time taking the plunge and attending a parade in Orlando with her dad and friend Sally.

Mindy is feeling a little apprehensive because it’s the first Lunar New Year since her mom died, and she’s not quite ready to have as much fun as in years prior.  She insists on wearing her old hanbok (a ceremonial Korean garment) despite it being too small, because it was the last one her mother bought her.  This book, like the last one, offers a multitude of conversation options about Mindy’s feelings and events that happen at the parade.  Sally is a great character too.  Despite being white, she’s very excited to try Korean foods and learn different customs like how to bow properly.  She embraces the unfamiliar with gusto, and is excited to learn more about her friend.

Lunar New Year Parade normalizes the bicultural experience that so many kids and families live.  We love having an early chapter book that seamlessly weaves in Korean vocabulary and social-emotional learning into it’s story.  Definitely excited to see the next installment in the series!

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. I’m focused on children books, game design, character design.

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Parent Loss, Korean-American Experience, New Experiences, Moving, Growing Up, Family, Social-Emotional Learning, Friendship, Single-Parent Families.

Summary: 

This is an adorable early chapter book that we are so excited to bring you on Korean-American Day! Min-jung Kim, who also goes by Mindy, has just moved with her father from California to Florida.  The book follows Mindy trying to make friends and fit in, using her classmates’ interest in her seaweed snacks to start a business.

I really enjoyed this book!  Mindy is a clever and enjoyable narrator, I found myself chuckling at her phrasing of things.  This series is an important contribution to chapter books in this age group because it introduces a lot of the reasoning behind social-emotional skill development.  Mindy thinks about what she says and does, and the reasoning behind doing something that she doesn’t wholly want to do (like apologizing to a friend).  Mindy also takes careful note of how she’s treated by her teacher, which can open up opportunity for discussion about microaggressions and being a minoritized student.  There is definitely a void in Own Voices literature about the Korean-American experience, and maintaining one’s cultural identity when faced with disdain or confusion from peers.  Mindy is also coping with the loss of a parent, another family situation that isn’t common in many books that we’ve read.  Overall, this book is a fantastic resource for multiple experiences and opportunity for classroom and family discussion about tricky topics.

This book was generously sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own.  This book comes out TOMORROW!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. I’m focused on children books, game design, character design.

My Footprints

Written by: Bao Phi

Illustrated by: Basia Tran

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Imagination, LGBTQ Families, Bullying, Xenophobia, Family, Love, LGBTQ, Growing Up, Girls Outdoors.

Summary: 

My Footprints is a lovely book that tackles some tough subjects. Thuy, our main character, is walking home from school making footprints in the snow and thinking about how kids have been making fun of her for a slew of reasons. When she gets home, she’s greeted by both of her mothers who were shoveling snow outside. Together the three of them use imaginations to think critically about the situation and if those mean things that were said are true or worth thinking about. 

We think that this book is really important to use as a way to foster discussion about bullying and the things that were being said to Thuy. She’s teased for having two moms and told to “go back to where she came from”. Both homophobia and xenophobia are incredibly sensitive topics that are all over the media currently as well as near to our hearts. Being queer people that plan to have children one day, we are optimistic that things may change but realistic about the fact that there is a very good chance we will be having these conversations with a tiny person we wish we could shield the horrors of the world from. We are white, but we have family that immigrated here and have been profoundly harassed for being different. These are very real experiences that children have at school, and it does no good to shield others from this reality. Having a book like My Footprints that addresses tough times while not making it the focus is crucial. The author does a fantastic job of making Thuy and her mothers’ imagination be the healing power that their family needs. Focusing on the love instead of the hate, we can have tough conversations with those around us to create more empathy and windows into the lives of others around us. 

It’s personally one of the best books of the year in our opinion.

