27 Children’s & YA Books Written by Asian Authors

by Charnaie Gordon

Books can transport you anywhere at any given time — they offer us a perspective and experience that we may otherwise never know. Reading books about another person’s culture provides us with a glimpse into someone else’s story. This is integral in encouraging open and accepting minds and hearts in adults and children alike.

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s a time to recognize how Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander Americans have contributed to and influenced the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrant to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Up to 20,000 of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Teaching kids about different cultures helps them appreciate the differences in people and their traditions. It also helps them respect similarities, which will, in turn, help them understand who they are in the context of their own race, ethnic group, culture, religion, language, and familial history.

Below are a few books written by Asian authors to read this month with children of all ages. Spy any you want to read?

  • Bringing In the New Year

    by Grace Lin

    Available from:

    Grace Lin's beautiful story follows a Chinese American family as they prepare to celebrate the Lunar New Year. With gorgeous illustrations and a surprise fold-out page at the end of this story, this book introduces babies to the customs of Lunar New Year - from decorations and fireworks to dumpling making.
    (Ages 0 - 3)

    Also available from:
  • Everyone Loves Lunchtime but Zia

    by Jenny Liao, illustrated by Dream Chen

    Available from:

    This delicious picture book is about a girl who introduces her classmates to Cantonese cuisine. Zia wishes she could have a lunch that looks, tastes, and smells like everyone else’s. She dreads lunchtime until her parents pack some extra-special lunches and explain the significance behind each one. Foodies of all ages will appreciate this adorable story!
    (Ages 3 - 5)

    RELATED: Kids’ Books on the Experiences of Asian American Immigrants

    Also available from:
  • The Paper Kingdom

    by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion

    Available from:

    Kids with big imaginations will appreciate this fantastical story about a young boy learning to see the magic in everyday situations. When David goes with his parents to their overnight jobs as janitors, he expects a long, boring night. But Mama and Papa show him that even an empty office can be a place where imagination roams free.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

    Also available from:
  • Masala Chai

    by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Neha Rawat

    Available from:

    In this heartwarming intergenerational tale, Aarav discovers the art of making chai from his grandfather, all while learning valuable lessons in mindfulness and patience. The charming illustrations will captivate young readers, and they will come away with a deeper understanding of the rewards that come from waiting and being patient.
    ( Ages 3 - 7)

    Also available from:
  • The Spice Box

    by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

    Available from:

    Rishi's family's spice box holds not only fragrant spices but also treasured memories passed down through generations. When Rishi accidentally drops the box, he finds strength and purpose in honoring their shared history, ultimately fixing what was broken. A beautiful tale of family and the foods and flavors that connect generations.
    ( Ages 3 - 7)

    Also available from:
  • The Name Jar

    by Yangsook Choi

    Available from:

    The Name Jar will help children understand how it feels to have people constantly mispronounce or make fun of your name. The book boasts great lessons about self-love and acceptance of others, as well as introduces readers to topics like having respect for other cultures and friendship. Overall, The Name Jar is a delightful story for preschoolers and young elementary students.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

    Also available from:
  • No Kimchi For Me!

    by Aram Kim

    Available from:

    Do your children have any food aversions? When both of my kids were babies, they ate practically anything I made for them. Now, as they’ve gotten older, they have become somewhat fussy about eating certain foods. My son tends to be particularly picky about the texture and look of some meats. But aren’t we all a little finicky sometimes? Besides, isn’t it normal for children to be fussy eaters? It’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. Little Yoomi illustrates this point very well in the book No Kimchi for Me! A simple recipe for making kimchi pancakes is included in the back matter.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

    RELATED: Children’s Books About Cuisine Around the World

    Also available from:
  • Piper Chen Sings

    by Phillipa Soo and Maris Pasquale Doran, illustrated by Qin Leng

    Available from:

    Piper Chen Sings is a heartwarming tale of Piper, a young girl who overcomes her performance jitters with the help of her grandmother, Nai Nai, to find confidence in singing a solo at her school concert. Inspired by the childhood experience of actress Phillipa Soo, this empowering story celebrates the bond between generations and the strength found in facing fears with bravery and support.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Always Anjali

    by Sheetal Sheth, illustrated by Jessica Blank

    Available from:

