Tag Archives: children’s books

2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Awards for Adult, YA and Children’s Literature

Asian chapter book, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, Wendy Shang, JadeLuckClub

The Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature honor and recognize individual works about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage with exceptional literary and artistic merit. The awards are given in five categories, including Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Children’s Literature, Young Adult Literature and Picture Book.

The Submission by Amy Waldman won the Adult Fiction award.

Amy Waldman imagines the fallout when a Muslim American of Indian descent, Mohammad “Mo” Khan, wins an anonymous competition for a 9/11 memorial just two years after the World Trade Center tragedy. Waldman treats her large ensemble of characters with understanding and sympathy. Through the experiences of two very different Asian American, Muslim characters—disenfranchised and privileged, immigrant and second generation—“The Submission” interrogates the definition of America.

Leche by R. Zamora Linmark was selected as the Honor Book in the Adult Fiction category.

The Woman Who Could Not Forget: Iris Chang Before and Beyond the Rape of Nanking – A Memoir by Ying-Ying Chang won the Adult Non-Fiction award.

Ying-Ying Chang had the unfortunate task of writing her own daughter’s memoir after her tragic death. This moving memoir takes the reader into the world of Iris Chang, journalist and author of “The Rape of Nanking” (Basic Books, 1997), following her childhood imagination, creative writing, triumphs, motherhood, depression and suicide. Ying-Ying Chang did what she thought was important; to share the story of Iris’s illustrious as well as obscure life, which makes for a touching and poignant tribute to her daughter.

The Bangladeshi Diaspora in the United States after 9/11: From Obscurity to High Visibility by Shafiqur Rahman  was selected as the Honor Book in the Adult Non-Fiction category.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang won the Children’s Literature award.

Twelve-year old Lucy is going to have the best year yet: she will be a sixth grader, be the captain of her basketball team and have a bedroom all to herself. Her plans change, however, when her Yi Po (great aunt) visits from China and Lucy has to share her room with Yi Po for a few months. This is a hilarious first children’s book for Shang, with a serious undertone as she explores the complexities of racial identity in a Chinese-American family with traditional parents and American-born children.

Vanished by Sheela Chari was selected as the Honor Book in the Children’s Literature Category.

Orchards by Holly Thompson won the Young Adult Literature award.

Kanako Goldberg wants nothing more than to spend the summer with her friends in New York, but the loss of her classmate Ruth changes everything, and her parents believe that the best thing for Kanako to do is to be shipped off to her grandparents’ mikan orange farm in Shizuoka, Japan. Written entirely in verse, Kana’s intimate narrative captures the reader as she not only grapples with the death of a friend, but also navigating a place that is not entirely familiar, even if it is a part of her.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang was selected as the Honor Book in the Young Adult Literature category.

The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China by Ed Young won the Picture Book award.

Fragments of artist Ed Young’s childhood are gathered in this memoir, displayed in a variety of hand drawn images, paintings and collages of cut paper and personal photographs. While addressing the issues of World War II and their effect on China, much emphasis is placed on warm vignettes of small, personal moments that all readers can relate to.

Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min was selected as the Honor Book in the Picture Book category.

Special thanks to the APALA Literature Awards Committee, including Jury Chair Dora Ho; Adult Fiction Chair Michelle Baildon and members Suhasini L. Kumar, Karen Fernandez, Eileen Bosch and Jerry Dear; Adult Non-Fiction Chair Buenaventura “Ven” Basco and members Eugenia Beh, Samanthi Hewakapuge, Monica Shin and Yumi Ohira; Children’s Literature Chair Ngoc-Yen Tran and members Shu-Hsien Chen, Tamiye T. Meehan, Laksamee Putnam, Katrina Nye and Maria Pontillas; Young Adult Literature Chair Lana Adlawan and members Jade Alburo, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Karla Lucht and Candice A. Mack and Picture Book Chair Susan Hoang and members Jeannie Chen, Kate Vo-Thi Beard, Amber Painter and Danielle Date Kaprelian.

An affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) was founded in 1980 by librarians of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestries committed to working together toward a common goal: to create an organization that would address the needs of Asian/Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian/Pacific American communities. For more information about APALA, visit www.apalaweb.org.

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

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KidLit and Culture: Burma (Myanmar) Children’s lit, recipes, history and more…

Why Burma? A trio of serendipitous events collided:

  • A Mom Friend from Burma hosted a Mystery Dinner School Fundraiser and 8 parents from my school went to her dinner.
  • I had brunch with one set of parents who raved about her dinner, a Burmese Noodle Dish — recipe below –, and reminisced about his own travels to Burma.  He was there during the student protests (see history bullet points below) which was a crazy and somewhat unsafe time to be a tourist in Burma.
  • I was at a U2 concert a year ago, and Bono dedicated a song to Aung San Suu Kyi, who was I barely aware of.

And that is all it took.  Plus me realizing that I knew nothing about Burma, to the point that I didn’t fully realize that Myanmar is Burma.  Such is Teach Me Tuesday … I teach myself (that’s the Teach Me part) and then I share what I hope is also interesting to others.  I’m not sure if I would feel safe traveling to Burma now with my family so this is my way to arm chair travel — through children’s literature, food, photo essays,  and the briefest pit stop into the history.  I hope you enjoy the trip.  And please share in the comments section any experiences you have had in Burma.  And if you have more children’s books suggestions, please share!

Children’s Literature

Picture Book

The challenge for this Burma post was finding picture books and middle grade or YA books on Burma.  My Burmese Mom Friend had asked her children’s librarian friend to help with this search but all of us came up with zippo.  So I started to dig deeper on the web and came up with a really interesting not-for-profit project created by refugee children from Burma and benefiting the Burma Cyclone Relief Fund called My Beautiful Myanmar.  The drawings and stories are created entirely by refugee children about why they left Myanmar, what their lives are like in Malaysia, and what their hopes and dreams are.  100% of proceeds go to the Burma Cyclone Relief Fund.  Here’s an interesting way to teach your children about a different country and do good at the same time!

Young Adult Book

The next book I found was by Mitali Perkins, an author from my town, who is lovely and talented.  This YA book gets rave reviews:

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins (Young Adult Fiction)

  • “A graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.”  Publishers WeeklyStarred Review
  • “With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel.”  School Library Journal Starred Review
  • “Mitali Perkins has written something here that is so fine, so rare, so beautiful, that I am loath to move on to another book too quickly because I want to think and remember and savor this exquisite story.” —Bookmoot

And here’s the plot summary:

“Chiko isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family’s home and bamboo fields.Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion as each boy is changed by unlikely friendships formed under extreme circumstances.This coming-of-age novel  takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma. Narrated by two fifteen-year-old boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma, Bamboo People explores the nature of violence, power, and prejudice.” From Mitali Perkin’s Website.
I found this event on Paper Tigers Blog (I subscribe): Global Read of Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

You are invited to join us for a discussion of the young adult novel, Bamboo People, by Mitali Perkins — a compelling coming-of-age story about child soldiers in modern Burma. The online discussion forum will begin tomorrow – Wednesday, January 12th. Then join the author for a live chat on January 19th.

Online discussion forum: January 12th-19th, 2011
Live chat session with the author: Wednesday, January 19, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. EST

Register online here (registration is free but participants are responsible for obtaining their own copy of the book). All are welcome – teachers, students, parents, and anyone interested in global issues!

