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Top 10: Best Korean American Children’s Books (ages 2-16)

Best Korean American Children's Books Literature KidLit Young Adult Books Fiction JadeLuckClub, Jade Luck Club, Pragmatic Mom My husband is Korean and I joke that the Koreans are nicknamed “The Irish of Asia.”   Like the Irish, they have a strong culture despite a long history of invasion and occupation.  Like the Irish, they have a penchant for drinking and fighting.  And like the Irish, there is a vein of melancholy than runs through their DNA.   Or at least, this is my take on it.

When my 4th grader did a unit on immigration, they covered many nationalities — she did Japan — but not Korea.  I think it’s because the Korean immigration story to the United States is a fairly new one that began in earnest after the Korean War [think M.A.S.H.!].  And the Korean immigrants, more so than other Asian nationalities, have made it to the United States in pursuit of higher education, and thus, when they stayed, they were able to land squarely in the middle  class.

The Korean American authors have a unique stories to tell.  Their collective memories of the old country are still fresh, as is their immigrant experience.  And if you use food to tell the story of a culture as I do, Korean cuisine is becoming the Next Big Thing.  Or at least in New York City that seems to mark the beginning of every big food trend.  My husband and I found it amusing when we visited NYC a few years ago that the big trend was upscale, fancy Korean restaurants.  We lived near Korea Town in Los Angeles for many years so we equate good Korean food with small, but clean “dive.”

In any case, ride the trend and enjoy these 10 Korean American children’s books with your children.

Honorable Mentions

Dear Juno by Soyung Pak

Juno is a little boy who receives a letter from his grandmother in Korea. He can’t read Korean and his parents are busy with the usual household chores.  Despite the language barrier, he is able to understand the letter though his mother eventually translates it for him. The letter is special as are the enclosures — a dried flower and a photo of his grandmother and her new cat. And Juno decides to write a letter back. One that will also transcend their language barrier. He makes several drawings and encloses a very large leaf. And so they write each other back and forth … at least until she comes to visit! [picture book, ages 4-9]

The Korean Frogs: A Korean Folktale Retold by Yumi Heo

This is a cute picture book that tells the story of naughty frogs who don’t listen to their mother. A fun and funny story to remind the kiddos to listen to mom! [picture book, ages 3-8]

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

When Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, she is a little embarrassed by her name so she tells her new classmates that she doesn’t have one.  They all help to choose a new one for her by putting choices into a jar but in the end, Unhei decides that her Korean name is just perfect.  This is the perfect book for anyone with an “ethic first or middle name” that they are a little embarrassed about.  [picture book, ages 5-9]

F is for Fabuloso by Marie G. Lee

I happened upon this Korea-American author for grades 4-6th and wanted to share it because it’s a fabuloso book!  It’s unclear why her book didn’t make a bigger splash when it came out about 10 years ago.  She’s a really vibrant voice for Asian American children’s literature so I wanted to let you know about her.  The author is a second generation Korean American and grew up in Minnesota much like her lead character, Jin-Ha, in F is for Fabuloso.   It’s a tender and gentle story about straddling two worlds especially as the go-between for her mother who is shy to speak English.  [chapter book, ages 8-12]

If It Hadn’t Been for Yoon Jun is another book, also by Maria G. Lee,  that I was trying to locate at the library which I wasn’t able to find yet, but I suspect it is also very good.  I will find it and update you! [chapter book, ages 8-12]

Count Your Way through Korea by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Dennis Hockerman

This seems like a basic counting book on the outside, but it’s actually packed with interesting factoids about Korean culture.  AND the text is really advanced; it’s actually too hard for a toddler or preschooler learning how to count to 10.  I’d just this to teach older kids, say in elementary school or learning a Korean version of Karate, how to count to 1o in Korean. [picture book, ages 6-9]

Count Your Way through Korea, learn korean numbers, pragmatic mom

The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Ruth Heller

This is the Korean version of Cinderella set in olden-times Korea.  [folk tale picture book, ages 4-8]

Korean Cinderella story set in olden times, pragmatic mom,

Chi-Hoon, A Korean Girl by Patricia McMahon with photographs by Michael F. O’Brien

This is a day-in-the-life glimpse of an elementary school aged girl, Chi-Hoon.  My oldest found it fascinating to learn about life in modern day Korea.  The reading level is perfect for grades 3-5.  [non-fiction, ages 8-12]

Chi-Hoon, life in modern day Korea




10. Sumi’s First Day of School Everby Soyung Pak.

Sumi doesn’t speak English and today is her very first day of school ever.  Will it go well?  [picture book for ages 2-7]

9. Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park.

