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10 Awesome Books With Heroic Asian Characters

Inspiring books for early readers, middle-grade kids and young adults

Angelica Lai
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Published on: May 27, 2021

10 Awesome Books With Heroic Asian Characters

King-for-a-day-book
Photo:
“King for a Day” by Rukhsana Khan

Books for early readers (ages 4–8)

A Path of Stars” by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Dara in “A Path of Stars” loves listening to the stories her grandma, Lok Yeay, shares about growing up in Cambodia. Sometimes, she tells Dara about the stars that look like fireflies or the delicious mangoes of her native land. Other times she recounts more sorrowful moments, such as the pain caused by the Khmer Rouge (without being graphic). But Lok Yeay stops telling stories when she learns that her brother in Cambodia has died. In this generational picture book about heavy themes such as memory, grief and hope, Dara steps up and helps her grandmother heal through meaningful symbols and a story of her own.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin” by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng

Vivid words and enchanting illustrations create music in the pages of “Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin.” In this picture book, which is perfect for young musicians, readers can “hear” the chirp of crickets and see raindrops lightly tapping on paper umbrellas as they follow Hana’s ambitious attempt to play at her school’s talent show. Inspired by her ojichan’s (grandfather's) violin playing, Hana shows that with practice, resilience and a lot of heart she can bring Ojichan’s spirit to life.

King for a Day” by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Krömer

Kids will become immersed in this elaborately illustrated book about Basant, the spring kite-flying festival. Malik, the story's protagonist, is pictured in a wheelchair; he wants to be the king of Basant and to do so he needs to take down everyone else’s kite. The determined boy works with his sister to take the skies and stand up to the bully next door. “King for a Day” is a great book that teaches not only the importance of kindness but also that people are more than their disabilities.

The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi

This profound picture book sure does pack a punch, exploring themes of self-acceptance, friendship and cultural differences. Unhei has recently moved to the United States from Korea, and she feels embarrassed when kids on the school bus tease her and don’t bother to pronounce her name correctly. Hoping to fit in, she decides not to share her name with her class and considers choosing American names such as Suzy or Laura. But after learning the special meaning behind “Unhei,” and thanks to the kindness and encouragement of her new friends, Unhei finds the courage to choose her own name.

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