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date: 23 March 2019

Asian American Children’s Literature

Summary and Keywords

Asian American children’s literature includes books of many different genres that depict some aspect of the Asian diaspora. In total, the books should depict the breadth and depth of Asian diasporic experiences. Children’s books published in the early 20th century include mostly folktales, while books published after the 1965 Immigration Act tend to include contemporary fiction, poetry, and biographies. They address topics such as immigration and acculturation as well as capture landmark moments and experiences in Asian American history, such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the transnational, transracial adoption of Asian children to the United States. Books published at the turn of the 20th century have broached newer topics, such as mixed-race identities, and are written in a variety of genres including fantasy. As noted by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the number of books by and/or about Asian Americans published is disproportionate to the total number of books published each year and to the population of Asians in the Americas. Also some Asian American writers continue to publish on topics unrelated to their identities. Academic researchers, practitioners, and writers have addressed various aspects of how this body of literature represents Asian Americans, mostly noting distortions and erasure and offering suggestions for improvement, emerging topics, and engagement with young people.

Keywords: Asian American, Asian Pacific American, children’s literature, youth literature, children’s books, books for youth, Japanese incarceration, mixed race, transracial adoption, publishing

In order to understand the scope of Asian American children’s literature, one must ask, “What is Asian America?” In The Making of Asian America, historian Erika Lee troubles the notion that there is “one ‘Asian America,’ or one ‘Asian American history.’”1 Too often people think of Asians and Asian Americans as a monolith, when, in actuality, the great variety and diversity within Asian America demands that Asian American stories are varied and diverse. Children’s literature scholar Junko Yokota also argues that these stories should be diverse in terms of “geographical locations, cultural experiences, and histories,” as well as content, genre, format, and other aspects. Yokota observes that, “For decades, most of the stories focused on Asians and Asian Americans that were available for children and young adults” were folktales, though in recent years we have seen the outpouring of more “books about people living in today’s world.”

Historical forces have also shaped the development of youth literature. Though books for children existed in earlier centuries, the children’s book industry was firmly established in the first half of the 20th century.2 In response to a growing market (comprising primarily but not only schools and libraries), in 1919 Macmillan established the first children’s book department in a publishing house. In 1922, the first John Newbery Medal was awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children to the most distinguished children’s book published in a single year; this signaled that there was a sufficiently robust body of children’s books to warrant the administration of a medal. However, nearly everyone working in publishing at this time was white and female, and almost all the books they published were written by white people and depicted white children. Significantly, a South Asian Indian man, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, was able to break into American children’s publishing with a book titled Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon in 1927. Gay-Neck won the John Newbery Medal in 1928, but it was not until 2002 that another Asian American won the Newbery Medal. In “What a Forgotten Kids’ Book Reveals About U.S. Publishing,” Pooja Makhijani argues that had the 1924 Immigration Act not been implemented, it is possible that Asian American youth literature may have had a different trajectory; there may have been more Asians in the Americas telling their stories to young people.3 Accordingly, after the 1965 Immigration Act, there were more Asian people in the United States, and more Asian American writings emerged in significant numbers. In The Children of 1965: Writing and Not Writing as an Asian American, Min Hyoung Song addresses works by Asian Americans who were born in or after the 1960s and are now “part of the largest and most celebrated cohort of American writers of Asian ancestry ever to exist.”4 Asian American children’s literature may be approaching a similar “celebrated cohort,” as measured by output, popularity, and critical acclaim, though it continues to suffer from erasure and misrepresentations.

Asian American children’s literature, which includes many different genres such as fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, folktale, poetry, and biography, has grown and exploded in the 21st century but began as a trickle in the first half of the 20th century. Sui Sin Far’s Tales of Chinese Children, published in 1912, is generally considered the first “Asian American” story for young people.5 In subsequent years, folktales from Asian cultures and nonfiction children’s books explaining Asian cultures, countries, and peoples to non-Asian, white American children dominated the landscape of children’s literature. After the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, there emerged more fictional and autobiographical stories by and about Asians and Asian Americans, so the ratio of folktales and nonfiction to fiction is becoming more balanced. As Rocío Davis and Dolores de Manuel point out, writing Asian American children’s literature is a political project in which Asian Americans rewrite themselves into the landscape of American children’s literature.6 Many contemporary Asian Americans write their largely autobiographical stories because they want the next generation to see themselves reflected in the books they read—a privilege unavailable to the writers during their youth.7 Therefore, by the late 1990s, the collection of texts that existed was a fairly small, predictable, and stable body of literature including folktales and texts for all reading levels addressing topics such as immigration, learning English, Chinese New Year, and Japanese incarceration. More 21st-century titles address topics such as mixed-race identities and transnational adoption.