A light-hearted rhyming picture book on a favorite Korean national dish.  It’s popular in restaurants but it evolved as a way to use up all the leftovers.  In this book, a family spends all day preparing this little girl’s favorite meal.  With a recipe at the end!  [picture book for ages 2-5]

8. Where on Earth is My Bagel? by Frances and Ginger Park.

A whimsical story about a little Korean boy who dreams of a New York bagel and, with the help of his friends, is able to make one.  [picture book for ages 3-7]

7. Halmoni and the Picnicby Sook Nyul Choi.

An advanced picture book about a girl and her Korean grandmother and how they both learn to bridge the cultural gap with food.   [picture book for ages 5-8]

6. Yunmi and Halmoni’s Tripby Sook Nyul Choi.

Halmoni takes her granddaughter on a trip back to Korea to meet the family, but Yunmi worries that her grandmother might not want to come back.  [picture book for ages 5-8]

5. Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent.

14-year-old Joseph Caldararo has a loving family and is a well-adjusted popular kid at school.  But when his social studies teacher assigns a paper on Your Cultural heritage, his world gets turned upside down.  He knows he’s adopted from Korea when he was just an infant and it’s never really bothered him before, but now it does.  It doesn’t help that the new dry cleaners are taken over by a Korean family who are off-out by his adoption.  And it makes his parents upset when he wants to learn more about his own cultural heritage.  His best friend assists him in conducting an internet search to try to trace his parents but that’s a long shot at best!  But what to write for this paper?  His confusion about who he is leads him down a path of deceit and now everything is a mess.  On top of this, he’s trying to get a date for the school dance.  Whoever said that middle school is tough is right!  [chapter book, ages 9-12]

4. The Year of Impossible Goodbyesby Sook Nyul Choi.

A haunting but ultimately uplifting story of author Sook Nyul Choi’s experience living in war-torn North Korea.  [chapter book for middle schoolers]

3. The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park.

Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one  skilled in kite making and the other skilled in  kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite flying contest on behalf of the king.  [ages 7-12]

2. Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park.

A glimpse into the lives of the  nobility during the Golden Age of Korea and the restrictions placed on women.  [chapter book for ages 8-12]

1. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.

Newbery award winning book about a famous potter during the Golden Age of Korea.  [chapter book for ages 8-12]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.


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Why Boys Need Parents, HUMOR! (Boys including 3 Asian Cuties Doing Stupid But Funny Things)

JadeLuckClub why boys need parents cute asian boys doing stupid dangerous funny things Jade Luck Club Celebrating Asian American CreativityWhy boys need parents...

There’s more but these this three photos lead off the very funny email I received with three Asian cutie boys!






Can We Really Teach Creativity? Should It Be on the Curriculum?

can we teach creativity jadeluckclub pragmatic mom Celebrating Asian American Creativity Education Matters how to teach creativity in the classroom school student kids kid child

I found this article on an education news feed that I follow for my other blog, PragmaticMom: Education Matters. It poses the question of whether or not creativity can actually be taught. I used to do consulting for a private art school in Los Angeles and in exchange for my advice, the owners of the school swapped me for art lessons. I was in heaven. Figure drawing, oil painting, drawing, watercolor and more. I used to ask the owner who taught me figure drawing about all the students in our class. Were they always this good? How long had they been studying? The school used to be located in Brentwood, California and has since moved to Marina Del Rey but the adult students ranged from “Ladies Who Lunch” (but with serious artistic chops) to Cher, Winona Ryder, and Annette Benning. This is L.A., of course!

