Tag Archives: asian families

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. 


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.

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.


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 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.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by: Qin Leng

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, slight Japanese.

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Family, Music, Asian Families.

Summary: Hana Hashimoto has signed up to play her violin for the school talent show, despite only having been to three lessons.  Her brothers mock her and run away while she practices, but Hana yearns to play as well as their grandfather, who was a famous violinist in Japan.  On the days leading up to the talent show, Hana remembers all of the different songs her grandfather would play on his violin throughout the day when she visited him in Japan over the summer.  He was skilled at playing classical music, but also imitating crickets, raindrops, and birds.  Hana recalls the music that would wake her up in the morning and make her drift off to sleep, sleeping on her tatami mat with a sweet-smelling buckwheat pillow.  On the evening of the talent show, five other violinists perform before her.  Hana is nervous when she steps out onstage, but imagines playing only for her grandfather.  She begins to imitate all of her favorite sounds in nature with her violin-crickets, raindrops on paper umbrellas, cows, and crows.  The book ends with her family asking for an encore after dinner that evening, her brothers appreciating her creative way of playing the violin.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you know how to play any instruments?
  • What is something an older family member can do that you would like to learn?
  • How can you learn a new skill?
  • Hana plays the violin in a non-traditional manner, what is something you do that is unique to yourself alone?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about a skill you would like to learn, and make a plan how to do so.  Are there family members that can help you? Community members?  Think up a way to be able to take lessons, and a way to pay for them yourself.  Maybe trading a weekly carwash for a guitar lesson, or dog-walking for a painting class.
  • Find someone in the community that does something non-traditionally.  What is it, and why did they develop their skill that way?  Write a story about their life, and how this skill impacted it.  How are they a role-model to others?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

chieri_uegakiChieri Uegaki is a second-generation Japanese-Canadian who was born in Quesnel, British Columbia. By the age of one, she and her parents had moved to East Vancouver, where she and her two sisters grew up.Chieri attended Sir John Franklin Elementary School. Initially, she had to take English as a Second Language classes as she spoke mostly Japanese at home. An excellent ESL teacher and an inherited love of books helped develop Chieri’s skills quickly, and language arts became one of her favorite subjects. Chieri then went to Templeton Senior Secondary. As she neared graduation, she was thrilled to discover that the University of British Columbia offered a degree in Creative Writing. She submitted a portfolio of writing samples and was accepted into the program. Chieri’s first picture book, Suki’s Kimono, was a result of losing two children’s writing competitions. She took a story she’d written at UBC almost a decade earlier, rewrote it as a picture book and submitted it. After being shortlisted in that first competition, Chieri honed the story even more and entered a second competition. Again, Suki’s Kimono did not win. And, again, the story was shortlisted. But this time, the shortlisted titles were passed on to several Canadian publishers. Two publishers requested a copy of Chieri’s manuscript, and Kids Can Press came back with an offer to publish. Suki’s Kimono, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch, was released in 2003. Chieri enjoyed working on the picture book so much that she decided to continue writing for children. Rosie and Buttercup was published by Kids Can Press in 2008. Chieri has also written stories for Chirp and chickaDEE magazines as well as for Pearson Education. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is Chieri’s third picture book. Chieri lives on the Sunshine Coast with her husband and two dogs, Nika and Rosie.

qin lengQin Leng was born in Shanghai, and later moved to France, then Montreal. She now lives in Toronto with her partner and works as a designer and illustrator. Her father, an artist himself, was a great influence on her. She grew up surrounded by paintings, and it became a second nature for her to express herself through art. Qin Leng graduated from The Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and has received many awards for her animated short films and work. In 2009, she illustrated her first picturebook and has been busy ever since. From very early on, she always loved to portray the innocence of children and has developed a passion for children’s books. She has published numerous picture books in North America, Europe, and Asia, for publishers such as Random House, Highlights, Groundwood Books, Kids Can Press, Annick Press, Inhabit Media, Second Story Press, Chirp, Owl Kids, Simply Read Books, Usborne, Gallimard Jeunesse, Hatier, Bayard Jeunesse, and Dominique et Compagnie. Her books have been nominated for prices, such as the prestigious Governor General Literary Award in 2014 and she has been a recipient of the 2015 Asian Pacific Literary Award for best picturebook.


Written by: Susan Lendroth

Illustrated by: Priscilla Burris

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Family Acceptance, Asian Families, Culture and Traditions, Self-Esteem, Japanese Culture

Summary: Natsumi is a young Japanese girl that is constantly being told things like “slow down!”, “not so fast!”, and “not so loud!”.  When the community is gearing up for a special holiday, Natsumi wants to try all of the different activities!  She tries dancing, matcha-making, and flower arranging, but none of them are for her.  Luckily, Natsumi’s grandfather has an idea and meets her everyday after school to prepare.  On the night of the event, Natsumi reveals what she’s been working so hard on to her family and community.

This book addresses both cultural and familial acceptance.  Natsumi defies some stereotypes often associated with Asian women, while also finding a place within her community to celebrate an important cultural event.  Having a mentor like her grandfather is an endearing plot point, and helps to solidify the closeness of their family to the reader.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever had someone say the things Natsumi’s family said to her to you?
  • How did it make you feel when these things were said to you?
  • Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit it with an event that was going on around you?
  • What could you say to a friend if they are feeling this way?

Continuing the Conversation: 

  • Think about a community-wide event that takes place where you and your family live.  What different jobs are needed to make the event happen?  Is there something you could volunteer to do with your family or friends?
  • Put on a school-wide talent show, so each student may have the chance to showcase something special about themselves.
  • Books for further reading:
    • Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman
    • George by Alex Gino

About the Author & the Illustrator:

105231Susan Lendroth is fascinated by the past as much as the future so her books alternate between the historic (and upcoming prehistoric) and journeys to other worlds. She combined her daughter’s often over-the-top curiosity and exuberance with her fascination with an all-girl taiko drumming group she saw on a trip to Japan to create Natsumi’s story. She lives in Sierra Madre, California. She is the author of Hey Ho, to Mars We’ll Go!, Old Manhattan Has Some Farms, Calico Dorsey and more.

223621Priscilla Burris has loved creating art from a very young age ~ just about the time she was allowed to hold a pencil. Her neighborhood public library was built right across the street from her home, and that is where her love of children’s books truly began.  She loves creating the clothing, scenery and settings that are needed for each character and story! Developing characters who bring their own personalities and perspectives into a story or image is probably her most favorite part of what she does! It’s a privilege, an honor, and a joy to illustrate books and materials for children, parents and teachers, as well as art for greeting cards, rubber stamps, murals, apparel designs ~ and cake painting, too! It’s exciting to realize that there is always so much to learn and experience in creating art and design.  She loves her job!