Since 2002 approximately one hundred to two hundred children’s books have been published by and/or about Asian Americans every year, but critics still decry the paucity of Asian American representation in American children’s literature; the increase is barely significant when considering the nearly 3,400 American children’s books that are received and reviewed annually by the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Education’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC). In 2002 the CCBC reported that only 46 of the 91 Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American children’s books were both by and about Asian/Pacifics and Asian Pacific Americans.8 By 2017, 274 books were written “by” Asian/Pacific and Asian/Pacific American writers, and 310 were “about” Asian/Pacific and Asian/Pacific Americans.9 Many of these books tend to depict Asian New Year celebrations, and nonfiction books tend to “teach” about Asian cultures and countries rather than depict the contemporary experiences of Asian Americans.

Aside from folktale collections, much of the earlier literature depicting Asians increased with increasing media exposure to the war in the Pacific, Japanese Incarceration, and the Korean War. Historian Christina Klein observes that America’s involvement with the Pacific heightened a sense of “Cold War Orientalism” that led Americans to embrace Asian culture through “middlebrow culture.”10 One logical method was to publish children’s books featuring Asians and Asian Americans. Also, in the aftermath of the Japanese incarceration (1942–1945) during World War II, Japanese Americans such as Yoshiko Uchida wrote children’s novels and picture books that shared the gritty truth about the camps. In the years following the Korean War, white American authors began publishing books about Korean orphans; for example, Kim of Korea, written in 1955 by Faith Norris and Peter Lumn, depicts a Korean orphan who is adopted by a white American soldier. As transnational/transracial adoption from Korea to the United States steadily increased in the postwar era, white American authors published a new children’s book about a Korean orphan adoptee at least once every two or three years. Similarly, adoption stories about Chinese girls have exploded across the market alongside the rapid increase of Chinese transracial/transnational adoption.

Historical fiction comprises a significant part of Asian American children’s literature. Since the 1970s, Laurence Yep has been publishing children’s books in various genres, such as science fiction, folklore, and historical and contemporary fiction; his novels about Chinese American experiences cover the mid-1800s to the 21st century. In addition to a distinguished collection of Chinese American folktales (The Rainbow People (1989), two of his novels, Dragonwings (1975) and Dragon’s Gate (1993)—both historical novels with male Chinese protagonists and set mostly in the United States—have won Newbery Honors. Further testifying to the emergence and quality of Asian American historical fiction, in 2002 Linda Sue Park won the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard, a novel set in 12th-century Korea; in 2004, Cynthia Kadohata received the Newbery Medal for Kira Kira, a novel featuring a Japanese American family living in Georgia in the 1950s and 1960s.

In terms of transnationalism, children’s books show the movement of Asians between the United States and Asia, both as immigrants and refugees from Asian countries to the United States, as well as Americans traveling to Asian countries; they show that the “literature of the world does not break down conveniently along national lines.”11 For example, Only One Year and Listen, Slowly depict Asian Americans traveling to Asia after having resided in the United States. In Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey (1993), which won a Caldecott Medal, Grandfather travels within the United States and between the United States and East Asia. His conclusion best conveys the tensions of calling multiple places home: “The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.”

Although the United States exports many more of its stories than it imports from other countries, American publishers have imported and translated a few key stories from Asian countries. One example is Keiji Nakazawa’s graphic novel series, Barefoot Gen, a semi-autobiographical account of Nakazawa’s experiences during the bombing of Hiroshima (originally published in 1972, and translated and republished by Last Gasp in 2004). Waiting for Mama (2007), a picture book translated from Korea, was originally published in a Korean newspaper in 1938.