Young Adult Photo Essay Book

Finally, “a picture speaks a thousand words” in this photo essay book built around a single letter of correspondence to a young soldier (and would be interesting paired with Bamboo People for middle grade or older):

Burma: Something Went Wrong by Chan Chao [non fiction photo essays for Young Adult]

The book is built around a single letter of correspondence sent to Chao in 1997 by Aye Saung. The brief letter relays news of a friend’s death, a fighter’s struggle, and a movement’s dreams and setbacks. While the letter and accompanying portraits are specific to Burma in 1997, the themes found in Letter from P.L.F. are universal, making this an artists’ book of the highest order.Letter from two of the guerilla fighters: “Hallo! Dear Naing Naing, I am so sorry for not writing you earlier. Do you remember Myint Zaw, General Secretary of D.A.B.? He died in March by sickness. All the place you had been with us in Hteekabalae are fallen into enemy’s hand. I was in the area when the enemy approached. I sent my men to the front and have to leave quickly. I was told by my men to leave they don’t let me know because they didn’t want me to worry.”

This book shows us a region in constant turmoil, whose people have been at war with themselves for generations, where violence and death, nevertheless, provide a backdrop to what is still a golden land.

Photos of Burma — Shangri La Lost?

I have heard people speak of the beauty of Burma and when I found these photos I was really quite stunned by their beauty.

These photos are from Molon Gallery in Burma
Thabyinnyu Pagoda
Evening View of Bagan Plain
The Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, Burma

Briefest History of Burma: Colonization and Coups Never End Well…

Burma has one of the most eclectic cultural mixes in all of Asia. This began with the migration of three groups, the Mons from present-day Cambodia, the Mongol Burmans from the Himalayas and the Thais from northern Thailand. The territory that is now Burma, was first united under King Anawratha in present day Bagan. However, this unification was short lived and it took 250 years before Burma was reunified in the mid-16th Century under a series of Taungoo kings.  Since then, and even now, Burma’s history has been troubled and violent.

  • Border clashes with British troops, economic potential and empire expansion lead the British to invade Burma. It took three invasions to control the whole of Burma in 1824, 1852 and 1883. Burma, under the British rule was annexed to India.
  • In World War II,  the Burmese National Army, which fought along side the Japanese to drive the British out of Burma. However, before the end of the war, the Burmese National Army changed sides and fought with the allied forces to expel the Japanese.
  • Following World War II, the British agreed to Burma’s independence and elections were held in April 1947. However, most members of the new government were assasinated three months later.
  • Despite this on January 4, 1948, Burma gained independence and became the Union of Burma. In 1948 the Burman’s controlled the area surrounding Rangoon, the rest was controlled by the different ethnic groups.  Many ethnic groups and religious minorities revolted and formed armed resistance groups.
  • In 1958 Prime Minister U Nu invited the army to help restore the government’s political power, which for 18 months, had limitless power.
  • In 1962 Burma’s troubled democracy was ousted in a military coup by General Ne Win. During the coup the constitution was abolished and a military government took over the running of the country. Consequently, the government’s policies also changed, they became xenophobic and put the country on the path to socialism.
  • Very quickly the country changed. In 1939 under the British Burma was the world’s largest rice exporter and it had a successful export business in teak and gems. Burma was one of the richest countries in South East Asia. After 1962, it became the poorest. All business were nationalized, all privately owned stores were closed and replaced with ones that were controlled by the state. No one received compensation for these seizures. Many people lost their jobs. A black market emerged and it was the only way to find essential items.
  • Also due to the xenophobic nature of the military leaders, people who were not Burmese were encouraged to leave the country. A lot of Indian and Chinese who were entrepreneurs were expelled from Burma.
  • After student protests in 1988, there was another military coup and Ne Win was replaced by General Saw Maung and his State Law and Restoration Council (SLORC). Maung declared Burma to be in a state of emergency which resulted in the military-law. Maung also suspended the constitution and changed the name of the country to the Union of Myanmar, because the Union of Burma, as it had previously been known, was an outdated colonial term.
  • However, he also agreed to hold free elections in 1989. A group quickly formed a coalition party in opposition to the military run dictatorship, called the National League of Democracy (NLD). Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of independence crusader Aung San, emerged as the leader of the NLD. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the NLD were put under house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in July 1995. In 1991 she was received the Nobel Peace Prize.  She continues to be under house arrest.
  • At the end of October 2004, there was another coup in Burma, with General Khin Nyunt being allowed to resign for “health reasons” while being under house arrest. He was allegedly ousted for being too inclined for democratic reformed, and his successor, General Soa Win, is a military hardliner.

