CCBC May 2014 Newsletter: Asian Heritage Month



May Book List
Author Corner: An Interview with Paul Yee
Classroom Activity Suggestion
Amy’s Marathon of Books Update
Upcoming Events
Out Now: Spring 2014 issues of Best Books and Book News
INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair Presents Literary Fun for Children, Teachers, and Librarians!
Next Month…

May Book List

by Emma Sakamoto

May is Asian Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than to read about these cultures? Here is our list of titles spanning the diverse continent of Asia and touching on the lives of Asian-Canadians.

Interest Level (IL) is listed by age; Reading Level (RL) is listed by grade

Picture Books

Maggie's Chopsticks Maggie’s Chopsticks
Written by Alan Woo
Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Kids Can Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55453-619-1
                                    IL: Ages 4-7  RL: Grade 2
Poor Maggie struggles to hold her chopsticks correctly, and it seems nearly everyone around the dinner table has something to say about the “right” way to do it! But when Father reminds her not to worry about everyone else, Maggie finally learns that her way to hold the chopsticks is unique and perfect for her.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Mooncakes Mooncakes
Written by Loretta Seto
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
Orca Book Publishers, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4598-0107-3
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 2-3
In this lyrical and beautifully illustrated story, a young girl shares a special celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival with her parents. Mama and Baba tell her ancient tales about Chang-E, the woman who lives on the moon in the Jade Palace; Wu-Gang, the lazy woodcutter; and Jade Rabbit, who brings food to those on earth who need it.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

My Friend Mei Jing My Friend Mei Jing
Written by Anna McQuinn
Illustrated by Ben Frey
Photographs by Irvin Cheung
Annick Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-55451-152-5
IL: Ages 4-7  RL: Grades 1-2
Monifa, whose family hails from Africa, loves participating in the Chinese customs of her best friend, Mei Jing. Despite their different cultures, the two girls develop a strong bond of friendship based on shared interests and mutual respect. Collage artwork accompanies this up-close-and-personal glimpse into this cross-cultural friendship.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Naomi's Tree Naomi’s Tree
Written by Joy Kogawa
Illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-55455-055-5
IL: Ages 9-11  RL: Grade 3
Japanese newlyweds immigrate to Canada, bringing a cherry seed to plant in their new garden. But one day, war breaks out between Canada and Japan and the family is sent away. Now what will become of their beloved home and the tree that longs for their return?
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Nini Nini
Written and illustrated by François Thisdale
Tundra Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-77049-270-7
IL: Ages 4-7  RL: Grades 2-4
This exceptional book about adoption is a comforting story for children and families who have experienced or are about to experience it first-hand. The story begins before Nini is even born and tells of her journey to a couple who could not have children of their own. This title is also available in French under the same name.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior Fiction

Blood and Iron: Building the Railway, Lee Heen-gwong, British Columbia, 1882 Blood and Iron
(I Am Canada)
Written by Paul Yee
Scholastic Canada, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-545-98593-2
IL: Ages 9-12  Grades 4-6
Heen is unwillingly thrust into a new life in Canada to work on the CPR railroad because his father’s and grandfather’s gambling debts could ruin his family. The work on the railroad is difficult and extremely dangerous and conditions are wretched. Despite his young age, Heen faces the same dangers as the other Chinese men.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

A New Life A New Life
Written by Rukhsana Khan
Illustrated by Nasrin Khosravi
Groundwood Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-88899-930-6
IL: Ages 8-11  RL: Grades 4-5
Eight-year-old Khadija, her older brother, Hamza, and their parents have come to Canada from Pakistan. They struggle and learn while they adjust to a new language, a new society and life in a new country. Khadija and Hamza initially are targets of school bullies but then make friends and begin to feel more at ease in their new home.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Tiffin The Tiffin
Written by Mahtab Narsimhan
Dancing Cat Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-77086-039-1
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-6
The dabbawallas of Mumbai deliver lunches all over the city, and for every six million lunches sent, only one will fail to reach its destination. When a note placed in a tiffin (lunch box) is lost, young Kunal is separated from his birth mother and ends up living as a slave with his foster father. Vinayak, a kindly old dabbawalla, takes Kunal under his wing, helping the boy hatch a plan to reunite with his mother.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Torn Apart: The Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1941 Torn Apart: The Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi
(Dear Canada)
Written by Susan Aihoshi
Scholastic Canada, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-439-94660-5
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 4-6
Mary Kobayashi, a Canadian-born Japanese girl reveals the details of her life in Vancouver in 1941. Then on December 7, 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and everything changes. Mary is terrified when her family is torn apart and sent to various work camps. In her diary Mary writes about the hardships she and her family faced in the Slocan Valley camp.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