Junko Yokota rightly observes that there has been a “significant move away from the ‘long ago and far away’ literature of folklore and historical fiction” to more books about contemporary Asian American experiences.12 This may be because more Asian American writers are writing about their own experiences, whether they originate in Asia or in the Americas. While stories about the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean diaspora still dominate, there are increasing numbers of books about the Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, and other South and Southeast Asian diasporas. For example, the picture book A Song for Cambodia (2008) and books written by Mitali Perkins and Uma Krishnaswami depict experiences of Southeast and South Asian, respectively. Bao Phi and Thi Bui’s award-winning picture book A Different Pond (2017) shows a young Vietnamese American boy learning about the Vietnam War from his father while on a fishing trip in Minneapolis. Perkins’s Bamboo People takes place in Burma (also called Myanmar) and is told through the alternating voices of a refugee (Chiko) and child soldier (Tu Reh). Krishnaswami’s picture book Bringing Asha Home shows an American family adopting a child from India, a significant but underrepresented demographic in the adoption narratives, and her middle-grade novel The Grand Plan to Fix Everything has a spunky Indian female protagonist who delights in Bollywood culture.

In addition to folktales and stories about immigration and acculturation, Asian American children’s literature is also addressing other emerging topics. Given the growing population of mixed-race Asians, stories featuring this group abound, though many are written by people who are close to mixed-race people but themselves are not mixed race. For example, Grandfather Counts is written by Andrea Cheng, a white woman who was married to a Chinese man, and Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung, a Korean American man with mixed-race children. Susan Tan, who debuted her Cilla Lee-Jenkins chapter book series in 2017, has spoken at length about how she based much of the books’ content on her own experiences growing up Chinese and white. On her website she writes, “Cilla is semi-autobiographical, which means it’s based on my life and my family.”13 Also, children’s books are published in different formats and genres, such as poetry (Tofu Quilt, 2009), in graphic novels (American Born Chinese, 2006), and manga (the Naruto series). The huge popularity of graphic novels and manga gives Asian American stories an increasingly secure place in the canon of children’s literature.

Folktales

Much of Asian American children’s literature began with and continues to stem from the folklore and other stories that were brought from across the Pacific Ocean to the United States. Folktales function as a convenient and meaningful way for people to learn about other cultures because although each culture’s folklore is specific to that culture, certain elements of the more universal stories (such as the ubiquitous Cinderella story) may transcend national and cultural boundaries. Early books containing Asian content tended to be in the form of folktales written by white Americans (such as missionaries or diplomats) who had been to Asian countries and/or had interacted with Asian people. For example, in the dedication to Tales Told in Korea (1932), Berta Metzgar thanks Syngman Rhee, who would later become the first president of the Republic of Korea (the ROK was established in 1948). Some other examples include Frances Carpenter’s (daughter of Frank Carpenter, a journalist and travel writer) Tales of a Chinese Grandmother (1937), Tales of a Korean Grandmother (1947), The Elephant’s Bathtub: Wonder Tales from the Far East (1962), and People From the Sky: Ainu Tales from Northern Japan (1972). Sui Sin Far’s “Tales of Chinese Children” is included in Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings, and the first half is an adult short-story collection titled “Mrs. Spring Fragrance”; it is also notable because Sui Sin Far herself, unlike the other authors of similar folktale collections, was a mixed- race Chinese and white woman.

Depictions of Asians in folk tales are not without controversy. One of the most well-known and problematic children’s books featuring Asian characters is The Five Chinese Brothers (1938), written by Claire Hutchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Weise. This picture book tells the story of five identical Chinese brothers who outwit their captors by having each brother stand in for another and using his unique skill to escape. However, the illustrations depict not just the identical appearance of the five brothers (which is necessary for the story to work) but also the Chinese townspeople are almost entirely and stereotypically visually indistinguishable from one another; they all have butter yellow skin and slanted eyes. Junko Yokota asks, “Why is everyone else in the country, as represented by the book, identical in physical appearance, attire, and even the angle at which they lean in a group scene?”14 In the 1970s, this led to a debate in the children’s literature journals about the racism reflected by these illustrations; in 1977, Albert Schwarz wrote,

The Asian images presented in the book coincide with and strongly reinforce—intentionally or not—the negative perceptions of Asians which have always been and are still operative in our society.… As long as children are exposed to illustrations which depict Asians with slits for eyes, and as all looking alike, and to covertly racist language, negative feelings are being engendered.15

These criticisms fell in line with the conversations of the day; in 1965 Nancy Larrick had observed that fewer than 7 percent of the 5,206 children’s books published between 1962 and 1964 depicted black characters.16 After Larrick’s landmark accusation was leveled at the “all-white world of children’s publishing,” publishers scrambled to provide more books portraying ethnic minorities, and scholars and critics published more writings examining children’s books for their ethnic and cultural content. Federal monies available to schools and libraries also created a market for more children’s books; in the wake of the civil rights movements, there was a particular demand for more books by and about ethnic minorities.17