There were some older ladies who had been taking classes for a really long time and were putting out some really great stuff (there is always a peer critique which was a very positive experience) and my teacher told me that, indeed, NO, some of these ladies did not have “natural ability.” He was convinced that he could teach anyone to draw and paint … without natural ability it just takes more time and, of course, persistence. Is creativity the same as artistic ability — in this case, the ability to render images accurately? I would hazard to guess, yes. But like developing an artist, it’s a process of encouraging risk taking, persistence, and developing a sensitivity to notice MORE. I don’t actually know for sure; I’m just guessing here.

What do you think? How did you nurture your creativity? Was it encouraged at home or at school? Please leave a comment.


And here’s the article from ASCD Edge: A Professional Networking Community for Educators.

Can we really teach creativity? That’s a challenging question for educators under increasing pressure from society to produce a new generation of problem solvers and innovators.

Why is it a challenge? Because teaching creativity—or even its close cousin, critical thinking—is not remotely similar to teaching the photosynthesis cycle or the causes of World War I. The skills of innovation and creativity can be lumped into a mysterious set of processes used by human beings to make sense of their world, enter a dark tunnel of confusion, and reemerge with a solution in hand. How this occurs, no one knows. How we teach the process, we’re not quite sure. Assessing the journey though this dark tunnel or evaluating the end product are even more difficult. Think of judging a piece of modern art. It’s that subjective.

This is where the rub begins for educators. Teaching creativity requires that we ‘go deep’ with children rather than providing them with more information. And, given that human performance is not directly teachable, it means setting the conditions under which creativity flourishes. It also means, as in the case of the modern art example, that we may not know creativity until we see it. None of these methods fits well with a data-driven, standards-based accountability system.

In fact, the evolution in the mission of schools places the current system at direct odds with the future. Teaching people instead of stuff requires educators to draw upon the fields of psychology and human performance, which consider the industrial structure and mindset as barriers to peak performance and creativity. But the good news is that thoughtful educators can apply important lessons from the human performance field to the classroom, including the following:

  • Speak the language of creativity. A teacher’s attitude can spur creativity or squelch it. Research confirms that IQ is malleable, and that performance is affected by self-fulfilling belief systems. Students who move from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset’ will believe in themselves, and in their creative potential. Yet in every school I visit, I hear teachers talking about who is ‘smart’ or ‘gifted’ or a ‘slow’ learner. Aside from the placebo effect this conversation induces, it violates what we know about the brain: The brain is a plastic organ capable of change over a lifetime—and is particularly shifting between ages 5 and 18. Sorting students by assuming who has potential and who doesn’t kills the creative urge, not to mention the damage it does to Algebra I scores (“I can’t do math—I didn’t get the math gene.”)
  • Emphasize questions and inquiry. CharlesLeadbeater, the British futurist and educational innovator, has good insights into creativity. In Learning from the Extremes, a recent report for Cisco Systems, he recommends that schools start, “learning from challenges that people face rather than from a formal curriculum.” Teachers can either ‘cover’ standards, or turn them into concepts and problems to be solved. Inquiry works towards supporting the kind of ‘out of the box’ thinking we need for the future.
  • Project Based Learning. Let’s put in a plug for PBL. The best way I know to start with questions in a classroom is to do inventive activities that pose a challenge, or extended projects that begin with a rich, authentic, and interesting question. The primary reason that PBL has exploded is that teachers recognize that students need to creatively address important questions. If you want a tested method for doing this, use PBL. It works.


  • Use breakthrough assessments. I recommend rubrics with a ‘breakthrough’ category—a blank column that invites students to deliver a product that cannot be anticipated or easily defined in words. It’s not the ‘A’ category—that’s Mastery or Commended or a similar high-ranking indicator. The breakthrough column goes beyond the A, rewarding innovation, creativity, and something new outside the formal curriculum. It’s a ‘show me’ category. Students like it, and so do teachers. It particularly appeals to high-end students who feel current offerings are drab, or to the middling student who will not work just for a grade, but who seeks the psychic reward of creating something cool. For samples of these rubrics, please go and click on ‘PBL Resources.’


