Teaching Cultural Compassion
We're excited you want to learn about Cultural Compassion! Read below for the latest recommendations, but be sure to check out our book search and our archived blog entries! Happy reading!
Exploring AAPI History and Representation
Asian-American and Pacific Islander discrimination has been flooding the news since the beginning of this awful pandemic. Recently, things have only worsened. But we can help fight that kind of behavior with our own kids by focusing on positive Asian/Pacific Islander representation in picture books and supporting Asian/Pacific Islander heritage authors and illustrators.
If you need help discussing the history of anti-Asian heritage sentiments in this country, two books that can help guide you through that are Baseball Saved Us and other historical books by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee, and, for older kids, They Called Us Enemy, George Takei's graphic memoir. Both books recount true stories of the internment camps in the United States in the 1940s.
If you want to support authors and illustrators of Asain/Pacific Islander heritage, you can’t go wrong with Kathryn Otoshi, Grace Lin, Sanae Ishida, Kat Zhang, or Mae Besom.
The messages that Kathryn Otoshi conveys in her books One and Zero are great lessons in empathy and self-worth. Grace Lin tells beautiful stories of legend and heritage in Bringing in the New Year, A Big Bed for Little Snow, and Dim Sum for Everyone among others. (She has beautifully illustrated board books for the littlest ones and has written wonderful middle grade novels as well!) The Little Kunoichi books by Sanae Ishida will transport you to a magical world of the adventures of a little ninja full of determination and her friends Chibi Samurai and even Ba-Chan, her ninja grandma!! Fun for all and great lessons in self-worth. More books about perseverance and self-esteem come from Kat Zhang in her stories of little Amy Wu who learns to create the Perfect Bao or a Patchwork Dragon. (She ALSO writes middle grade and YA novels!) Mae Besom lends her gorgeous watercolor to the What Do You Do With A… series by Kobi Yamada (a favorite of this blogger) and many other books. It is always easy to lose yourself in the worlds she creates while learning lessons that empower your little ones!
Remember that publishers only publish what they think they can sell. If we can create demand around Asian-American and Pacific Islander representation, we’ll get to see more of it. Please consider buying these books!
Though not by or specifically about Asian American Pacific Islanders, Most People by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris is a good start for the conversation with kids when they hear the awful things that are happening in the world. As a chorus, this book reminds us all that MOST PEOPLE want to be good, nice, happy people. Sometimes, even as adults we need the reminder this book brings.
The end of Black History Month is not the end of appreciation of black excellence for the year. You’ve seen their movies, heard their music, watched them win championships, but did you know they wrote children’s books? There are many black celebrities who have tried their hand at writing books, but here are my new favorites.
Possibly the most beautiful book I've read in the last year is a collaboration between Lupita Nyong'o and Vashti Harrison. Sulwe is a little sister with dark skin always comparing herself to her older, lighter sister... until she experiences a magical journey that shows her she is beautiful just the way she is.
LeBron James has established that he's a king on the court. Did you know he has also started a program through his foundation based on empowering kids of all backgrounds. Using the words of their creed and illustrations from Nina Mata, you can now empower your kids to do their best through their book I Promise .
In Corduroy Takes a Bow, Viola Davis and Jody Wheeler bring you back to one of your childhood favorites, giving him a new adventure in theatre!
Lots of families had Old Town Road on repeat over the last year. C is for Country is an homage to the Georgia upbringing of country star Lil Nas X. With the lovely illustrations of Theodore Taylor III, this will surely become an alphabetic favorite for many!
Timbaland is usually known for his "Shock Value," but in 2019 he partnered with veteran author and illustrator Christopher Myers to create Nighttime Symphony, a book about nighttime sounds in the city. The illustrations and words will transport the reader to the heart of the sounds of the city!
Firebird features another celebrity collaboration with Christopher Myers, this time with ballerina Misty Copeland. Through a bit of her own story, Misty encourages all children to believe they can be great someday, even a firebird.