Around this time period another “Asian” children’s folktale was published. Tikki Tikki Tembo, a picture book written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent, was originally published in 1968 and is described as “an ancient Chinese folktale” on Macmillan’s website.18 The plot features a young child whose sibling falls into a well; because his sibling’s name is so long, he cannot say it in time to get help to retrieve his brother. Tikki Tikki Tembo is meant to be a pourquoi story, or a story that explains how something came to be: readers are meant to learn why Chinese names are so short. However, despite being described as a “Chinese folktale” the story has Japanese origins. According to award-winning author and illustrator Grace Lin, who herself is Taiwanese American, “The book is not an authentic folktale as it claims and, by using an untrue tradition and made-up/incorrect words, it creates false Chinese culture.” Lin continues, it “took a non-Chinese story and pretended that it was old and authentic, added bogus traditions and words; and, in doing so, misrepresents Chinese culture.”19 Though it claims to be a Chinese folktale, the characters are dressed in Japanese attire. Irene Rideout explains that

the book purports to be an ‘old Chinese folktale,’ but it is not. It is actually thought to be based on a Japanese folktale called Jugemu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jugemu). Presumably, that tale was picked up and retold by Westerners, who mistakenly attributed it to China and added to the story. The result is a story that is neither Japanese nor Chinese, and it exemplifies the racist attitude of, ‘Chinese, Japanese, what’s the difference, they’re all the same.’20

The book continues to do well, having sold over one million copies; also, it was Hennepin County Library’s (Minnesota) most frequently circulating children’s item in the spring of 2017.21

Even though more of the stories published from the 1970s onward tend to be from insider voices about contemporary experiences, traditional Asian folk tales are still retold for the American market, a market that continues to eagerly accept them. Publishers such as Tuttle continue to produce books—written by both Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans—such as Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories (2014), Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories (2015), and The Monkey King: A Classic Chinese Tale for Children (2017).

Picture Books

Picture books that “combine words with illustrations to tell a story” are “meant to be read aloud while children view illustrations.”22 As books that convey information through illustrations, and are introduced during a crucial, formative time in a young person’s development, they occupy an important space in children’s literature. Though the 1940s and 1950s are identified as the first “golden age” of children’s books, some have identified the 2000s as a new “golden age” of picture books.23 For example, in early 2018 writer Matt de la Peña wrote, “We are currently in a golden age of picture books, with a tremendous range to choose from.”24 Others have criticized this idealism, citing evidence that shows that American children’s literature publishing is still homogeneously white and American-centric and that most children are not able to see reflections of diverse experiences in picture books.25 Given that so many of American picture books feature only white or vaguely brown characters, it may be wishful thinking to claim that children’s picture book publishing is in a golden age.

In this light, it is significant that Asian Americans continue to publish more and increasingly sophisticated picture books, drawing attention to Asian American aesthetics, experiences, and stories and that many Asian American book creators are receiving starred reviews and earning industry awards. For example, award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat, who is Thai American, explains in an Instagram post that for the typography for the picture book Drawn Together (authored by Minh Lê, 2018), he combined the original Thai alphabet with the Western alphabet. In terms of awards, the prestigious Caldecott Award (both Medal Winners and Honor Books) is administered by the ALA Association for Library Service to Children and awarded “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”26 And Asian American artists’ recognition is one way to measure Asian American accomplishments in picture book publishing.27 In 1990, author and illustrator Ed Young was the first Asian American to win the Caldecott Medal for his picture book folktale Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China (1989). Author and illustrator Allen Say won the 1994 Caldecott Medal for his picture book Grandfather’s Journey (1993), previously mentioned, which depicts a Japanese American man’s multiple transnational trips to and from Asian countries and the United States. In 2015, Dan Santat won the Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (2014). No Asian American female artists have won the Caldecott Medal.

More Asian American male artists have won Caldecott Honors. The first Asian American to win a Caldecott (either Honor or Medal) is also the youngest person to win the Caldecott; Plato Chan was twelve years old when he illustrated Good-Luck Horse (written by his father Chih-Yi Chan, 1943), for which he won the Caldecott Honor in 1944. In 1956, Taro Yashima won an Honor for Crow Boy (1955), and in 1959 he won another Honor for The Umbrella (1958). In 1968, both Taro Yashima and Ed Young won Honors—Yashima for Seashore Story (1967) and Young for The Emperor and the Kite (1967). Young earned his second Honor in 1993 for Seven Blind Mice (1992). Allen Say earned his first Caldecott Honor in 1989 for The Boy of the Three-Year Nap (1988), written by Diane Snyder. In 2018, Jason Chin won an Honor for Grand Canyon (2017). In total, these five men earned eight Honors between 1944 and 2017.