    When Anjali struggles to find a personalized nameplate for her new bike, she decides she’d like to become Angie instead. Anjali’s mother shares the special meaning behind her name and its connection to her family’s Indian heritage, helping her to realize how wonderful her name is. A beautifully illustrated picture book with a positive message that’s sure to resonate with many kids.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Kapaemahu

    by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson, illustrated by Daniel Sousa

    Available from:

    This inspiring story follows the journey of the Mahu people, from Tahiti to Waikiki. Upon their arrival, the Mahu people shared their knowledge of science and healing with the people of Waikiki and left behind healing boulders as a symbol of their honor. This classic tale in the making, reminds us of the significance of sharing our knowledge and gifts with others.
    ( Ages 4 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Nana, Nenek & Nina

    by Liza Ferneyhough

    Available from:

    This ALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature honor book takes readers along on Nina’s visits to her grandmothers’ homes. Nana lives in England, while Nenek resides in Malaysia. Despite their different cultures and traditions, Nina also finds many similarities. A beautifully illustrated multigenerational story that radiates familial love and pride in one’s heritage.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Once Upon a Sari

    by Zenia Wadhwani, illustrated by Avani Dwivedi

    Available from:

    In this adorable picture book, Avani accidentally makes a mess while playing in her mom's beautiful saris. When her mom comes to find her, she takes the opportunity to share the rich history, memories, and cultural significance of the lovely garments. Young readers get to know Indian culture and the value of preserving traditions.
    ( Ages 4 - 8)

    RELATED: 13 Books for Kids That Celebrate Asian Cultures

    Also available from:
  • My First Day

    by Phùng Nguyên Quang, illustrated by Huỳnh Kim Liên

    Available from:

    Children curious about kids around the world will love this magical book about a young Vietnamese boy going to school. This picture book will transport young readers to the other side of the world as they row down the Mekong Delta and dodge perils along the way.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

    by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong

    Available from:

    In this adorable Chinese American retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldy Luck accidentally wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears. She eats up the littlest panda's rice porridge, breaks his rocking chair, and rumples all the blankets on his futon. I love this fun take on the original Goldilocks story and appreciate the fact that, in this retelling, Goldy helps to make things right in the end.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • The Ocean Calls

    by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

    Available from:

    Dayeon’s grandma is a haenyeo (a Korean free diver) who is strong, intelligent, and fearless. It’s no wonder that Dayeon wants to follow in her footsteps. But before she can conquer the ocean, she will have to overcome her fear of the water. This heartfelt story is about traditions, family bonds, and facing our fears.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Crouching Tiger

    by Ying Chang Compestine

    Available from:

    Vinson loves watching Grandfather practice tai chi in the backyard, but he doesn’t fully understand the purpose of doing it each day. Eventually, his grandfather begins to teach him the basic movements of tai chi, but Vinson soon finds it is hard and requires a lot of patience. It isn’t until the New Year’s Eve parade that Vinson begins to understand his grandfather’s purpose and passion for tai chi and meditation.
    (Ages 6 - 8)

    Also available from:
  • Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

    by Lenore Look, illustrated by Leuyen Pham

    Available from:

    Alvin Ho is a quirky, second-grade Chinese American boy who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis. Alvin is scared of a lot of things — including elevators, talking in school, girls, and more. Throughout the book, Alvin learns to cope with his phobias and insecurities, overcome fears, and ultimately ends up growing as a person.
    (Ages 6 - 9)

    Also available from:
  • Meesh the Bad Demon #1

    by Michelle Lam

    Available from:

    Twelve-year-old Meesh doesn’t fit in with the other demons, and the fairies won’t accept her. But when disaster strikes her home in the underworld, will Meesh be able to find the help she needs in the Fairy World? With stunning illustrations, endearing characters, and a magical story, this first volume of a new graphic novel series is sure to steal your young reader’s heart.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    RELATED: Graphic Novels for Kids by Asian Authors & Illustrators