  • Teach to the iceberg. It’s last on the list, but first in importance. An unfortunate legacy of the cognitive model that dominates education is the belief that everything important in life takes place from the neck up. But creativity originates in the deeper self and is not immediately accessible or public. In workshops, I share the iceberg model of skills developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which shows skills as the tip of the iceberg—the demonstrable, visible part. Below the tip of the iceberg is 90% of the human being. Teaching creativity requires shifting our attention to the process of inner discovery, allowing students time to reflect, discuss, and brainstorm, as well as using proven methods for getting the creative juices flowing, such as mindfulness, meditation, silence, or structured interactive exercises.

Work In Progress: New Blog Template … Thanks for your patience

JadeLuckClub new headerDear Readers,

I am in the process of installing a new blog template because the old one was gorgeous but didn’t work on the backside. For example, it said that I had zero traffic year to date even though some of you were so kind as to leave comments. I will be attempting to save some of the old “skin” to use as my new header but as I am not so technically capable, this will be a big and frustrating project for me that I hope to complete by next week.

New content will be coming next week. Thank you for your patience!


p.s. Thanks to a friend at work, I am now using the services of Black Coffee Media who is busily at work reskinning my blog and doing various other technical things beyond my ken.  Check them out if you need a technical assist. As for me, I can now work on fun stuff so I am now able to post tomorrow! Thank you Black Coffee Media! (and Annie!)


Kogi BBQ to Go: Korean BBQ Trucks, Dang Where is My Truck in Boston?

kogi bbq truck JadeLuckClub best truck food asian mexican food on the go Celebrating Asian American Creativity Ingenuity Success in creative fields

Have you heard of Kogi BBQ? It’s this very cool hybrid: Korean Mexican but only in Los Angeles! Dang! I feel gypped here in Boston! Someone get a franchise out here please!

The Yelp reviews are outstanding:

Finally tracked down Kogi when there wasn’t a line around the block.  I love GFTs, but not when I am forced to wait an hour to eat.  Happily, my husband and I went for a late dinner and were able to walk right up.  We got the Kimchi Quesadilla and the Pacman burger.  Oh. my. gosh! Seriously?  Who knew kinchi and cheese could be so mouth watering.  I was blown away by the flavors – totally exceeded my expectations.

I’ve found heaven in many places,
And those have never been disgraces.
Their burritos are the bomb for sure,
And their short ribs are a heartbreak cure.
Everyone should come and see,
how incredible their food can be.
Succulent and tangy I taste,
It has stolen a place in my heart, no food could ever replace.
Your prices have also made me swoon,
This love can only be from a cartoon.
You are a dream come true,
And my desire for you is true blue.!

To locate them, follow them on Twitter. And kudos to them for Outstanding Use of Social Media!

“The Kogi truck is a traveling Los Angeles landmark that serves up Korean Mexican tacos, day and night.

Spicy Pork Tacos, Kimchi Quesadillas and Short Rib Sliders satiate the hungry mouths of Angelenos who crave excellent food on a dime budget. Quality Korean barbecue meets traditional, homemade tortillas and fresh veggies to create a taste that carries the rhythms of LA street culture and exudes the warmth of all that California sun. Under the direction of Chef Roy Choi, Kogi has developed a menu that delivers high-end food at street level prices.

Currently Kogi operates 5 trucks and out of 1 bar. Roaming the streets of LA County are Azul, Verde and Roja, while Naranja and little sister Rosita make the extra trek down to Orange County. Alibi Room in Culver City stays put as the adult hub for all things Kogi.

Most recently the Kogi family has opened up its first sit-down restaurant, Chego, in Palms. LA-in-a-rice bowl meets non-alcoholic local dive bar in this mash-up of 2nd generation Angeleno culture, great food and more-than-reasonable prices.”

Yum! Someone send me a Kogi taco please! I’m starving here!