This book was sent to us by the Capstone for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List put on by the Read With River book club. All opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Bao-byMichaelTranBao Phi has been a performance poet since 1991.  A two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, Bao Phi has appeared on HBO Presents Russell Simmons Def Poetry, featured in the live performances and taping of the blockbuster diasporic Vietnamese variety show Paris By Night 114: Tôi Là Người Việt Nam, and a poem of his appeared in the 2006 Best American Poetry anthology. His poems and essays are widely published in numerous publications including Screaming Monkeys and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. He has also released several CDs of his poetry, such as Refugeography and The Nguyens EP. A short story of his, Revolution Shuffle, appeared in the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Stories from Social Justice Movements, AK Press, 2015, and an essay of his was included in the anthology A Good Time for the Truth, edited by Sun Yung Shin, Minnesota Historical Society Press.

f070c83af410a5afeec167f172d086ec92bbee98Basia Tran is a Polish-Vietnamese children’s book and lifestyle illustrator currently based in her hometown Kraków, Poland.
Illustration BFA with Honors, Ringling College of Art & Design, Sarasota FL, USA
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Basia Tran jest polsko-wietnamską ilustratorką książeczek dla dzieci oraz designerką. Ukończyła studia z honorami na wydziale ilustratorstwa w Ringling College of Art & Design w Sarasocie na Florydzie i aktualnie mieszka i pracuje w pięknym, rodzinnym Krakowie.
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Basia Trần là một họa sĩ minh họa và thiết kế đồ họa người Việt Nam và Ba Lan. Bố mẹ của Basia sinh ra ở Thái Bình, nhưng Basia đã được sinh ra và lớn lên ở Kraków, Ba Lan. Tốt nghiệp đại học tại Ringling College of Art & Design ở Sarasota, Mỹ, bây giờ Basia đang làm việc ở quê nhà tại Kraków, Ba Lan. 
E-mail: tranbasia@gmail.com

Front Desk

Written by: Kelly Yang

Cover Art by: Maike Plenzke

For ages: Middle Grades YA Book

Language: English, slight Mandarin.

Topics Covered: Immigration, Racism, Friendship, Family, Growing Up.

Summary: Mia Tang and her parents emigrated from China two years before the book begins.  When the book begins, it is summertime in California and the family is living in their car.  Soon, a job opportunity to manage a hotel pops up and the family jumps at the chance.  The owner of the hotel is named Mr. Yao and he is not kind.  He finds every opportunity to withhold paychecks from the family.  He is racist, rude, and Mia does not like him one bit, especially because he won’t let her go swimming in the pool.  The hotel is in a new school district, and when Mia starts the 5th grade she is only 1 of 2 Asian students in the whole grade.  The other is Jason, Mr. Yao’s son.  The pair do not get along.  Mia takes on front desk responsibilities with gusto, and befriends the “weeklies” quickly.  These longtime guests live at the hotel, and together they form a ragtag family.

Mia makes a single friend at school, Lupe.  Lupe and her family are also immigrants, and very poor like Mia’s family.  Other than Lupe, Mia is teased mercilessly.  Mia is hurt, but has other more important things to spend her time doing.  She desperately wants to be a writer, despite her mother telling her to focus on math instead.  Mia begins writing letters to get practice, and comes across an essay contest where the winner receives a small motel in Vermont!  Earning the money for the entry fee, working the front desk, and dealing with Mr. Yao is more than enough for a young girl to handle.  Then her parents begin receiving visitors.  Other immigrants from China that are in much worse states than the Tangs.  Mia’s parents let them stay the night for free at the hotel without Mr. Yao’s knowledge, and feed them.  Soon a system is developed where Mia wears a hat when Mr. Yao is around so people know not to show up.

This book is fascinating, and comes with an extensive Author’s Note detailing many of the events in the book and how they happened to the author herself, in real life!  There are many parallels between Mia and Kelly’s life, as Kelly Yang’s family also managed hotels in California when Kelly was young.  This is an awesome book.  It’s funny, heartfelt, and talks about the strength and resilience found in the immigrant youth experience.

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

Kelly-Yang-300x300-circleKelly Yang is the author of FRONT DESK (Scholastic) and the winner of the 2018 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature. FRONT DESK is an award-winning debut middle grade novel about a 10 year old Chinese American immigrant girl who manages the front desk of a motel while her parents clean the rooms. FRONT DESK was awarded the 2018 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal, is the 2019 Global Read Aloud, and has earned numerous other honors including being named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a NPR Best Book of the Year, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.

