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Read through AAPI month

Illustrator Michelle Jing Chan with her book "Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School" which was published in 2024.

Read through AAPI Month in May

10 terrific picture books from local authors and illustrators

Children’s books can be a refuge or a window into the wider world. When kids see themselves reflected in books, it can help them embrace their culture. When books feature another culture, it’s an opportunity to learn about others.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin has collected data about books by and about BIPOC creators since 1994. The overall trend: diversity in books is growing.

In 2023, 18.2% of books for children and teens were by Asian authors, up from 10.9% five years earlier.

For May, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re sharing 10 terrific picture books by AAPI authors and illustrators who live in the Seattle area.

Early picture books

 

Read through AAPI month Let’s Do Everything and Nothing, 2022, by Julia Kuo (Bellevue)

Ages 2–5:

A mother and daughter duo explore the world, from the tops of mountains to the depths of the sea. “Let’s Do Everything and Nothing” is about the parenting journey: the big moments and the quiet ones, and the best ones (snuggles). 

Illustrator and author Julia Kuo wrote the book after climbing Mt. Rainier in 2019. Her ultimate adventure? Motherhood — she’s currently expecting!

 

Read through AAPI month

“How to Hug a Pufferfish” by Ellie Peterson

How to Hug a Pufferfish, 2022, by Ellie Peterson (Kirkland)

Ages 2–5

So you want to hug a pufferfish? Pufferfish definitely needs to have a say or… FWOOMP! Author and illustrator Ellie Peterson won the Washington State Picture Book award in 2023 for “How to Hug a Pufferfish.” The book teaches kids about a serious topic, respecting another person’s boundaries, in a light-hearted way.

“What I love about this book is that it acknowledges kids’ good intentions,” Peterson says, “while showing them other ways to show you care.”

 

Read through AAPI month

“Apple Pie 4th of July” by Janet Wong

Apple Pie 4th of July, 2002, by Janet Wong (Gig Harbor)

Ages 2–5

Americans don’t want Chinese food on the Fourth of July, right? The customers prove otherwise at a mini-mart that sells chicken chow mien and sweet-and-sour pork alongside ice cream, ice and matches.

Author Janet Wong was inspired by her parents’ own mini-mart in rural Oregon selling Chinese food. She was already an adult when they bought the mini-mart, but she remembers working there when she visited with her son. “They would cook food for the steam table trays,” Wong says, “then go fishing while I worked the register!”’

 

Read through AAPI month

“Quackers” by Liz Wong

Quackers, 2016, by Liz Wong (Edmonds)

Ages 2–5

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t quite fit in, this book is purr-fect for you. Quackers doesn’t completely belong at the duck pond, and one day, he meets a strange duck who introduces him to a whole flock of strange ducks. This book is about sticking out, fitting in and being happy being you.

 

Picture books

 

Read through AAPI month

“Tricky Chopsticks” by Sylvia Chen

Tricky Chopsticks, 2024, by Sylvia Chen (Kirkland)

Ages 5-8

Wobbly, slippery, tricky chopsticks. Jenny Chow is afraid she’ll be the only Chow in history who hasn’t mastered these utensils. With some creative thinking and a little origami, she engineers her own solution.

After reading this book, you’ll be inspired to hold your own Chopsticks Challenge. Author Sylvia Chen remembers her mom challenging her to pick up wet marbles with chopsticks. Chen’s son still had trouble with chopsticks, but he was extra motivated to get comfortable by the time the book came out in March. (He did!)

 

Read through AAPI month

“Brave Mrs. Sato” by Lori Matsukawa

Brave Mrs. Sato, 2023, by Lori Matsukawa (Bellevue)

Ages 5-8

“Brave Mrs. Sato” tells the story of a little girl in Hawaii and her beloved babysitter. The title character, Mrs. Sato, is a combination of author Lori Matsukawa’s real-life babysitter and her real-life grandmother, who was a picture bride.

Picture brides were women who came from Japan to marry their husbands, sight unseen. Sometimes, men were not so honest and sent photos of someone else. Look closely at the illustrations and see if you can find a picture bride surprised when she meets her husband.

“I wrote the book because I believe picture brides were truly brave,” says Matsukawa, who was a longtime anchor at KING-5. “And I want all readers to record their own family origin stories about the ‘Mrs. Sato’ characters in their lives.”

 

Read through AAPI month

“Chloe’s Lunar New Year” by Lily LaMotte

Chloe’s Lunar New Year, 2024, by Lily LaMotte (Port Townsend)

Ages 5-8

Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in many Asian countries. Chloe helps with some of the traditions: hanging red decorations, sweeping, eating oranges… and baking apple pie? This family’s celebration is a blend of two cultures, with forks and spoons laid out alongside chopsticks.

A-má (Taiwanese for grandmother) holds a special spot in the festivities. No matter how scattered everyone is, the family comes together to celebrate the new year.

 

Read through AAPI month

“The Runnaway Dosa” by Suma Subramaniam

The Runaway Dosa, 2023, by Suma Subramaniam (Bothell)

Ages 5-8

You’ve heard about the Gingerbread Man, but do you know the Runaway Dosa? Akka’s breakfast comes to life and runs out the door. As he chases the runaway dosa, Akka meets a menagerie of creatures from Hindu mythology and Indian folktales. “The Runaway Dosa” is inspired by a traditional Tamil rhyme, “Dosai! Amma, Dosai!”

Author Suma Subramaniam recruits for a cloud communications company by day, and writes children’s books showcasing Indian culture by night. “Wearing multiple hats has its challenges,” she says, “but seeing the books in the hands of children makes all the hard work rewarding.”

 

Read through AAPI month

“Love Grows Here” by Chloe Ito Ward

Love Grows Here, 2024, by Chloe Ito Ward (Seattle area)

Ages 5-8

Aiko and her obā are out shopping when she hears a man hiss, “Go back to your own country.” Author Chloe Ito Ward knows this phrase too well. She first heard it when she was around 6 and most recently when she was about 20, while crossing a street in Seattle. Ward, who is Japanese-American, wrote the book in response to the rise of anti-Asian hate during the pandemic.

“Love Grows Here” is about where home is, belonging, and making the world a better place when you’re just a kid.

 

Read through AAPI month

“Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School” by Michelle Jing Chan

Mamie Tape Fights to Go to School: Based on a True Story, 2024, illustrated by Michelle Jing Chan (Seattle)

Ages 5-8

Nearly 70 years before Brown v. Board of Education, 8-year-old Mamie Tape fought to attend the all-white school in her neighborhood. In the 1880s, San Francisco didn’t allow Chinese children in its schools. Her parents sued—and won. In 1885, the California Supreme Court ruled that children of Chinese heritage had the right to a free public school education.

Illustrator Michelle Jing Chan hopes readers will be inspired by this lesser-known story from Asian-American history. “Change starts with a single step like the one Mamie and her family took together,” she says.

Read more:

WA Book Award winners in picture book and young-reader categories

Local authors selected for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

 

About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is a photographer and writer in Seattle. Find her on Instagram @photoj.seattle and at photoj.net.