When the Cherry Blossoms Fell When the Cherry Blossoms Fell
(A Cherry Blossom Book)
Written by Jennifer Maruno
Napoleon & Company/Dundurn, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4597-0211-0
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-6
Michiko says goodbye to her father before her birthday. She doesn’t know the government has ordered all Japanese-born men out of the province. Her family joins hundreds of Japanese-Canadians on a train to the BC interior. Michiko learns the truth of her situation and faces prejudice and her first Christmas without her father.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Yound Adult Fiction

Circle of Cranes Circle of Cranes
Written by Annette LeBox
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3443-2
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Suyin is chosen by the elders in her village to go to America to earn riches for her poor Chinese village. She ends up working for pennies in a sweatshop run by crooks but eventually learns that there is a mystery in her past that involves her mother and the extraordinary magic of the Crane Sisterhood. Suyin may be the key to the future of the crane clan, but she must also help her sisters improve the conditions in the sweatshop.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Money Boy Money Boy
Written by Paul Yee
Groundwood Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55498-093-2
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 7-9
Ray is a 16-year-old Chinese immigrant who is trying to fit in at his suburban high school. When his father learns his son is gay, he kicks him out. Angry and defiant, Ray heads to downtown Toronto to discover whether he can survive life on the street.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Mountain Girl, River Girl Mountain Girl, River Girl
Written by Ting-xing Ye
Puffin Canada/Penguin, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-14-316812-6
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grade 9
This is the story of Pan-pan and Shuilian, two teenage girls born miles apart in rural China. Each girl decides to leave home for a better life. They happen upon each other and form a deep friendship – but will it be strong enough to withstand the dangers on the road ahead?
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Scratch on the Ming Vase The Scratch on the Ming Vase
(A Nicki Haddon Mystery, Book 1)
Written by Caroline Stellings
Second Story Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-926920-91-7
IL: Ages 12-14  RL: Grades 6-7
Born in China, Nicki Haddon lives in North America with her adoptive family. When her new kung fu master is attacked, she is compelled to solve the mystery of the missing Ming dynasty vase. Along the way she uses her martial arts training and the covert skills of the family butler, all while wondering about the mystery of her own past.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Yokaiden 1 (graphic novel) Yokaiden 1
Written and illustrated by Nina Matsumoto
Del Rey Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-345-50327-5
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grade 6
Most people fear yokai (Japanese spirits). The few who hunt them think they’re awful monsters to be destroyed at any price. Young Hamachi, though, wants to befriend them. He thinks they’re mischievous creatures that could live peacefully with humans if given a chance. This graphic novel is split into sections called candles instead of chapters.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road
Written by Priscilla Galloway with Dawn Hunter
Annick Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-55451-198-3
IL: Ages 10 and up  RL: Grade 5
The Silk Road’s sights, sounds and smells come alive as you delve into the stories of three explorers: Xyanzang, a seventh-century Chinese Buddhist; Genghis Khan, a Mongolian warrior; and Marco Polo, a 13th-century Italian merchant. A bibliography and an index accompany this captivating account of three figures who changed history.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Beyond the Moongate: True Stories of 1920s China Beyond the Moongate: True Stories of 1920s China
Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Quan
Tundra Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-77049-383-4
IL: 10-12  RL: Grade 4
In the 1920s, Elizabeth Quan and her family left their home in Canada to live in inland China with her grandmother. They lived in a remote village and discovered a foreign and astonishing world. This collection of stories and illustrations tells about the joys and sorrows they experienced in their two years in China.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Cultural Traditions in India Cultural Traditions in India
(Cultural Traditions in My World)
Written by Molly Aloian
Crabtree Publishing, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7787-7592-8
IL: Ages 7-9  RL: Grade 4
India’s culture combines the religion and ancient traditions passed down by the native peoples with the culture of India’s former ruler, Britain. This book describes how Indian traditions, beliefs and rituals, mixed with British influence, have resulted in many of the lively and colourful festivals celebrated today. Young readers will also learn how the Indian people celebrate family occasions.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War
(Righting Canada’s Wrongs)
Written by Pamela Hickman and Masako Fukawa
James Lorimer, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55277-853-1
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grade 7
Filled with historical photographs, documents and first-person narratives, this intriguing book about the Japanese Canadians who were interned during World War II provides a full account of this important yet disturbing time in Canada’s history. The authors take us from the early 1900s, explaining why the Japanese immigrated to Canada, to the lifting of the War Measures Act that allowed the Japanese to return to the west coast after the internment years.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War
Written by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55498-181-7
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grade 7
Author Deborah Ellis travels back to Kabul to meet with kids and find out what their lives have been like since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The boys and girls in this book range in age from 10 to 17 and many still support their families by selling items like pencils and matches on the street. Although violence and oppression still exist all around them, they are weathering their lives as best as they can.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author Corner: An Interview with Paul Yee

