8 Children’s Books for Chinese-American Kids

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.




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Number Sense: Children’s Literature about Math

shapesI recently enrolled in a teacher education program. As a result, I have been learning about teaching math to young children. While I emphasized reading with my own kids, I always felt that math was a lesser priority. This is a mistake too many Americans make. Just as reading readiness is important for 4-year-olds, so is acquiring number sense, or an understanding of numbers and the ability to use them.

Here are four common preschool and kindergarten math topics, along with some great picture books that support them in a fun and stimulating manner. I am not including counting books in this post, but are many wonderful ones available that are more appropriate for younger children.

Addition and Subtraction
We have guinea pigs, and they are great pets. But, strangely, my daughter and I frequently have the same multiplying guinea pig nightmare. Maybe other people have this same dream, because I found several books about math featuring these furry creatures.

Guinea Pigs Add Up

One Guinea Pig Is Not Enough

Twenty is Too Many

Exponential growth is a difficult concept. No one describes it better than Demi in this brilliant and gorgeous book, One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale. In it, a clever young woman asks a selfish ruler for a single grain of rice, which will be doubled every day for a month. In the end, the raja learns a lesson about generosity and math.

For more multiplying fun, Two of Everything  is about a pot that doubles everything that goes into it.


I recently learned that geometry is an under-taught and under-valued subject in many schools. It’s a shame because kids love shapes, and there are many excellent books and activities focusing on them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Shape – This book by David Goodman and Zoe Miller is colorful and interactive. Younger kids will enjoy the many bright and engaging images; older children will enjoy learning about concepts such as tangrams and symmetry.

So Many Circles, So Many Squares
by Tana Hoban lets kids find shapes in everyday scenes. Hoban also published several other shape based photography books, including:

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes
        Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, & Spheres

Extension Tip: After you read about geometry, have children combine shapes to fill the bottom of a box. This exercise builds spatial ability and geometric awareness.






Children are intrigued by money. Many of them have piggy banks and experience paying for small items. While some experts argue that money recognition is not mathematics, coin counting supports awareness of one-to-one correspondence and place value.

Here are four books that will have your child counting up coins in no time. The Coin Counting Book is a straight informational book, while the other three are stories that feature child-friendly economic transactions.

The Coin Counting Book

Pigs Will Be Pigs: Fun with Math and Money (Fun with Math & Money)

Bunny Money (Max and Ruby)

The Penny Pot

Extension Tip: For easier coin counting, create a ten-frame out of an egg carton. Fill each of the cups of egg carton with one penny each. Count out 10 cents a total of 10 times to make a dollar. Later, fill each of the cups of egg carton with 1 dime each.  Counting by ones, count out ten dimes or $1. If your child is still interested, fill each of the cups of egg carton with 2 nickels each.  Counting by twos, count out twenty nickels or $1.


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Magnificent Model Magic Museum

My two children have spent many hours over the past year making objects out of a clay compound known as Model Magic. My 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son mix blue, red, yellow, and white to create a variety of colors. For beginners interested in trying some of these projects, I recommend purchasing Crayola 57-4415 Model Magic Modeling Compound, 2-lb. Bucket, Asstd Colors, Four 8-oz. Pouches, but our family uses so much that we actually purchase the Class Pack. If you would like more colors to choose from, you can also try the Deluxe Variety Pack.

The Gallery

Here are some scenes my kids created using Model Magic, my daughter’s artwork and various items.

Clay Woodland Minpins

Woodland Minpins

Clay Fairy

Fairy in the Land of Mushrooms

Clay Gnomes

Gnomes in Front of Their Acorn House

Clay Wizard

The Wizard Crescent Moon

Clay Baby Troll

Baby Troll

Model Magic Mermaid

Mermaid Under the Sea

Model Magic Eskimos

Eskimo Family

Model Magic Native American

Iroquois Longhouse

Model Magic Owl

Majestic Snowy Owl

Model Magic Camping


Clay Winter Scene

Ice Skaters on a Frozen Lake

Clay Christmas

Christmas in Santa’s Workshop

Clay Baymax Nursery

Baymax Nursery

Clay Misfit Toys

Land of the Misfit Toys

Clay Robots

Robot Friends

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