    Also available from:
  • The Many Masks of Andy Zho

    by Jack Cheng

    Available from:

    From the author of See You in the Cosmos comes a new story about a young boy navigating the complexities of his identity and heritage. With themes of cultural identity, family, and belonging, this is a poignant and thought-provoking read for tweens.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Also available from:
  • Lei and the Fire Goddess

    by Malia Maunakea

    Available from:

    Fans of Percy Jackson are sure to love this middle grade fantasy set in Hawaii. When Anna inadvertently angers the vengeful fire goddess Pele, she embarks on a dangerous quest to save her best friend. Along the way, Anna learns important lessons about bravery, friendship, and the power of her heritage. With vivid imagery and a rich cultural backdrop, Lei and the Fire Goddess is a thrilling and heartwarming adventure that is sure to captivate young readers.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Also available from:
  • When You Trap a Tiger

    by Tae Keller

    Available from:

    Korean folktales, family secrets, magic, and unpredictable bargains combine into an exciting and uplifting story for young readers. A tiger offers Lily the deal of a lifetime — her grandmother’s health in exchange for something she stole long ago. But the bargain isn’t as simple as it sounds, and Lily will have to find the strength to save her family from the tiger’s grasp.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Also available from:
  • Stand Up, Yumi Chang

    by Jessica Kim

    Available from:

    Stand Up, Yumi Chang is an engaging and touching story of determination and staying true to yourself even if it’s not what others expect of you. Eleven-year-old Yumi’s dream is to become a stand-up comedian, but her Korean immigrant parents envision something entirely different for her future. As things start to unravel in her life, Yumi has to decide between standing up to face the music or risk losing her dream.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Also available from:
  • Soul Lantern

    by Shaw Kuski

    Available from:

    Originally published in Japan, this impactful middle grade novel offers a fresh historical perspective on the aftermath of WWII. Set in Hiroshima in the 1970s, the story follows three children who decide to base their school art project on the effects of the 1945 bombing of their city. In gathering stories of the past, the kids find that WWII left deep scars on their community, marks still felt even a quarter-century later.
    (Ages 10+)

    Also available from:
  • When You Wish Upon a Lantern

    by Gloria Chao

    Available from:

    In Chinese tradition, paper lanterns carry wishes from people who release them during the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. In this delightful coming-of-age novel, we meet Liya and Kai, two former best friends that work together to save Liya’s family’s lantern store by granting their customers’ wishes. This heartfelt story about first love brims with Chinese culture and unforgettable characters. Perfect for fans who can't wait for Netflix’s XOXO Kitty.
    (Young Adult)

    Also available from:
  • The Magic Fish

    by Trung Le Nguyen

    Available from:

    Filled with emotional depth and integrity, The Magic Fish tells the story of Tiến, a young teenager who loves borrowing books—especially fairytales—from the library to share with his parents. Teenagers have a hard time connecting with their parents, but this is especially hard for Tiến because his parents struggle with English. It can be challenging to share little things with those barriers, but trying to tell them he is gay is near impossible. Readers will love getting lost in Tiến’s fairytales as he navigates everyday life. And while fairytales aren’t real, this book proves that we can all still find a happy ending.
    (Young Adult)

    Also available from:
  • Six Crimson Cranes

    by Elizabeth Lim

    Available from:

    If you loved Spin the Dawn, you won’t want to miss out on Elizabeth Lim’s next novel. It’s a breathtaking fairy tale about a princess named Shiori trying to break the curse on her brothers and stop a sinister conspiracy threatening her kingdom. Filled with magic, romance, and peril, this fast-paced YA fantasy is a must-read!
    (Young Adult)

    RELATED: Asian-Inspired Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books for Teens

    Also available from:
  • From Little Tokyo, With Love

    by Sarah Kuhn

    Available from:

    This novel is a modern fairy tale about a girl with anger issues trying to find acceptance from her family and herself. It’s a love letter to Los Angeles and young people everywhere who feel like they don’t fit in. If you’re in the mood for a contemporary YA romance, this is a fantastic choice.
    (Young Adult)

    Also available from:

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2020 and updated in 2023.