This month’s Author’s Spotlight in the Children’s section of the library, is focusing on books about Asian Americans and written by Asian American authors. It is often said that books are like mirrors and windows. Mirrors help reflect familiar experiences and surroundings while windows open readers up to a whole new awareness of other people and life experiences . Here are just a few of the books and authors we are featuring this month.
One of my favorite authors is Linda Sue Park. For many years, I read the book Bee-bim Bop! to my kindergarten class. The joy of helping mama shop and cook a favorite meal is evident throughout this bouncy, rhyming story. Kids love to shout the words “Bee-Bim-Bop!” as the little girl repeats the refrain while preparing a favorite meal. There is a recipe at the end of the book so that families can try this Korean staple at home. Check out the author’s website for some great tips for early writers.
In Drawn Together a young boy gets dropped off by his mother to spend time with his grandfather. They share a meal together, but each likes a different food. They watch a movie, but neither one really enjoys it. It seems that their visit together is doomed to be an unhappy experience until the boy takes out a sketch book and begins to draw. That is where the magic begins. They find a common language through art and together they weave a story that connects them beyond words. Minh Lê, a Vietnamese American, and Dan Santat, a Thai American, beautifully tell a story of love and connection.
Watch a video of the author, Minh Lê, read the story and point out a few secrets that are hidden in the book.
Thanhha Lai shares an account inspired by her own experience as a child, of a young Vietnamese girl leaving her changing childhood home and settling in Alabama in 1975. It is a poignant tale of the challenges that immigrants face when leaving all that is familiar and having to adapt to the complete unknown. I first discovered this book while looking for an audio book on Hoopla to listen to while I was driving. The narrator told this story so sweetly and gently I had to look up the book in hard copy. What I discovered was a novel that was written entirely in verse, which was new to me. The words flow so well and it very easy to read. This was a wonderful look through a window at how others experience leaving a place that they cherish and move to the country I love. Check out Thanhha Lai’s website for more information about her books and a non-profit organization that she set up to buy bicycles for students who need them to get back and forth to school.
The Night Diary is another novel that is written in a unique way. It is told in epistolary form as a series of letters in a diary that a 12 year old girl writes to her dead mother. The book was inspired by the author’s father’s experiences in India in 1947 when the Partition of India happened. The British gave India its independence and the nation was split into India, which was primarily Hindu and Pakistan, which was primarily Muslim. Nisha, whose mother was Muslim and whose father is Hindu, tells of the difficult journey her family has to take to leave their dangerous homeland and find safety in a strange new place. Visit Veera Hiranandani’s website for educational resources to go with the book.
Find these and more books by Asian American authors in our Special Selections section.