More contemporary Asian American female artists and writers have also garnered a Caldecott Honor. In 2018, graphic novelist Thi Bui won a Caldecott Honor for her debut picture book, A Different Pond (2017), which was written by award-winning poet and spoken word artist Bao Phi. This picture book also earned the Charlotte Zolotow Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor, the Minnesota Book Award, and an honor from the Boston Globe-Horn Book. Two years earlier, in 2015, Jillian Tamaki won the Caldecott Honor for This One Summer (2014), but as K. T. Horning notes of both Santat’s Beekle and Tamaki’s This One Summer, “Neither featured visible Asian characters,” which calls into question what these books do for Asian American illustrators and Asian American stories.28 Horning writes that in 2016, “65% of the books by Asians/Asian Americans published in 2016 were not about Asians.” She suggests “You can put a positive spin on this and point out that means some Asian authors are being given the freedom to write whatever they want.” However, this must be considered alongside the fact that “almost two-thirds of the books about Asians are being created by non-Asians,” and what the implications of such outsider authorship may mean for autonomy over Asian American stories. That said, artists such as Suzy Lee, Yumi Heo, Chris Soentpiet, and Grace Lin continue to publish books that depict characters who are visibly and/or explicitly Asian.

Early Readers

Much of Asian American children’s literature still shows this relative invisibility. Asian American picture books and young adult novels are in short supply relative to the larger body of literature, but they abound relative to early readers and chapter books depicting Asian characters. Early readers, sometimes called “easy readers,” are typically a series in a format with which young children may learn to read more independently. K. T. Horning writes that “these books feature simple sentences and short chapters,” and the combination of large text, engaging illustrations, and large swaths of white space may attract readers who are reading on their own for the first time.29 Annette Wannamaker and Jennifer Miskec, co-editors of The Early Reader in Children’s Literature and Culture (2015) agree: “They are, for many younger readers, their first opportunity to engage with a work of literature on their own, to feel a sense of mastery over a text, and, ideally, to experience pleasure from the act of beginning to read independently.”30 However, for years, this body of literature depicted few Asian Americans, and some of what was published was problematic.

Published in the 1990s, Suzy Kline’s Horrible Harry series contains stereotypical characters such as Song Lee, an immigrant speaking choppy, broken English, while Beverly Lewis’s Cul-de-sac Kids series uses transracial Korean adoption as a platform for evangelism and exoticizes Korean culture. Andrea Cheng’s The Year series is well written and presents Anna Wang’s relationship to her Chineseness, with books such as The Year of the Fortune Cookie doing it through a visit to China. Cheng’s Only One Year relates a common situation among Asian American families: the youngest child is sent to stay with grandparents in the mother country for one year. Jenny Han, Korean American author of the best-selling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before young adult trilogy, tackles racial identity issues in Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream when white classmates suggest Korean American Clara Lee cannot win the Little Miss Apple Pie pageant in their New England hometown. Lenore Look’s Ruby Lu series features a Chinese American protagonist, and the narrative mostly showcases Chinese culture rather than reflect Chineseness. For example, before Ruby’s Chinese cousin immigrates to the United States, Ruby teaches her classmates to hold a calligraphy brush and reads Chinese folktales in order to acquaint her classmates with Chinese culture, participating in what Hazel Rochman calls a “tourist” approach to ethnic literature.31

Some early readers such as Look’s Ruby Lu series more overtly “teach” about Asian culture, often at the expense of character development, writing quality, and other elements that make for a good reading experience. In contrast, the characters and plot in Look’s Alvin Ho series are well developed, with a greater emphasis on Alvin’s adventures, relationships with his family and classmates, and especially on how he handles his anxiety disorder—a heavy but increasingly important topic for young audiences. Also, his Chinese American culture is a significant but not driving force in the series, and Look avoids some of the clichés that trouble other early readers featuring Asian American characters. For example, Alvin Ho debunks the common “Asian as forever foreigner” stereotype by presenting most of Alvin’s family members as fully developed characters rather than one-dimensional recent immigrants with thick Chinese accents. And, of course, the fact that there are more Asian American females than males in early readers makes the Alvin Ho series stand out all the more. However, the books are not without other problems. For instance, Book 3, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-Made Catastrophes, stereotypes Native American cultures by having Alvin “play Indian” and dress up in a so-called chief costume.32