Recipes:  Ohno Khaw Swe (Burmese Noodles with Coconut Sauce)

& Burmese Crunchy Cucumber Salad

If that was too dreary for you, let us leave on an upbeat note.  Here’s that Burmese Noodle Dish that everyone raved about.  The Mom Friend who made it says that it’s a favorite family meal for them because everyone can customize their own which is especially great for children!

Ohno Khaw Swe (Burmese Noodles with Coconut Sauce) by Jenny Tun-Aung
Ingredients:
  • Chicken (breast, thighs, skin removed)
  • Chicken stock/broth
  • Coconut milk can
  • Gram flour
  • Turmeric and Paprika
  • Fish sauce
  • Onions (cut into big chunks or use whole if small. Pearl onions will do also).
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Can of Cream of Chicken Soup (optional)
  • *Noodles (your choice – small flat rice noodles or linguini)
Condiments to serve on the side:
  • Lemons or limes, sliced
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Fish sauce
  • Crispies (like crispy chow mein noodles)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Sliced green onions
Cut up chicken to about one-inch cubes or desired size and marinade with Turmeric and Paprika, some fish sauce, garlic powder or diced garlic. Heat the ready-made chicken broth, or make chicken stock. In a cup, add gram flour with some water to mix well and add to soup stock, stirring occasionally. Add chunks of onions (makes soup thicker and sweeter), let onions cook/soften.  Then add the coconut milk and keep slowly simmering to cook all the ingredients and thicken a bit. Heat oil in another pan while the soup is simmering. In small cup, mix turmeric, paprika and a tiny amount of either water or the soup to form a bit of paste. Put this into the heated oil and immediately add the marinated chicken and cook until meat is done. Chicken should have a nice color and flavor from spices. Add the cooked chicken into the simmering stock and coconut milk pot. Continue simmering and keep stirring occasionally on low heat. Cream of Chicken can be added if you want to make the sauce a little thicker. Cook noodles. Put noodles in bowls, add sauce, add the sides (where people add their choices of condiments to their own taste – I like little bit of sauce, lots of sour and spicy! Others like it a more like soup with more sauce. Whatever you like!).You can cook it ahead of time and keep simmered until ready or heat it up when ready to serve.
ENJOY! HAVE SECONDS. FREEZE THE EXTRA SAUCE.
Burmese Crunchy Cucumber Salad (by Tun Aung)
Ingredients:
  • Cucumbers (skin on, halved lengthwise and sliced about ¼ inch thick or so). Estimate about 1-2cucumber a person (it will really shrink!)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sesame seeds if desired
  • Slivered ginger
  • Slivered garlic (if desired)
  • Oil
  • Optional: Crispy fried sliced onions
Marinate the sliced cucumbers with sea salt (be generous, some of the salt will drain out with the liquid in next step). Put in colander and press down with a heavy weight for at least half a day or overnight. The salt will soak in and drain the water from cucumber. Drain (squeeze out) excess liquid from cucumber.  You can simply squish with your hands over the sink or put into a tea towel or cheesecloth and squeeze.  Mix with the above rest of the ingredients. Top with sesame and/or crispy fried onions and add to taste.The good thing about this recipe is that you can make most of it ahead of time.
Bon Appetit!If you are interested in examining any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
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Top 10: Best Southeast Asian Children’s Books (ages 2-14)

Best southeast asian children's books kidlit jadeluckclub jade luck club pragmatic mom

I posted this list on my parenting blog, PragmaticMom, and it was so popular with some great additional suggestions that I wanted to share it here as well. If you know of any books that you or your children have enjoyed, please leave me a comment and I’ll keep adding. I know I am heavy on just a few authors for this list, so it would be great to expand it. It’s just that my library didn’t have all the books I was seeking that day and I’m too lazy to reserve.

p.s. Thank you to reader Navjot for giving these links to other great list of Southeast Asian KidLit and one for Southeast Asian YA (Young Adult).