by Kate Abrams

Paul Yee is the prolific author behind many Canadian classics. He often writes about the Chinese-Canadian experience, both from a historical and modern perspective. We talked to him for Asian Heritage Month.

Paul Yee Can you explain the process you go through when writing your books?
I start with a topic—maybe coal miners or railway-building or an event like the 1907 riot. Sometimes a publisher wants a book on that topic, or I pick a topic that feels important. Then I do research. I look at history, geography, and the people involved. I love doing research because I learn new things and meet new people. Research can be dangerous too; I often spend far too much time on it!

Next, I brainstorm for a story. This is the hard part. I test idea after idea to find one that will work. Sometimes this can take several weeks. After I get a strong idea, I write a story outline. For chapter books, I do a chapter-by-chapter outline. The last thing I want is to get halfway into writing a book and find that it doesn’t make sense. I often send the outlines to my publishers to get their feedback. After the outlines, I start writing. But the research never ends, because I will need details to fill out the story background.

How long does it take you to do the research for a book?
In my specialty area—Chinese people in North America—I’ve been [researching] it for 35 years. Historians keep putting out new books, giving story-writers more ideas. For a new book on a new topic, I do about one month of research at the start, but continue when I start to write.

Where do you get the ideas for your books?
The story ideas can come from the topic area and the people who are involved in [that topic]. The more little details you learn about, the more ideas you can get. I look for points of conflict in the research. But a lot of ideas come from my own imagination.

Why is it important for students today to learn about the history of Chinese-Canadians?
The history of Chinese-Canadians shows that people from around the world came here to help build up the country in its early days. That history also shows that minority groups were badly treated in the past, and that is something we don’t want to repeat.

Which of your books would you recommend to teachers to teach their students about Chinese-Canadian history?
Tales from Gold Mountain for younger students, and Dead Man’s Gold for older students. These are stories about immigrants working in many different areas.

Visit Paul’s website to find out more about his books and for resources for educations:

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Classroom Activity Suggestion

by Sandra O’Brien

Mooncakes In the story Mooncakes, written by Loretta Seto and illustrated by Renné Benoit, a little girl and her parents celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival, which takes place in the mid-autumn and is an official harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese. It is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese and Vietnamese calendars, which is in late September or early October. The festival is a public holiday in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, and is considered the second-most important holiday tradition in Vietnam. Mid-Autumn Festival is a term used to describe Chuseok, a Korean holiday held on the same day. The festival is also known as the Mooncake Festival, Zhonqiu Festival, Lantern Festival, Reunion Festival, Children’s Festival and Harvest Moon Festival.

The three fundamental concepts of the festival are:

  • Gathering, such as family and friends coming together and harvesting crops
  • Thanksgiving, to give thanks for the harvest and for harmonious unions
  • Praying for babies, a spouse, beauty, longevity and for a good future

Have students learn more about this festival and other festivals celebrated in Asian countries such as the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan, Songkran (New Year) in Thailand, the Kite Festival in India or the Lantern Festival in China and Southeast Asia. Include some fun activities while you are learning about these festivals such as making lanterns, baking mooncakes or making and flying kites. Take a visit to an Asian cultural centre in your city or have a member of the Asian community visit your class to help you learn more about Asian culture and celebrate Asian Heritage Month.