Author Paula Yoo, writer of Asian American picture-book biographies, began to write early readers in 2016. The Confetti Kid series features a diverse cast of characters and begins with Lily’s New Home, in which Lily has just moved to New York City, where she makes new friends with the diverse neighborhood children. Alongside books such as Lola Levine is Not Mean and Zetta Elliott’s self-published early readers, these diverse early readers fill an important gap for young people reading at this level. Wannamaker and Miskec write, “Just as Early Readers reflect adult attitudes about childrearing, they also (for better or worse) reflect adult attitudes about race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, working sometimes to challenge prejudice and other times to perpetuate it.”33 The inclusion of more characters of color in early readers is an important intervention in children’s book publishing.

Chapter Books

In her literary address at the inaugural Asian American Literature Festival (2017), award-winning author and scholar Karen Tei Yamashita noted that Japanese American Yoshida Uchida was one of the first Asian writers to write for an American audience of both adults and children. Uchida was a Japanese American writer born in California, educated at UC Berkeley, and incarcerated at Topaz. Nearly thirty years after her incarceration, she wrote and published Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation (1971), a compelling chapter book depicting her fictionalized experience of being incarcerated (her picture book, The Bracelet, also addresses the incarceration). Jar of Dreams, first published in 1981, tells the story of a young Japanese American girl learning more about her heritage from her aunt, who is visiting from Japan.

Laurence Yep has long been an important author of Asian American children’s books, creating folktale collections such as The Rainbow People (1989) and writing award-winning titles such as Dragonwings (1975), which is part of the Golden Mountain Chronicles. Many of his books address themes of loneliness and not fitting in, inspired in part by Yep’s childhood growing up Chinese in San Francisco; for example, Child of the Owl (1977) features a young girl named Casey who feels out of place when she suddenly finds herself living with her grandmother in Chinatown. In 2005, Yep was awarded the ALSC Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (now called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award), which is granted to an author or illustrator who has made a significant contribution to children’s literature.34 He was the first and only Asian American to win this award.

Marie Lee, a native of Minnesota, published If It Hadn’t Been for Yoon Jun (1993), which features a Korean adoptee who learns more about her Korean heritage through a new classmate, and F is for Fabuloso (1999), which pokes fun at Korean immigrant parents for not understanding what an “F” means on a report card. Another Korean American chapter book author is Mike Jung, whose Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities (2012) depict a mixed-race protagonist, and his intriguing book Unidentified Suburban Object (2016), in which Korean American Chloe Cho yearns to learn more about her Korean heritage but is shocked to learn the truth about where her family really came from. Similarly, American-born Linda Sue Park began writing children’s books when she wanted to learn more about her Korean heritage so she could share it with her children, who are both Korean and Irish. She began by writing Seesaw Girl (1999), a story about a young child who wishes to see over the stone wall surrounding her home, and then published The Kite Fighters (2000), which features two brothers who fly kites competitively in 15th-century Korea. Her Newbery-winning third novel, A Single Shard (2001), features an orphan named Tree Ear who is apprenticed to a potter known for his exquisite inlay work on celadon.

Grace Lin is an award-winning Taiwanese American author whose books have been highly praised by the children’s literature community. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009) received a Newbery Honor. She also published Starry River of the Sky (2012) and When the Sea Turned to Silver (2016). Lin, a prolific writer for children, has also published picture books and early readers. The Seven Chinese Sisters (2003) is a retelling of the classic Chinese folktale, with exceptionally improved illustrations as compared to the 1937 Bishop and Weise’s The Five Chinese Brothers; the original picture book’s illustrations feature the Chinese brothers with stereotypically yellow skin and slanted eyes. Lin also partnered with Korean American author/sisters Frances Park and Ginger Park on Where On Earth is My Bagel (2001), a colorful picture book of a young Korean child looking forward to having a bagel. Her early readers include books such as Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather (2015), which features twins who go through the four seasons of the year.