Honorable Mention

Vanished by Sheela Chari

This book came highly recommended on a number of fronts including kidlit book bloggers and authors (see comments below). I will track it down so I can review it pronto! Author Uma Krishnaswami has a interview with author Sheela Chari here.

Bindi Babes series by Narinder Dhami

My going-int0-6th grade tried to read this book but didn’t like it. I said, well it’s like an Indian American Beacon Street Girls. She countered that Beacon Street Girls is better. Maybe that is splitting hairs. It’s not that either series is bad per se, it’s just that neither are or ever will be up for prestigious children’s lit awards. BUT, there is place for everything and this series is great for East Asian girls who want to see themselves (2nd generation) in the books that they read for fun. We read Beacon Street Girls for the same reason … one character was the actual literacy specialist at our elementary school and we recognize many of the places in the book since it’s just one town over.

Bollywood Babes

 

10. The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami

Eleven-year old Dini loves movies—watching them, reading about them, trying to write her own—especially Bollywood movies. But when her mother tells her some big news, it does not at all jive with the script of her life she has in mind. Her family is moving to India…and, not even to Bombay, which is the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini’s all-time most favorite star, Dolly. No, Dini is moving to a teeny, tiny village she can’t even find on a map. Swapnagiri. It means Dream Mountain and it only looks like a word that’s hard to pronounce. But to that open-minded person who sounds the name out, one letter at a time, it falls quite handily into place: S-w-a-p-n-a-g-i-r-i. An honest sort of name, with no surprise letters waiting to leap out and ambush the unwary. That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises in Swapnagiri like mischievous monkeys and a girl who chirps like a bird—and the biggest surprise of all: Dolly.

So now, Dini is hard at work on a new script, the script in which she gets to meet the amazing Dolly. But, life is often more unpredictable than the movies and when Dini starts plotting her story things get a little out of control.

This is a joyful, lively Bollywood inspired story is full of colorful details, delicious confections and the wondrous, magical powers of coincidence. Uma Krisnaswami will have you smiling from ear to ear.  [chapter book, ages 9-12]

9. The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami

Hatha yoga has been practiced in India for centuries and is now a popular activity for children to help them focus and calm their minds. My middle daughter who is energetic to say the least like Vinyasa Yoga and says that it makes her feel calm. This is a good thing! If your child enjoys yoga, he or she will like this story about how Meena, who thinks she’s clumsy, uses the power of yoga to help her during her school play when she’s a wiggly tree. The yoga poses in the back include tree, frog, lotus, cat and cobra. If your child wants to explore yoga, the card deck Yoga Pretzels is a fun way for kids to explore different yoga poses! This would also make a nice gift paired together. [picture book, ages 6-9)

8. Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami

The theme of this story–a child impatiently waiting for a change in the weather-is a fairly common one in literature, especially picture books. But the heart and soul of this story is India, and properly so. It’s no surprise to anyone that reads this picture book that the author grew up in India. In the story India is not a far away or exotic place, it is home-and Ms. Krishnaswami’s poetic prose paints that love of her home on every page, with every word. The text on each page is brief, but it is text to be savored, full of rich imagery as everyone prepares for the monsoon rains. This is clear from the very first line: “All summer we have worn the scent of dust . . .” The author does not fall back on old clichés, but finds new metaphors to describe the town and the coming rains. The result is description that is refreshingly vibrant and just different enough to tantalize–but not to alienate-readers. It allows me to step into another country as if I were a native, experiencing the anticipation through the young narrator as she waits, worries and hopes for the rains to come. At the very back of the book the author has included a page of information about the monsoons and India for those who want to understand the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of the story better. The addition of the information at the back allows the author to accomplish the goal of sharing the knowledge without allowing it to bog down the text of the story itself. from Shamshad at Amazon [picture book, ages 4-8] *I’ll review this when I can get my hands on a copy.

7. Bringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami

Asha arrives at long last from India to her new adopted bi-racial family in the United States, just in time to celebrate Rakhi Day with her new older brother Arun. [picture book, ages 4-8]

6. Catch That Crocodile! by Anushka Ravishankar

A simple story about a crocodile who shows up unexpectedly in a village. Only little Meena knows what to do. The illustrations are two color block prints that give this picture book it’s quirky appeal. [picture book, ages 2-6]

5. Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami

The reviews at Amazon are a little harsh but I disagree. I really liked this chapter book about 12-year-old Maya who has returned to Southern India (Chennai) with her mother after her grandfather dies in order to sell his house. While the book is set in India and sparkles with imagery of rickshaws, crowded streets and the colorful personalities of their neighbors, the story is really about relationships:  how Maya comes to terms with her parents’ divorce, Maya and her mother’s relationship with their housekeeper Kamala Mami and Kamala Mami’s complex relationship with her own son and daughter-in-law. To me, the tangled web of relationships is true to East Asian familial relationships and is a story that not only teaches about another culture but also how very alike we all are no matter where we hail from. [chapter book, ages 8-14]

4Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Set in Bangladesh, the Rickshaw Girl is one of my favorite books (and it’s not just because I met Mitali Perkins who lives in my town). It’s a short chapter book about a girl who uses her artistic ability to help her sickly father support their family in an unexpected and gender bending way. Uplifting and very educational about the hardship of growing up in poverty in Bangladesh, this is a great read that transports the reader into a different culture and let’s you walk in their shoes. I find that it is as appealing to boys and girls. [short chapter book, ages 7-10]

3. My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Rao, illustrated by Nina Sabnani

This is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that collages sari fabrics with appealing drawings of multicultural children enveloped in the richly colored sari which can be anything from clothing to a hanky to a magical world of pretend. [picture book, ages 2-7]

2. Chachaji’s Cup by Uma Krishnaswami

The beauty of making a list on a topic that I know nothing about is discovering really outstanding authors and Uma Krishnaswami was my find from this list.  I wasn’t able to find all her books at my library, but the ones I read were consistently sensitively told yet mesmerizing stories. Chachaji’s Cup is no different. This is an advanced picture book that tells of the hardships of Partition (when India was split from Pakistan and many, many people were forced to uproot and move based on their religion) but told from grandfather to grandson in a gentle way to explain the significance of a special teacup he uses every day. This teacup is symbolic of hope, resilience, memory and love, and bridges the new life in America from the old one in India. It’s a picture book that would be important in an elementary school classroom but would also be good at home for any child to understand how others arrived in America whether it’s someone in their family or a classmate. [picture book, ages 7-10]

1. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min

This is the book that started the list. It arrived in the mail and my youngest made me read it over and over again even though he’s never eaten Indian food nor knows what a roti is or tastes like. It didn’t matter. He loved this book which is a spin off Popeye but instead of spinach, it’s homemade roti that fortifies Dada-ji (and his grandson Aneel too!). The brightly colored illustrations are appealing and I also like how this book combines the old country with a modern, harmonious East Asian American family. But be careful, after reading this book, you will be craving roti! [picture book, ages 4-8]

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

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

best japanese american children's books kidlit pragmaticmom jadeluckclub jade luck club japanese american picture books best summer reading lists The story of Japanese immigration is also true for my own family history.  Changes in Japan during the Meiji Restoration from 1868 to 1912 wrought great changes in Japan as the country tried to modernize.  The old feudal system of titled landowners was abruptly stripped away, and the daimyo domains of titled landowners were turned into prefectures.   For those families including my own, they were forced to buy back their own lands as some of their lost lands included sacred family burial grounds.  To earn the money, large numbers of Japanese men found work in Hawaii in the pineapple and sugar cane plantations and from there, migrated to the mainland.

