Tuesday, September 23, 2014

8 Special Books About Mixed-Race & Asian Children At School


by Sharon H Chang

It's that time of year again. Crisp is weaving its way into the air. Edges of leaves are hinting at turning yellow, red, brown. Halloween merch is already dripping off the shelves at your local pharmacies and department stores. We may be exhausted, the transitioning is crazy till we get used to new schedules, and everyone might be on the verge of getting sick but it's happened - our kids (or at least the ones who are old enough) are back in school. This fall in honor of our mixed, multiracial, and Asian children treading out of home and over those classroom thresholds to learn again, I've assembled a very special book list. Eight great picture books about mixed-race and Asian children exploring the joys and challenges of who they are at school and celebrating mightily who they can become...

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1. The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story
by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran
view on Amazon

Meena is excited about her class play but when she gets cast as a tree, her excitement turns to dread. She's too clumsy and awkward to stand still and steady on a stage! But a loving auntie does not agree and convinces Meena to join her yoga class to learn centering and strength. Despite the other children getting frustrated and impatient with her, through the loving support of family and the wisdom of an over five thousand year old tradition, Meena navigates through self-doubt to empowerment to become the happiest tree in the forest.


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2. I Am Flippish!
by Leslie V. Ryan, illustrated by Adolph Soliz
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Mixed-race 7-year-old Sean is so proud to have his father help out in his classroom for the first time. But when they get to school, the other kids can't stop asking why him and his Dad don't look alike. Sean starts to feel sad and unsure. But with the help of his teacher and parents, Sean soon learns instead to find pride in his heritage by creating his own unique identifier "Flippish" (i.e. Filipino/Irish) and helping his peers create their own identifiers too.


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3. My Friends
by Taro Gomi
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Taro Gomi is one of Japan's most prolific children's book illustrators and writers. He has published over 400 books in Japan and his work has been widely translated into other languages (including the well known Everyone Poops in English). My Friends is a sweet story that follows a young Asian girl as she playfully reflects upon all the things she has learned from those around her ending lovingly with what she has learned from her "friends the teachers," "friends at school," and "a friend like you."


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4. My Name is Yoon
by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
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After immigrating to the United States, Yoon's father shows her how to write her name in English so she will be ready for school in America: Y-O-O-N. But Yoon does not like the way her name looks in English. In fact, she does not like America at all and wants to go back home to Korea. She tries on different names like C-A-T and B-I-R-D out of resistance. However over time she makes friends, gets more comfortable in their new home, and finally embraces both Korean and English versions of her name side-by-side as part of her blossoming Korean American identity.


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5. The Name Jar
by Yangsook Choi
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Unhei has also just moved to America from Korea. She is very nervous that the kids at her new American school will not like her because they can't pronounce her name. So instead of introducing herself the first day, she tells her class she will choose a name the following week. Fascinated, her classmates start a name jar where they drop in their suggestions. But on the day of her name-choosing the jar is gone and her new American friends in the end encourage Unhei to be true to herself and stick with her beautiful Korean name.


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6. Pan de Sal Saves the Day: A Filipino Children's Story
by Norma Olizon-Chikiamco, illustrated by Mark Salvatus
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Pan de Sal is a shy girl who is ashamed of everything; the way she looks, the hut where she lives, and the food her mother packs her for her lunch everyday. She just wants to be like everyone else but her Filipina background seems to make everything so different. Then one day the school bus breaks down on a field trip and her class is stuck on the road with nothing to do or to eat. When it is Pan de Sal's innate talent, resourcefulness, and heritage that saves the day she discovers something within herself that not only she but her classmates greatly admire.

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7. Sumi's First Day of School Ever
by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Joung Un Kim

The first day of school is lonely and scary when you don't speak English like everyone else. Sumi's mother taught her one English phrase, "Hello, my name is Sumi," but it just doesn't seem like enough to stand up against the overwhelming experiences, strange faces, behaviors and all the foreign things at her new school. But as the day comes to a close and it seems like Sumi might give up, she finally meets a new friend and finds out, "Hello, my name is Sumi," was was just the right thing to kindle much-needed connection and make school look like a whole different, awesome place.

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8. The Way We Do It In Japan
by Geneva Cobb Iijima, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye
view on Amazon

When multiracial Gregory moves to Japan with his family for his dad's new job, life is totally unlike life back in America. At first the changes are thrilling and fascinating for Gregory, but when he starts his new school it gets tough. He doesn't understand Japanese, the other children call him "foreigner," and he doesn't like the fish they eat at lunch. Still, Gregory tries to be brave and forge ahead because as his Japanese dad says, "This is the way do it in Japan." In the end it's his classmates though who really make the difference by surprising him with a school lunch one afternoon that makes him feel right at home.



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