 

Kelly immigrated to America when she was 6 years old and grew up in Southern California, where she and her parents worked in three different motels. She eventually left the motels and went to college at the age of 13 and law school at the age of 17. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where she majored in Political Science, and Harvard Law School. After law school, she gave up law to pursue her passion of writing and teaching children writing. She is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project (kellyyang.edu.hk), a leading writing and debating program for kids in Asia.

 

As a teacher, Kelly helped thousands of children find their voice and become better writers and more powerful speakers. Before turning to fiction, she was also a columnist for the South China Morning Post for many years. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She has three children and splits her time between Hong Kong and San Francisco, California. 

maike-profile02_small_400

Maike Plenzke and is a freelance illustrator and comic book artist from Berlin.
She loves drawing diverse women and to explore nature in her work.

My Chinatown: One Year in Poems

Written & Illustrated by: Kam Mak

For ages: 4 years & up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Poetry, Immigration, Asian-American Experience, Chinese Culture, Family. 

Summary: This book chronicles the first year that the narrator, a young boy, spends away from his old home in Hong Kong and instead in an American Chinatown.  Reflecting on memories of Hong Kong, the narrator comes to term with the move and different aspects of his culture such as picking out live fish at the market for dinner.  Poem topics include holidays like New Year and the Moon festival as well as listening to his mother’s sewing machine and playing with his sister.

The poems denote both acute observation and at times a sense of melancholy, a boy reckoning with growing older and learning a new culture.  The accompanying illustrations are beautiful and photo-realistic.  A valuable addition to any bookshelf for an introduction to poetry, Chinese culture, and immigration.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever made a big move like the narrator?
  • What do you think would be difficult to get used to in a new country?
  • How do you think poetry helped the narrator adjust to a new life outside of Hong Kong?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Find out why groups of immigrants create neighborhoods like Chinatown or Little Italy.  What are the benefits to being from the same cultural group and living in the same place?
  • The narrator mentions an animal chess game.  Do you know how to play chess?  What might be different about games from different countries?  See if you can find the game in the book, and learn to play!
  • Try writing your own poem.  Choose a topic that is important to you, like the author did, and write about your experiences.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

kam-makKam Mak was born in Hong Kong. His family moved to the United States in 1971 and settled in New York City. His interest in painting was awakened through involvement with City Art Workshop, an organization that enables inner-city youths to explore the arts. Kam continued to pursue his interest in painting while attending the School of Visual Arts on a full scholarship, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1984. Mr. Mak’s works has been exhibited at the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition, The Original Art show (dedicated to the best of children’s picture books) and in a one-person show at the Brooklyn Public Library. He has illustrated over 200 paintings for book covers, magazine and editorial pieces for such client as, HarperCollins, St. Martins Press, Random House, National Geographic, Time magazine, Newsweek, and the New York Times.

Kam’s most recent art has graced the second series of the USPS lunar New Year stamps and also a new postcard stamp for the USPS adored with the fish Koi was released in spring 2009. His most recent book My Chinatown: One Year In Poems received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and is about a little boy growing up in Chinatown. My Chinatown was the Parent’s Choice 2002 Recommended Award Winner by the Parents’ Choice Foundation. The Dragon Prince, published by HarperCollins won him the Oppenheim Platinum Medal for the best children’s picture book of 1997, and the National Parenting Publication Gold Medal for the best children’s picture book of 1997. Mr. Mak was awarded a gold medal for the cover art for The Kite Rider and silver medals for the cover art for My Chinatown from the Society of Illustrators 45th Annual Exhibition in 2003. He also won the Stevan Dohanos Award from the Society of Illustrators (awarded to an artist in recognition of his or her artistic excellence). In November 2008 Mr. Mak was awarded The Asian American Dynamic Achiever Awards of OCA-Westchester & Hudson Valley Chapter, for his outstanding accomplishment in the arts and In 2009, The past awardees include Elaine Chao, The previous Secretary of the US Department of Labor under the Bush’s administration, and Mr. Ang Lee, an acclaimed film director & producer. In 2009 he was the recipient of the Inspiration Award from APEX.