If you’re looking for more, music lends itself to illustration in Pharrell’s Happy. Ziggy Marley has also had a song illustrated and his sister Cedella Marley worked to put pictures to their father’s lyrics. Taye Diggs and Spike Lee (along with his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee) have both penned multiple. Karamo Brown and his child Jason "Rachel" Brown wrote I am Perfectly Designed which speaks to gender as well as race in a beautiful empowering way.
If you want to see these books and more read by your favorite black celebrities, I highly recommend Bookmarks on Netflix Jr!
Lunar New Year is Upon Us
In January I wrote about new beginnings based on the Gregorian calendar date. But February celebrates the Lunar New Year! Celebrated by many of East Asian heritage, the lunar new year is a time for new beginnings and family celebrations. If you want to read some books about kids partaking in this tradition, here are a few:
The Nian Monster by by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Alina Chau; an age-old monster comes back for the new year, threatening to eat Shanghai! But clever girl Xingling has something to say about it!
A Gift written and illustrated by Yong Chen is about a girl of Chinese heritage living abroad. As she and her mother get ready for the holiday, they feel the absence of their extended family--but Amy has a gift waiting for her--from family in China! This is especially good for a younger audience.
Long-Long's New Year: A Story About the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower, illustrated by He Zhihong follows a boy through his preparations for the new year with beautiful, traditional style paintings!
I hope you enjoy these books and seek out others.
Wishing you all luck in the Year of the Ox!
January and Other New Beginnings
The new year has begun and this country has just transitioned into the beginning of a new government administration. If you're looking for books on transition and change, I have a few recommendations.
It might not be a new school year, but with all of the changes going on, school stories might be comforting. In The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi tells the story of a Korean girl who moves to the United States and faces a decision about whether or not she should change her name to fit in better. In another story about being the only one like you in a classroom, I recommend Jacqueline Woodson's book The Day You Begin. Feeling like you don't fit in is hard, but illustrations by Rafael López will help you see the empathy in this beautiful story.
Sometimes we need a reminder that change can be good. Rafael López also lends his art Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. It is the story of how one idea of how to renew a community came to life through beautiful colors and empowering art! For another community empowering story about creating beauty, you should check out Kamala and Maya's Big Idea by Meena Harris and illustrated by Ana Ramírez González. The true story of Vice President Kamala Harris and her sister as children organizing the community to create a beautiful space in their neighborhood.
And if you want more about the new Vice President, I can't say enough good things about Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice. (And not to leave out the new President, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden wrote a book about her husband as a kid. Joey: The Story of Joe Biden walks us through a day of the new President's childhood, dealing with bullies and finding strength in the love of his mother.)
Hopefully any reader seeking diverse books knows the 1962 classic Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. If you haven't read it in a while, I highly recommend it for a snowy day. If you don't have a copy, the EJK Foundation did a lovely animated version you can find here. But as the snow swirls here, I thought I would introduce you to a few more of my diverse snowy favorites!
If you want to build on your love of Snowy Day, I want to make sure you know about A Poem for Peter, Andrea Davis Pinkney's retelling of the story of how Snowy Day came to be. Illustrated by the artistic team of Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher it is a beautiful ode to the original. It's a sweet true story and you can't help but be moved by it.
For a great story about the northern lights, Jan Borurdeau Waboose and Brian Deines share their talent with us in SkySisters. It is the story of two Ojibway sisters exploring the winter night to see the SkySpirits. The art is captivating and the story of two sisters getting along to see the beauty around them is inspiring.
My Footprints by Bao Phi and illustrated by Basia Tran is a story about a little girl who, after being bullied, finds herself and her strength in replicating other creatures' footprints in the snow. Her loving family helps her remember that she is loved!
Other top picks include Little Red Gliding Hood (recommended in December) and Lemonade in Winter: A Book about Two Kids Counting Money, by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas. And then, I'm tempted to go into a tangent of penguin themed books... but I think those are stories for another day! I hope you all have a wonderful day and get to see snow, if only in your reading!