Deborah Jiang Stein: A Life Turned Around From Fractured Beginnings and The Un-Prison Project.

Deborah Jiang Stein The UnPrison Project JadeLuckClub Celebrating the road less traveled by Asian Americans Creativity Notable Asian Americans with drug addiction problemsDeborah Jiang Stein is not an example that your parents ever gave when they went on and on when you were growing up. Oh sure, you’ve heard stories of every child known to your parents who got into Harvard, went to Johns Hopkins Medical School, and/or won the Academic Decathlon. True, your parents might not have known Deborah, but even if they did, they would have talked in hushed tones about her and said things about her like:

“No good.”

“Stay away.”

“Her mother was in jail! She was born in a jail!


But now they would be proud to claim her as their own. They would say:

“Why can’t you be more like Deborah? She climbed out from under and look, she’s making a difference.”


But that doesn’t even begin to describe her. There needs to be a category created for “Prominent Asian Americans Born In Jail.” It is a short list. I know, I googled this and nothing came up.

“From a gene pool that’s done a lot of crime, time, and drugs, with an upbringing in the fine arts. I live between both worlds.”


She wants you to send her to jail where she’s started The Un-Prison Project, a  project which focuses on the 1.7 million children who have a parent in jail. Please watch her video, and if moved, please donate here.

p.s. She’s also a writer.  I can’t wait to read her books when they come out!


Quakebook Blog: A Twitter-sourced charity book about how the Japanese Earthquake affected us all.

QuakeBook cover raising money for Japan tsunami and earthquake victims JadeLuckClub Celebrating Asian American Creativity Posts by Japanese Quake Victims How to help Japan victims

Quakebook Blog is a Twitter-sourced charity book about how the Japanese Earthquake at 2:46 on March 11, 2011 affected us all with all proceeds benefiting the Japan Red Cross. You can sign up to be notified when the book is released here. The #quakebook (2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake) will be available very soon (within a few days) as an electronic download, and later, in a print edition.

Here are a few excerpts:

Daniel Freytag


I have been around Tokyo for 15 years and I feel I am needed here now more than ever. The decision whether to stay is the most complex one I have ever had to make in my life. Japan is my adopted home. I would not leave a burning house alone if my family were still inside.

Our house is not as of yet on fire but I need to be available in the event it does go up in flames. We as a community don’t owe it to Japan. But when I think of the Fukushima 50 risking life and limb, when I think of the children now without parents in the Tohoku region, when I think about the untold damage to the region far beyond the scale of the New Orleans flooding, this is simply where I need to be.

It’s where I want to be.



I don’t know where to start to write . . . Ten days has passed since the earthquake. My parents’ house is within 40 km of the Fukushima nuclear plant. They’ve been told they must stay indoors. Although the house wasn’t greatly damaged by the earthquake or tsunami, as the house is built on solid ground, they have to contend with the problem of radiation.

Although this is far from the worst case of losing a family member or home, they have scarcely any information regarding radiation. All they can do is watch news on TV. They don’t know really if they are in danger or if they are safe, and fight against an invisible enemy inside the house. Even if they decide to evacuate, there have no gasoline, so they don’t know how far they would get. The trains aren’t running, either.

Linda Yuki Nakanishi

My 70-year-old mother refuses to go to a shelter and insists on staying at home. She says she’s not bothered by magnitude 3 earthquakes. Even though the government seems to have forgotten her, she is perfectly calm. What is the government doing? Don’t they care about the people in Fukushima? When people living towards the coast were confronted with the threat of radiation, the whole town decided to evacuate without waiting for government instructions. Nobody in my hometown will evacuate. Why? What’s more, they took in people evacuating from the town next-door, so now they feel they can’t evacuate themselves and leave those people behind.