Following in the wake of the Chinese immigrants marked the Japanese immigrants as a part of that group, and resulted in a negative attitude towards the Japanese immigrants almost immediately and this negative attitude lasted for more than 50 years.  At war with Japan during WWII brought prejudice and fear of Japanese Americans to new heights and resulted in forced internment camps, a low point for American history.

Throughout it all, Japanese Americans perserved, pushing their children into lucrative careers in the sciences and trying to assimilate post WWII so that they would encounter less prejudice.  I think this is the reason for a relative dearth of well known Japanese-American children’s authors, which the  one exception being Cynthia Kadohata.  It was strange to me that many important Japanese stories were not told by Japanese Americans.  I tried, therefore, to focus my list on lesser known authors telling important stories.  I hope this list will inspire more authors in this genre!

For a brief history of Japanese immigration, please see this link:  http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/Japanese.html

Honorable Mentions

Umbrella by Taro Yashima

With Japanese words throughout, this is a sweet and gentle story of a little girl, Momo (peach in Japanese),  who is excited to use her new present of an umbrella and new rain boots. [picture book, ages 4-8]

The Inn-Keepers Apprentice by Allen Say

I tire a little of all the WWII internment story lines.  I do think it’s important, but there is more to the Japanese American experience that just that period of time. When I found this book at the library, I was surprised that Allen Say wrote middle grade fiction. I always thought of him as a picture book illustrator and author. I read the book, expecting not to like it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it kept my interest. First of all, though the book is set in post WWII Japan, the book focuses on a coming-of-age story of a middle grade boy who is unusual for many reasons.  His mother comes from a Samurai aristocratic background but married a Korean.  Then got divorced! That is very unusual for this time. And the boy is determined to apprentice with a famous cartoonist. I wondered if the story rang so true because it was Say’s own story. I finished the book, satisfied by a good read and then researched it.  Yes, it is his own story and what a fascinating person he is! [chapter book, ages 9-14]

The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida

I read this story a long time ago and remembered that it was a particularly sad story of internment that I couldn’t bring myself to read to my girls. The little Japanese girl is given a bracelet by her American friend that she brings to internment camp that gets lost.   [picture book, ages 8-12]

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

A story about post bombing Hiroshima where Sadako, who loves to run, becomes ill due to the radiation from the bomb.  It is believed in Japan that folding a thousand paper cranes brings girls good luckand good health.  [chapter book, ages 8-12]

[chapter book, ages 10-14]

An Illustrated History of Japan by Shigeo Nishimura

A gorgeously illustrated history of Japan.  It would be a great reference book, particularly to look through for the artwork.  Each period of history is briefly detailed.   [picture book, ages 8-12]


10. Suki’s Kimonoby Chieri Uegaki

Even though Suki’s sisters teaser her, she wears her beloved kimono (yukata) to the first day of school.  It was a gift from her obachan, grandmother, and she has especially fond memories of spending time at a (obon) street festival dancing with her.  But is it a good idea to look so different?  [picture book, ages 4-7]

 

9. Yoko’s Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells

Rosemary Well’s has incorporated traditional Japanese art themes into her luscious illustrations about Yoko communicating with her grandparents back in Japan.  A sweet and endearing story.  [picture book, ages 2-6]

8. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai

A bi-lingual (Japanese/English) story about the author’s grandmother who was interned at Topaz and really did grow 8 foot sunflowers in the desert.  A stoic story about coping with internment.  This is the author’s first book.  [picture book, ages 7-11]

 

7. A Jar of Dreams by Yoshiko Uchida

11-year-old Rinko lives in Berkeley, California during the Great Depression and life isn’t easy, especially when you are Japanese American because she encounters prejudice almost daily. When her family opens a small laundry, their local competitor, a well known bigot and bully, threatens them.  Things change when her Aunt Waka comes to visit from Japan,  and she helps to convince them to chase their dreams, even if it seems improbable that they will be given the same opportunities as non-Asians.  Despite the prejudice that her family faces, Rinko learns to take pride in her Japanese self.

