This post is adapted from a bibliography that I composed for a graduate school class. My husband is ethnically Chinese, my kids are half-Asian, and many of my students are Asian-American, so I looked hard to locate books that are culturally-relevant, while still appealing to younger children.
In this story, a young Asian American boy travels through time and space from on the F train in New York to the redwood forests of California with the help of a magical book. While the text reads like standard nonfiction, the illustrations have a whimsical feel that make the book seem more like fantasy.
Boy Dumplings: A Tasty Chinese Tale
Set in Beijing, this book was inspired by the Ghost Festival during the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It features traditional Chinese landscapes and cuisine, as well as a uproarious story that young children will enjoy.
Red Is a Dragon: A Book of Colors
This color concept book alternates between culturally specific images, such as Chinese opera singers wearing pink or green jade bracelets, and more universal illustrations, such as yellow rain jackets and blue sneakers. A glossary at the back explains potentially unknown vocabulary, including words like bottle gourd and lychee.
Round is a Mooncake: A Book of Shapes
By the same author as “Red is A Dragon,” this story focuses on shapes from the perspective of a young Chinese-American girl.
The Girl Who Drew a Phoenix
A girl named Feng Huang finds a feather from a phoenix, and proceeds to summon a series of phoenixes through her artwork. Phoenixes represent female power and wisdom in Chinese culture, so this book is aimed mostly at young girls. While the illustrations are lush and gorgeous, the vocabulary is fairly abstract and advanced for preschoolers, however, the positive portrayal of a young Asian girls in a fantasy setting is a refreshing change from all the White princess books.
A young boy and his Grandmother explore their Chinatown community in this realistic depiction of urban life. Using oil paints, Low conveys the bustle and the excitement of Chinatown during Lunar New Year.
Tracks of a Panda: Read & Wonder (Read and Wonder)
Featuring a baby panda and his mother, the text of this book is simple and easily followed. The beautiful and traditional watercolor illustrations by Yu Rong make this book special, however, as well as culturally appropriate. All young children will identify with the baby panda and his struggles in the wild.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat – in Mandarin Chinese & English
Aimed at babies and toddlers, this bilingual board book has only a few pages, but draws big laughs. The words, which deviate from the original, can be sung using the familiar tune. The illustrations include babies with a variety of skin tones.