Kam is a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology as well as guest lectures at many of the public schools and institutions. He is currently working on a series of portrait and still life paintings incorporating the use of egg tempera; it is a painting process that uses egg yolk to bind pigments. Egg tempera was a medium of choice for many renaissance artists in the 14 and 15 centuries. Kam currently lives with his wife Mari and children Luca and Dylan in Carroll Garden, Brooklyn.

Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life

Written by: Joan Schoettler

Illustrated by: Traci Van Wagoner

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women Artists, Historical Events, Public Art. 

Summary: Aiko and Ruth Asawa are the same person.  Aiko speaks Japanese at home, and at her Japanese school on Saturdays after she is done at American public-school during the week.  She goes by Ruth at public-school.  She is a gifted artist, and works on her parents farm.  Ruth’s life changes one day when her father is forced to leave the family farm for a Japanese Internment camp, after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor.  Soon, the rest of the family has to follow.  For six months, they live in a horse stall of an old racetrack.  Despite these dark times, Ruth is able to take art classes from artists also in the camp.  After six months, her family is moved to Arkansas to another camp.  They live with lots of other people and always have to wait in line for things like food and showers.    Ruth still takes art classes, and paints whenever she has time.  She uses tiny scraps that she finds, like cloth, bits of metal, or rocks.  After a whole year, she is released on a scholarship to become an art teacher!  Ruth moves to North Carolina to study.  After, she moves to Milwaukee but leaves without a diploma after she realizes it will be hard to get a job since she’s Japanese.  Instead, she travels to Mexico with her sister and learns how to loop wire from a man.  Ruth is hooked, and begins to experiment and build sculptures “in the air” as she puts it.

Ruth gets married, and has six kids.  She continues to loop metal wire and build sculptures, showing them in museums.  She also begins to experiment with different mediums and metals.  Ruth founds two art schools- the Alvarado School Arts Workshop and the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts!  She even builds a public fountain in Ghiradelli Square!  Eventually, she designs many fountains and becomes known as the Fountain Lady in San Francisco.  As her final public art installation, she creates a garden to honor Japanese internment victims.

This book is comprehensive and focuses on Ruth’s achievements, while not shying away from the shameful American history of internment during WWII.  Ruth Asawa is truly legendary, and this is a great book honoring her artistic legacy as well as her public service.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of Ruth or Aiko Asawa before?
  • What is something you find meaningful about her life story?
  • Do you think people talk about Japanese internment very much?
  • Have you ever tried to make art with wire or metal before?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Experiment with different artistic mediums.  Is it easy?  What do you think of the giant creations Ruth made?  What is your favorite art supply to work with?
  • Learn more about Japanese internment camps, and why they happened.  If you’re able to find videos with interviews, or more information, watch them as a classroom and have a discussion about it afterwards.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

schoettlerJoanJoan Schoettler grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where memories of trips to the ocean, picnics in parks, walks through San Francisco, museum visits, and gatherings of family and friends continue to draw me back to my beginnings. Hikes in the Sierra, late dinners on warm summer nights, gardening, as well as, grandchildren, reading, and travel fill my days, weaving ideas and inspiration for my writing.

A number of years ago she asked a celebrated children’s writer where her stories came from. The author challenged her to find them within. Joan took pen to paper, and, like magic, stories flowed. Well, perhaps, not quite so easily. After extensive reading, studying craft, writing, innumerable rewrites, considerable editing, and countless submissions, a long-awaited box of books arrived on my front porch.

Teaching children’s literature and storytelling at California State University, Fresno nurtures Joan’s passion for children’s literature and my love of teaching. She has invited students of all ages into my world of children’s literature, immersing them in the nuances of writing and the art of storytelling.

Van Wagoner, TraciTraci Van Wagoner received a Bachelors degree in Illustration & Advertising Design from Utah State University and a BFA in Toy Design from Fashion Institute of Technology….. *snore* That’s the technical side of my background which says that she’s spent a lot of time in school drawing, painting, playing with type, page layout, concepts, characters, and developing ideas.

Depending on the time of the day, the real Traci is an illustrator, artist, writer, reader, designer, dog walker, pool player, gardener, and a Night Elf druid known as Vaingor. Creative pursuits have included: playing the piano, playing pool (sometimes you have to be creative to win in APA), a short stint as an advertising copywriter, portrait painting, photography and sculpture.