People of the Tohoku region are stoic, compassionate, calm and humble. They have always just dealt with the situation without complaining. Of course they have questions and fears, but they hesitate to show them as they know other people are experiencing far worse

They don’t expect the government will help them, but they’ve made up their minds to stay here and fight. Rumors about radiation pollution continue to grow. What have we done to deserve this? We are suffering like others in disaster affected areas. The difference is we have an unnatural and unseen danger to deal with. Please don’t abandon Fukushima. Please see the reality. Please give us accurate and timely information. Please get this nightmare power station under control as soon as possible. And please know that Fukushima is doing its best

Tokyo (hometown Tamura, Fukushima)


Cranes for Clothes to the Children of Japan: Get Your Children Involved! From Osh Kosh B’Gosh

Cranes for Clothes from Osh Kosh for Children of Japanese Quake JadeLuckClub ways to help victims of Japanese earthquake tsunami

Sometimes it helps children to understand tragedy such as the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan by letting them help. Carter’s has set up a charity called Cranes for Kids: Giving Hope to the Children of Japan. It works like this: Through April 25, OshKosh will  be collecting the paper cranes that you and your children create and sending them to our OshKosh stores in Japan to show them the support and caring of their friends in the United States. OshKosh will donate up to 50,000 articles of clothing.


Show your creativity and compassion!

Pick up a free Cranes for Kids action pack at your local OshKosh store, which includes origami paper and instructions or download our Origami Crane or Easy Origami Crane instructions here and make your own at home.

Here’s link for how to fold the easy origami crane. Here’s a link for the traditional origami crane. And you can use any paper; it doesn’t have to be origami paper if you are unable to drive to the OshKosh store. Just use any paper and cut into a perfect square. It’s easiest if you fold the paper into a triangle shape and trim off the rectangle edge. I wouldn’t recommend newsprint as the ink will get smeary on your hands but newsprint paper would work fine!

We’ve set up three easy ways for you to deliver your finished crane(s):

1. Bring it to any OshKosh Store through April 25, 2011 and as a thank you, you’ll receive 10% off your purchase that day.
2. Take a photo of your crane and upload it to


3. Mail it to us:

Cranes for Kids

OshKosh B’Gosh

One Waterview Drive

Shelton, CT 06484



Dare to Dream: A Great Commercial by TC Bank

TC Bank ad dream rangers elderly motorcyclists http://JADELUCKCLUB.COM, celebrating asian american creativity and the road less traveled path less taken

Occasionally you’ll run across a tv commercial that’s so good you’re compelled to link it to others and watch it again and again. I recently had the pleasure of watching a tv ad this good, and am posting it here for you to take a look at. Whether you’re in between partypoker sessions or you’re on your lunch break at work, take a short break to check out what I assure you is one of the best tv commercials in recent memory.

When you think of Harley riders, do geriatic Asian men come to mind? Not really, right? So I loved how this group of older Asian men took up the siren call of riding their bikes as a means to “get busy living, or get busy dying.*” And I loved that this is based on a true story. I wish one of them was my grandpa! Does anyone have an Asian grandpa like this? Please share!

The commercial is in Mandarin and I don’t speak Mandarin but this video crosses all language barriers.

Based on a true story.

What do people live for?
To miss someone?
To keep living?
To live longer?
Or, to leave?

“Let’s go ride motorcycles!”

5 Taiwanese.
An average age of 81.
1 has a hearing problem.
1 has cancer.
3 have heart disease.
Every one of them has degenerative arthritis.

6 months of preparation.
13 days traveling around the island.
1139 kilometers.
From the north to the south.
From night to day.
For one simple reason.

What do people live for?


For ordinary people with extraordinary dreams.
TC Bank |

*quote from The Shawshank Redemption


The Key To Happiness, if it were as simple as this re-purposed necklace…

This necklace is called The Key To Happiness and I was struck by the tiny Buddha plus the notion that the key to happiness could be a simple as finding a beautiful vintage repurposed necklace (and for only $38). She has other beautiful vintage necklaces on her Etsy store as well!

The Key to Happiness Nostalgic Summer JadeLuckClub Celebrating Asian American CreativityThis necklace is made of re-purposed vintage jewelry by Nostalgic Summer so it’s environmentally friendly and one-of-a-kind. What do you think the key to happiness is? Does it lie in creativity?

To purchase it (or look more closely examine it), just click on image.

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