Teaching Cultural Compassion
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.
May is Asian-Pacific Island Heritage Month
For this special month, I thought I would offer up some of my favorite #OwnVoices books!
First, if you haven't read Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, you're missing out. Luckily, she has read it for all of us via youtube!! When Amy wants to participate in one of her favorite traditions, she, in a Goldilocks kind of way, can't figure out how to make the tradition fit her. (Click the link above to see how she solves her problem! ) I also recommend Jama Kim Rattigan's Dumpling Soup. A similar story to Amy Wu, a little girl in Hawaii learns of her Asian-Hawaiian heritage through generational food traditions. The author also has a lot of wonderful suggestions for foods you can make and activities you can do to augment the experience of this book!!
If you like hearing from authors, Meera Sriram, author of The Yellow Suitcase (and some books on the way) discusses The Yellow Suitcase and her creative process on Youtube here! The Yellow Suitcase is the story of a girl, living in two worlds, and a new experience of grief. A beautiful but not overly sad book about losing someone you love.
Recently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama published his first picture book!! It begins with his own story and leads into some of the teaching that has been the most important to him. Seeds of Compassion (see picture at right) is a great story full of personal experience and life lessons--as well as great illustrations by Bao Luu!
I hope these books help you get through this unprecedented time,
Beyond Indigenous Peoples' Day and Latinx Heritage Month
We just finished Latinx Heritage Month and passed through Indigenous People’s Day. That doesn’t mean we can stop focusing our reading time on these two groups. To keep up your reading list, I have a few of my favorites to suggest!
I’ll start with books for our littlest ones, I highly recommend (in board book or other forms)Little You by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett who also illustrated My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith. Both give a lovely sense of self-worth and the dignity of all with beautiful illustrations of American Indian families.
For some historical, #ownvoices books, When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger, Susan Katz, and David Kanietakeron Fadden tells the story of a young Lenni Lenape girl’s experience now in comparison to what her great-great-grandmother may have experienced. Tim Tingle brings all of his Chocktaw storytelling tradition to Crossing Bok-Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. He beautifully weaves a tale of a Choktaw girl helping an enslaved family to freedom across the river’s border. (If you have Middle Grade readers, he has also expanded this story in Stone River Crossing.)
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard is a new favorite of mine. It was even featured on NPR this past December. Not only does it honor the many traditions around fry bread, it gently tackles the horrible history that began the tradition. It is beautifully illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal who segues me into Latinx Heritage Month with her wonderful title Alma and How She Got Her Name, taking a young girl through her heritage to be proud of her many names (Available in both English and Spanish).
To take a step beyond just finding bilingual stories into true and based on true stories, I recommend Dear Primo by Duncan Tonatiuh, in which we see the struggle to assimilate while honoring heritage and roots in another country through letters between cousins in two different countries. Monica Brown takes us for a history lesson in Side by Side/Lado a Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez and their struggle to help farmworkers and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement (this link includes a curriculum guide) beautifully illustrated by Joe Cepeda.
And to transition your reading into other books that can become fall favorites, I highly recommend Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico! America’s Sproutings by Pat Mora and illustrated by Rafael López, a poetic wander through traditional fall foods from the Americas that will certainly leave you hungry!! And to move all the way into Dia de los Muertos, Yuyi Morales has written and illustrated a beautiful introduction to Mexican culture and counting in Spanish while Abuela Beetle tricks the Trickster in Just a Minute.
I hope you enjoy all of these titles as you share them with your little people. And remember, if you want more suggestions, sorted by age group or topic, or ethnic background, or more titles by these authors, you can always use the Book Search feature to find more!
Hispanic Heritage Month
Last month when I posted, I wanted to link to "if you're looking for books that celebrate Hispanic Heritage, click here!" I realized as much as I've celebrated Latinx main characters in other posts, I don't have one focused post!! So here are some of my favorites:
Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics gives us a great overview of several historical figures you may or may not have realized have Hispanic Heritage. Check out these poems and their portraits by the team of Margarita Engle and Rafael López, both of whom have several other amazing books.
Alma and How She Got Her Name tells the story of heritage and family history simply through a child's name. Juana Martinez-Neal writes and illustrates this book available in English and Spanish editions. (She has several other gorgeous books, too!)
What Will You Be? is a lovely book about a grandparent/grandchild relationship. In the book, Abuela tells her granddaughter some of their family history and visions of the future. Yamile Saied Méndez's words are beautifully accompanied by illustrations from Kate Alizadeh. (Yamile's companion book Where Are You From? is a conversation between child and Abuelo about their heritage after the child has been asked that question too many times.)
One Is a Piñata: A Book of Numbers by Roseanne Greenfield Thong with wonderful art by John Parra is a great book for our littlest friends. A celebration of culture while learning to count in two languages. (This pair also has a book about shapes and a book about colors and both authors have lots of other great books apart from one another!)
I also want to bring attention to the books of Duncan Tonatiuh, a "Mexican and American" author and illustrator who has a special way of depicting moments Latinx history and, as in the case of Dear Primo, the life of those living in the current reality!
This month's list on Bookshop has WAY more books than usual, partly because today and tomorrow (Oct 11&12) Bookshop is offering free shipping. In order to support Teaching Cultural Compassion and get the free shipping, you can buy from any of my lists by clicking here!!
Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, Bookshop is honoring some Black authors by offering 20% off of certain titles by using the code "BlackHistory" when you check out. I have the compiled list of picture books that qualify for the discount linked here!
I'll highlight some of my favorites from the list for you!
The ABC's of Black History by Rio Cortez and Lauren Semmer is a great primer for your youngest kiddos, but has enough info to grow with them when they are old enough to tak in more info. Another historical story with great illustrations is The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora. This book gives the inspiring story of a woman born into slavery who would never back down.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky has received a lot of attention in the last few years, not always positively, like in congressional hearings. I believe it is a great start for those of us who want to create not only inclusive, but antiracist homes.
Just Like Me written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton and The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López are both lovely books about being proud to be yourself, even when you feel different. The former full of poems about kids in varying situations, the latter about unique kids in the same classroom.
The story of Sulwe was written by Lupita Nyong'o (yes, the famous actor) and beautifully illustrated by Vashti Harrison (honestly one of my favorite illustrators. It is a story in which a young girl learns to appreciate the deep color of her skin (as compared to her sister).
If you'd like to check out their Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult books that qualify, you can see those lists and find a local Black Owned Bookstore near you to benefit from your purchase here.
Reminder that a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
If you are a football fan, you'll notice something different this week as football restarts. Instead of just the National Anthem before each game, if you tune in early enough, you'll also hear Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem. If you have not heard this song or don't know its history, or even if you do, but want to discuss it better with your kids, I highly recommend Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations by Kelly Starling Lyons and gorgeous illustrations by Keith Mallett. This 2019 book tells the story of the song from its origin in a small school to its use over multiple movements. I also have pictures above of three books that are simply the lyrics of the song with lovely pictures illustrated by Bryan Collier, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, and Elizabeth Catlett. For a little more about the song and more books, click here!