10 Great Books to Read for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

Collage of 10 great children's books for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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April 30, 2022

Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month takes place during the month of May and has every year since 1992. One way to learn during AAPI Heritage Month is to read books with young people to explore the history, experience and culture of the Asian American Pacific Islander community in its complexity and many dimensions. These picture and chapter books can be a jumping-off point to discuss the AAPI experience throughout the year. Our recommended books for elementary and middle school include two discussion guides: one for educators and one for families.

Amina's Voice book cover

Amina’s Voice (Ages 8-12) 

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls and talking about changing her name to something more “American.”  While Amina grapples with whether she should change to fit in, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized. This book illustrates the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together. Get the Discussion Guides.

Fish for Jimmy book cover

Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family’s Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp (Ages 7-11) 

For two brothers in a Japanese American family, everything changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war. With the family forced to leave their home and go to an internment camp, Jimmy loses his appetite. Older brother Taro takes matters into his own hands and, night after night, sneaks out of the camp to catch fresh fish for Jimmy to help make him strong again. Get the Discussion Guides.

Front Desk Book Cover

Front Desk (Ages 8-12) 

Mia Yang has a lot of secrets. She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her parents, who are immigrants, clean the rooms, Mia manages the front desk.  Her parents hide people who are immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Yangs will be doomed. Mia wants to be a writer. But her Mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language. It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness and hard work to get through this year. Get the Discussion Guides.

Juna's Jar

Juna’s Jar (Ages 5-8) 

Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector unexpectedly moves away without having a chance to say good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night. She plunges into the depths of the ocean, swings on vines through the jungle, and flies through the night sky in search of her friend. Juna finds that adventure and new friends can be found in the most unexpected places. Get the Discussion Guides.

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice Book cover

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice (Ages 5-10) 

When Kamala Harris was young, she often went with her parents to civil rights marches—so many that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!” As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland, CA to a Senator running for President, it was this long-fostered belief in justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today and led to her being elected the Vice President of the U.S. in 2020. Get the Discussion Guides.

A Map Into the World book cover

A Map into the World (Ages 5-9) 

Paj Ntaub, a young Hmong girl, moves into a new home with her family. As the seasons change, so too does her world as she encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for? A heartfelt story that weaves together threads of family life, community and culture, the natural world, and the power of stories. Get the Discussion Guides.

Red, White, and Whole book cover

Red, White and Whole (Ages 8-12)

Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother but then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Reha is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life. 

Get the Discussion Guides.

Same Sun Here

Same Sun Here (Ages 9-12)  

Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. But Meena is an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, while River is Kentucky coal miner’s son. As Meena’s family studies for citizenship exams and River’s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, and when their camaraderie deepens, they discover common ground in their different experiences. Get the Discussion Guides.

Watercress book cover

Watercress (Ages 4-8)

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl's parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. The whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can. At first, the girl is embarrassed. Why can't her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family's time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress. Get the Discussion Guides.

The Year of the Rat

The Year of the Rat (Ages 8-12) 

As the book opens, Pacy and her family celebrate the Year of the Rat. The year brings big changes: Pacy must deal with the possibility of her best friend Melody, moving away, find the courage to forge on with her dream of becoming a writer and illustrator, deal with the bias directed toward a new student from China, and learn to face some of her own flaws in the process. Along the way, Pacy encounters prejudice, struggles with acceptance and finds the beauty in change. Get the Discussion Guides.