Theme Guide: Asian Culture and Heritage


Picture Books

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin
Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Kids Can Press, 2014
ISBN 978-1-55453-619-1
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

In this beautifully written picture book, Hana Hashimoto has signed up to play her violin at her school’s talent show. The trouble is, she’s a beginner, and she’s had only three lessons. Her brothers insist she isn’t good enough. But Hana practises every day and once it’s her turn to perform she surprises everyone — even herself!


Maggie’s Chopsticks
Written by Alan Woo
Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Kids Can Press, 2012
ISBN 978-1-101-91759-6
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 2-3

A young girl named Maggie gets her own pair of chopsticks.  Her grandmother says, “Do it like me!” while she rapidly works her old wooden sticks with a “click-clack-clicketing.” Her sister instructs, “Be graceful like this!” as she crosses her pair “back and forth, like legs, dancing.” But it’s no use. Finally, her father gently tells Maggie just what she needs to hear. “Everyone is different. Everyone is unique,” he tells her. “You hold your chopsticks perfectly.”


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.



Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms
Written by Robert Paul Weston
Illustrated by Misa Saburi
Tundra Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-10191-874-6
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 2-3

A warm, gorgeous exploration of a little girl’s experience immigrating to a new country and missing her home and her grandmother, who still lives far away. Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms captures the beauty of the healing power of friendship through Weston’s Japanese poetry-inspired text and Saburi’s breathtaking illustrations.



Junior & Intermediate Fiction


The Finding Place
Written by Julie Hartley
Red Deer Press, 2015
ISBN 978-0-88995-533-2
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 6-7

Found as a baby outside a school in China, Kelly is adopted and lovingly raised by North American parents. When Kelly is 13, her father deserts the family, leaving her heartbroken. Struggling with what it means to be loved and then left behind, Kelly and her mother embark on a journey back to China in search of her origins — a journey which changes their lives forever.




Heart of a Champion
Written by Ellen Schwartz
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-77049-880-8
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

When war is declared against Japan, everything changes for Kenny and his family. Banished to an isolated internment camp, Kenny’s hopes of becoming a star Asahi baseball player like his brother seem ended. But when he gets permission to turn a vacant lot into a baseball field, the work gives purpose to the long days. Kenny’s persistence, hard work and big dreams shape the teen he is to become.



Krista Kim-Bap
Written by Angela Ahn
Second Story Press, 2018
ISBN 978-1-7726-0063-6
IL: Ages 9-13 RL: Grades 3-4

Krista and Jason have been best friends since preschool. It never mattered that he was a boy with reddish brown hair and she was “the Korean girl” at school. Now in fifth grade, everyone in their class is preparing their Heritage Month projects. Jason has always loved Krista’s Korean family, and particularly her mom’s cooking, but Krista is conflicted about being her school’s “Korean Ambassador.”


Running Through Sprinklers
Written by Michelle Kim
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4814-9528-8
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-8

Sara and Nadine are best friends forever—until they aren’t. Everything has changed this year. Nadine has suddenly skipped a grade and gone to high school without Sara. No matter how hard she fights to save their friendship, Sara can feel it slipping away. But Sara just might discover something new and wonderful: herself.



Young Adult Fiction

The Iron Road
Written by Anne Tait with Paulette Bourgeois
Dundurn, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4597-3142-4
IL: Ages 12-15 RL: Grades 7-8

It’s 1882, in southern China, and Li Jun, disguised as a boy, has been working in a fireworks factory earning enough money to sail to British Columbia to find her father and fulfill a promise to her dying mother. In forging a new life, she joins thousands of Chinese men who face danger, deceit and prejudice as they blast a path for the new railway through the Rockies. Based on the award-winning film, Iron Road.


Money Boy
Written by Paul Yee
Groundwood Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1-55498-175-5
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Ray Liu knows he should be happy. But it’s tough getting grades that will please his army veteran father, when speaking English is still a struggle. And he can’t quite connect with his peers at high school — Chinese immigrants like himself but who seem to have adjusted to North American life more easily. Then comes the fateful day when his father accesses Ray’s internet account, and discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites. Before Ray knows what has hit him, his belongings have been thrown on the front lawn, and he has been kicked out.



Written by Joy Kogawa
Puffin Canada, 2014
ISBN 978-0-14-319234-3
IL: Ages 15 and up RL: Grades 9-10

This is a moving story of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, told through the eyes of a child. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, five-year-old Naomi’s life is changed forever. Separated from her mother, a bewildered Naomi watches as she and her family become enemy aliens, persecuted and despised in their own land. Includes an introduction by Teresa Toten.



Throwaway Daughter
Written by Ting-Xing Ye with William Bell
Seal Books, 2004
ISBN 978-0-77042-921-8
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Throwaway Daughter tells the dramatic and moving story of Grace Dong-mei Parker, a typical Canadian teenager until the day she witnesses the Tiananmen massacre on television. Horrified, she sets out to explore her Chinese ancestry, only to discover that she was one of the thousands of infant girls abandoned in China since the introduction of the one-child policy, strictly enforced by the Communist government.



Ancient China Inside Out
(Ancient Worlds Inside Out)
Written by Kelly Spence
Crabtree Publishing, 2017
ISBN 978-0-7787-2875-7
IL: Ages 8-11 RL: Grades 3-4

This fascinating book explores the culture and achievements of ancient China, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, through the examination of artifacts that have survived through the centuries. Each primary-source artifact offers the reader significant clues to the civilization’s technologies, cultural traditions, foods and conflicts.



Internment Camps
(Uncovering the Past: Analyzing Primary Sources)
Written by Natalie Hyde
Crabtree Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-0-7787-2862-7
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

This title examines the internment of “enemy aliens” in the United States and Canada during World War II. With emphasis on the plight of Japanese-American and Japanese-Canadian citizens, the events, mindsets and policies leading up to and following the forced removal of thousands of citizens from their homes into internment camps are examined. The use of primary sources encourages critical thinking about citizenship and stereotyping.