A Jar of Dreams is an accurate protrait of what life was like for Japanese immigrants pre- WWII, but it also details the determination, hard-work, and strong familial bonds that propelled them to succeed.  [chapter book, ages 10-14]

 

6. Tokyo Friends by Betty Reynolds

Katie is a young American girl living in modern-day Tokyo.  Spend time with Katie and her Japanese friends learning about Japanese culture, holidays and the Japanese language. And the story rhymes! [picture book, ages 2-12]

5. Tea With Milk by Alan Say

May’s parents return to Japan and it’s a tough adjustment for her to make.  She prefers her tea with milk and sugar but in Japan, she must drink green tea, go to high school all over again to learn to be a proper Japanese lady, and assume her Japanese name, Masako.  Finally, she rebels and  moves to Osaka where she gets a job and meets a man that prefers his tea with milk and sugar.  This is the love story of Alan Say’s parents. [picture book, ages 6-9]

4. Kira-Kiraby Cynthia Kadohata

This Newbery Award winning novel is a Japanese Grapes of Wrath story about the Takashima family as they move  from Iowa to Georgia in the 1950’s and work menial, grueling jobs at a non-unionized poultry farm.  The three kids, Lynn, Katie and Sammy,  manage to have fun and dream of better times ahead despite their difficult conditions until Lynn comes down with a fatal illness.  The book manages to portray life for post-WWII Japanese Americans  in an insightful and realistic way.  [chapter book, ages 10-14]

3. Weedflowerby Cynthia Kadohata

From Starred Review, School Library Journal. Grade 5-8–When Pearl Harbor is attacked, the lives of a Japanese-American girl and her family are thrown into chaos. Sumiko, 12, and her younger brother, Tak-Tak, live with their aunt and uncle, grandfather Jiichan, and adult cousins on a flower farm in Southern California. Though often busy with chores, Sumiko enjoys working with the blossoms, particularly stock, or weedflowers (fragrant plants grown in a field). In the difficult days that follow the bombing, the family members fear for their safety and destroy many of their belongings. Then Uncle and Jiichan are taken to a prison camp, and the others are eventually sent to an assembly center at a racetrack, where they live in a horse stable. When they’re moved to the Arizona desert, Sumiko misses the routine of her old life and struggles with despair. New friends help; she grows a garden with her neighbor and develops a tender relationship with a Mohave boy. She learns from him that the camp is on land taken from the Mohave reservation and finds that the tribe’s plight parallels that of the incarcerated Japanese Americans. Kadohata brings into play some complex issues, but they realistically dovetail with Sumiko’s growth from child to young woman. She is a sympathetic heroine, surrounded by well-crafted, fascinating people. The concise yet lyrical prose conveys her story in a compelling narrative that will resonate with a wide audience.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA .  [chapter book, ages 12-16]

2. So Far From the Sea by Eve Bunting

Laura Iwaski and her family visit her grandfather’s grave at the Manzanar War Relocation center where he died during internment.  Both her parents were relocated though at different camps.  Her father was a little boy when this happened and this marks the last time they will visit before moving to Boston.  Their final visit sums up the attitude of most Japanese-Americans who were forced to relocate:  a terrible thing that happened to them.   But , as the Dad says, “Sometimes in the end thre is no right or wrong.  It is just a thing that happened long years ago.  A thing that cannot be changed.”  [picture book, ages 8-12]

1. Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

Ken Mochizuki’s were interned at Minidoka Internment camp in Idaho, and this is the story based on true events, of how they used baseball to cope.  The little boy in the story is small for his age, but perserves to become an excellent player.  The story continues post-internment and things are not better.  Luckily, the boy’s skill in baseball helps to bring everyone together.  This is the author’s first picture book. [picture book, ages 8-12]

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

 

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