May is #AAPI Month|Booklist
This year’s observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or #AAPI Month on social media, feels more somber and more important than ever in the wake of the rise in hate crimes against the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, which in turn has spurred the #stopAsianHate movement.
As a reader, I have always enjoyed reading about people from other cultures and religions as it opens my eyes to worlds I am not familiar with and gives me a glimpse into new cultures. As an educator, I believe it helps grow empathy and understanding.
Though the titles on the list don’t necessarily give a glimpse into a different world, they showcase the breadth of talent by so many writers and artists whose heritage we honor this month.
Donut Feed the Squirrels
by Mika Song
Random House Graphics
Two squirrels, Belly and Norma, are determined to score donuts from the food truck. When their efforts to trade chestnuts for donuts fail, they are determined to get some anyway. This whimsical and hilarious title is perfect for early readers. The large panels and sparse text are an ideal combination for emerging readers. The watercolor artwork and muted colors match the rustic setting of the book. Hoping to see Belly & Norma return in another adventure soon!
by Lily Lamotte and Ann Xu
When Cici moves to Seattle from Taiwan she slowly finds her place in her new home and town. Missing her grandmother, Cici decides to join a cooking competition in the hopes that she will win and the prize money will pay for a plane ticket for her grandmother’s visit. This heartwarming story is a realistic portrayal of fitting in, friendship, new beginnings, and family relationships. The heartwarming artwork and vivid colors bring Cici’s story to life.
When his grandmother dies, Tai inherits her jade ring and discovers he is being inducted into the Green Lanterns. His neighborhood needs the most protection as it is being overrun by greedy landowners. As Tai learns of the extent of his own powers and abilities he discovers much about his grandmother and his heritage. The realistic illustrations and subtle coloring give the book an air of reality, even though it’s steeped in magic and superhero fun.
by Jen Wang
Wang (The Prince and Dressmaker), writes a fictionalized version of her own childhood. Christine, a Chinese American girl growing up in a home with strict parents, befriends Moon, who is everything Christine is not. Yet the two form a bond. Naturally, things go awry in their friendship, but while the girls are still on the outs, Moon collapses and a tumor is discovered. Christine must pull together, move beyond her own feelings, and be a friend for Moon. The art has a very familiar and comfortable feel. The colors are lush and the artwork is inviting. And unfortunately, even middle schoolers fight deadly diseases.
Seance Tea Party
by Reimena Yee
Random House Graphic
While Lora’s friends and classmates are growing up, their interest turning to boys, their devices, fashion, and the latest memes, Lora still wants to hold onto her magical and fantastical imagination. When she discovers Alexa, the ghost haunting her house, she holds onto Alexa to keep magic alive, but when Lora starts to grow and mature, and pay more attention to her friends and their current interests, Alexa chooses to try and move on. Will Lora be able to hold onto both? With dramatic colors, artwork that exudes energy, and memorable characters, this “neverland” themed story will speak to middle school readers.
by Ethan Young
Prince Sing is traveling with his family, the Wong Clan, looking to settle the Old Land. But they are traveling along the very dangerous Dragon Path. When the Dragon Tribe attacks, Prince Sing is rescued by Midnight and a mystic. Brought back to the Old Land, Prince Sing discovers the truths of his heritage and the full extent of his abilities. Will he put those abilities to use and save the Wong Clan and reclaim the Old Land? Lush colors and action-packed artwork will lure readers into this exciting newly released graphic novel.
When the Lee family moves to Metropolis, they are the lone Asian family in their neighborhood. They know it will be hard to fit in, but they do not expect the Klan of the Fiery Kross to attack their home. Their welcome is a smashed window, and the violence only escalates from there. Tommy and his sister Roberta do find some friends, but their greatest ally is Superman. Will he be able to help them though he is struggling with his own “green demon” urging him to let go. Will Roberta, attuned to other people’s needs, help Superman let go? The artwork has a retro feel, evoking comics of the early 1940s, with just a touch of modernity to draw in readers for today. This is a good pick for existing superhero fans and those who need to be convinced.
by Mike Curato
Holt Books for Young Readers
Grades 7 and up
It’s hard for Aiden in summer camp. Probably not harder than it is at home. But nevertheless hard. The boys are rough on him and he is struggling with his own identity. His feelings for Ellis are overwhelming, but it’s pretty obvious that Ellis doesn’t feel the same way. But as Aiden juggles all of his intense feelings, he learns a lot about himself. Black and white artwork punctuated by hues of orange and red accentuate the exploding feelings Aiden harbors. A wonderful book about self-discovery and self-acceptance.
by Robin Ha
Ten Speed Press
Grades 9 and up
A cookbook in comics! Robin Ha starts out by telling us how she came to cook and how she decided to turn her interest into a comic book. Clear instructions allow for any intrepid cook to try their hand at Korean cooking. Ha makes it look quite simple. The artwork is delightful with a color palette that shifts based on the ingredients of the recipe.
Tiến loves folk and fairy tales and believes in the power of stories. As he struggles to figure out how to share his truth with his parents, who as Vietnamese immigrants are working to learn English, he wonders if the stories they all love can help him find the right words. This story explores the strengths and limits of language, storytelling, and a shared narrative. While it covers some complex and serious topics, the love of family shines through, and the artwork particularly shines in the illustrated fairy tales from around the world.
In his memoir of growing up in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War II, George Takei portrays the injustice of imprisoning a group of people based on their race and heritage. The internment of Japanese Americans barely rates a one-day lesson in most U.S. Social Studies curriculums, but Takei, who was interned with his family at the age of five, shows young readers the injustice perpetrated to Japanese families during World War II. A compelling and haunting must-read for every young person in the United States.
Note: Thank you to the GC4K team for title recommendations and to Robin Brenner for help with annotations.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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