Precious in His sight
Books celebrating Asian heritage
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I Dream of Popo
The book follows the relationship between a young girl and her popo or grandmother as she grows up in Taiwan and then moves to the United States. Conversations once held over the kitchen table are now over FaceTime. Julia Kuo’s lovely illustrations evoke the feel, smells, and sights of Taiwan, from a decadent home-cooked Chinese New Year dinner to the cluttered Taipei alleyways. The book depicts how time and distance can cause us to change our language and environment, but the love between a grandma and granddaughter never changes. (Ages 4-8)
The Most Beautiful Thing
Kao Kalia Yang
Yang pens a tender tribute to her Hmong grandmother who lived a hard life in the jungles of Laos before settling in the United States. The ensuing lean years as refugees meant Yang’s family had no money for new clothes and they savored ice cubes instead of ice cream, but their home overflowed with stories and love. The book reflects the beauty of intergenerational relationships and the honor of caring for elders: “The luckiest of the grandchildren got to help take care of Grandma.” Note: A mention of jungle spirits. (Ages 5-9)
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners
Nearly all Asian Americans can recall being teased for the shape of their eyes. Written from the perspective of a young Asian American girl, this picture book is a celebration of “eyes that kiss in the corners” and how they tie her to her mother, grandmother, and little sister, as well as her Chinese heritage. With gorgeous illustrations by Dung Ho, the book brought tears to this reviewer’s eyes (that kiss in the corners) to know a new generation of children will have books with characters that look like them and celebrate their differences. (Ages 4-8)
When a young girl’s family pulls over on the side of the road and begins collecting watercress from the ditch, she is embarrassed and angry. Her mother later serves the watercress for dinner—a free meal for the struggling immigrant family—and the girl refuses to eat. Her Chinese mother shows her an old picture and tells about her younger brother who died because her family didn’t have enough to eat. The girl feels remorse and takes a bite: “It is delicate and slightly bitter, like Mom’s memories of home.” (Ages 5-9)
In Kiyoshi’s Walk (Lee & Low Books, 2021) by Mark Karlins, a boy asks his grandfather, “Where do poems come from?” His grandfather answers by taking Kiyoshi on a walk. As they pass corner stores, soaring pigeons, and vacant old houses, Kiyoshi discovers where his grandfather finds his poem inspiration. The story closes with Kiyoshi penning his own haiku, and an author’s note explains the haiku style and formula.
In Michelle Sterling’s When Lola Visits (Katherine Tegen Books, 2021) a young girl shares all the smells, tastes, and feelings tied to her Filipino grandmother’s summer visits. With Sterling’s rich descriptions and Aaron Asis’ vibrant illustrations, the story affirms the beauty of familial relationships while celebrating the gift of our senses.
In Wishes (Orchard Books, 2021), Muon Thi Van uses only 75 words to share the tumult of thoughts and emotions tied to her family’s harrowing escape from Vietnam to Hong Kong. Victo Ngai’s illustrations illuminate the text, helping young readers understand the story’s context and meaning. —K.C.
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