Sandra O’Brien, a former teacher, is the Interim Program Coordinator at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

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Amy’s Marathon of Books – Update

by Amy Mathers

Amy Mathers Since January 2014, Amy Mathers has been reading one Canadian teen book a day in order to raise funds for a new teen book award. Here she updates us on her progress.

Hello Canadian Teen Book Lovers!

May has just begun so I am now starting my fifth month of reading. My reading journey has taken me into Ontario, and I will be reading Ontario books until after day 230. So far I’ve read 122 books and a total of 26,581 pages in 327 hours and 11 minutes. This means I am a third of the way through my Marathon of Books!

With online and mailed in donations, we are at $11,000 out of our $100,000 goal. This past month I got to speak to a Ladies’ Aid group and the Toronto Branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada. I have an interview with Open Book Ontario coming up, and I was invited by children’s author Kevin Sylvester to be on his podcast at the end of May.

There are so many books I am looking forward to reading during my Ontario journey, but I found I was sorry to finish my Quebec list. I loved all of the stories about settlers surviving in Canadian frontier, and keep recommending books like The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel to anyone who asks.

Some days are harder than others when it comes to fitting in my reading and reviews, but even after 122 days I’m still excited by each new book I get to read. I hope you’ll stay tuned to my upcoming reviews, because authors William Bell, Courtney Summers, Sylvia NcNicoll and Shane Peacock are all coming up.

Visit to read Amy’s reviews, browse her reading list, donate, and more.

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Upcoming Events

All events are submitted by CCBC members. Visit the CCBC Book Events Calendar for more information.

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Out Now: Spring 2014 issues of Canadian Children’s Book News and Best Books for Kids & Teens

Book NewsThe Spring 2014 of Canadian Children’s Book News is out now and features: “Remembering Not to Forget” – why Linda Granfield writes about war; “Finding the Humanity, Telling the Story” – how Sharon McKay explores friendship, loyalty and even laughter in conflict zones; new and classic titles on World War I, Book Week news and much more. Plus three writers who are also editors share how they balance their two roles – and reviews of 40 new books.

Book News The Spring 2014 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens, the CCBC’s semi-annual selection guide to the best Canadian books for children and young adults, features reviews of 190 titles for readers from toddler to teen. All of the titles in Best Books have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, and school and public librarians from across Canada. The reviewed materials include picture books, junior/intermediate fiction, graphic novels, and powerful teen fiction, in addition to a wide array of non-fiction, magazines and audio/video resources.

Check your local newsstand or purchase them on our website.

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INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair Presents Literary Fun for Children, Teachers, and Librarians!

The latest celebration of all things literary is fast approaching (November 13-16), and INSPIRE! HQ is buzzing as they continue to pull together a dynamic programming list that will transform the Metro Toronto Convention Centre into a book lover’s paradise.

In addition to readings, Q&As, meet & greets, and signings with local, Canadian, and international authors, INSPIRE! TIBF is proud to present a world-class workshop and seminar series, with sessions for all ages and interests. This series includes professional development workshops for teachers and librarians, and workshops and activities for children of all ages in story-building, illustration, creative writing, and more!

Not only will classes, families, and children have an opportunity to participate in these workshops, but there is an area at the Fair just for them: Reading will come alive at the INSPIRE’s Children’s Courtyard and Activity Zone. Featuring some of Canada and the world’s best children’s authors and illustrators, families will delight in traditional readings and drawing demonstrations. Join them for lively, interactive programming and activities (creative crafts, music, games, multicultural fun, songs, dancing) based on recent children’s books.

A full list of their dynamic workshops and programs will be available in the coming months.

For more information, visit the INSPIRE! TIBF website,, tweet them at @InspireTIBF or contact Maddy Curry at

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Next Month…

Our June newsletter will be inspired by National Aboriginal History Month. What do you have planned for your class or library? Email us and we’ll share some of your suggestions or event information!

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