Erin Entrada Kelly’s chapter books fill an important gap by depicting Filipino characters. For example, her first chapter book, Blackbird Fly, is “the story of twelve-year-old Apple Yengko, the only Filipino girl at Chapel Spring Middle School in Chapel Spring, Louisiana” (2015).35 Kelly’s chapter book Hello, Universe (2017) was selected as the 2018 John Newbery Award winner, making her the fourth Asian American and the first Filipina to win the award. She follows Dhan Gopal Mukerji (1928), Linda Sue Park (2002), and Cynthia Kadohata (2004).

Chapter books are important for young readers because they are read at a time when children have mostly transitioned away from the shared reading experiences with caregivers and teachers and are fully independent readers. As they search for, discover, and read books on their own, it is crucial that they encounter characters who look and live like them. They are also important for young readers who may not have exposure to diverse people in their immediate surroundings.

Information Books

In addition to series books about various countries and the immigration experiences of particular ethnic groups, nonfiction texts address important Asian American events such as the Japanese American incarceration and various Asian holidays and celebrities. However, this latter area tends to focus on what some people have criticized as the five Fs: food, fashion, folklore, famous people, and festivities.36 Books that focus on the five Fs may fail to meaningfully engage with various communities on deeper levels and give readers only superficial views into different cultures.

For good reason, the Japanese American incarceration during World War II occupies the attention of many chapter books and information books. In 1945, Florence Crannell Means published The Moved-Outers, a novel that won the 1946 Newbery Honor; it was the first of many books to be written by people who did not experience incarceration themselves. Yoshida Uchida’s 1971 Journey to Topaz is therefore especially significant for its first-hand depictions, as are other books that rely on accounts by those formerly incarcerated as well as their children and grandchildren. In addition to books that were part of history series (such as The Japanese American Internment: Civil Liberties Denied [2007], part of the Snapshots in History series), children’s books addressing aspects of Japanese American incarceration include the picture books Baseball Saved Us (1993), written by Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee, Allen Say’s Home of the Brave (2002), and the mixed-media/genre text Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (2017) written by Stan Yogi and Laura Atkins and illustrated by Yutaka Houlette. Baseball Saved Us features a Japanese American boy who learns to survive the camps through playing baseball, and Home of the Brave communicates the trauma of the camps through dreamlike scenes. Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference (2006) is based on the letters that Clara Breed, a white San Diego children’s librarian, wrote to her Japanese American patrons who were incarcerated in Poston, Arizona. The surviving letters written by Japanese American teenagers are centered in this text; Oppenheim provides the context in this comprehensive information book.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up was written and published at a critical time in American history, as threats of a Muslim ban and the implementation of travel bans echoed the racial hysteria around Japanese American incarceration. These made it especially important to retell the story of Fred Korematsu, the Japanese American who refused to be removed and relocated into a camp following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The American Civil Liberties Union asked Korematsu if they could use his case to challenge the legality of the Executive Order; they lost, and his conviction was not overturned until 1983. Similarly, other celebrated Asian Americans from history are depicted in picture books for young readers such as Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (2009) and Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story (2005), both by Paula Yoo. Asian Americans such as actress Anna May Wong paved the way for other non-white actors in Hollywood, and Dr. Sammy Lee became the first Asian American to win a gold medal (diving) for the United States, though he trained and competed at a time when, as a non-white person, he could not use public swimming pools. In June 2018, Publishers Weekly announced that Norton Young Readers had acquired Yoo’s biography on Vincent Chin, the Chinese American man whose murder at the hands of two white men in 1982 sparked an Asian American civil rights movement.

Picture book biographies also include contemporary Asian American figures. Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee’s Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix (2017) features the famous chef and founder of Korean kogi tacos Roy Choi. It was published by Readers to Eaters, a small press established by Lee & Low co-founder Philip Lee. The publisher’s mission is “to promote food literacy from the ground up,” and they “publish books that give a fresh and fun perspective on what we eat and how we eat through good stories, beautiful writing, and a deep appreciation of food cultures.”37 Chef Roy Choi won a 2018 Robert F. Sibert Informational Award Honor and is possibly the first children’s picture book to use graffiti as its main form of art, which is a nod to how artist Man One’s effectively uses it to “make the city beautiful and full of color.”38 However, there is still a need for more biographies for young readers. For example, architect Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam War Memorial, though typically portrayed in information book series, has only twice been the subject of a standalone text geared for children—one picture book and one middle-grade book. There still remains a need for more children’s books dedicated to other important Asian American figures such as activists Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama, even though Lin and Kochiyama were both featured in Rad American Women A-Z (2015), a primer on female American activists.

Increasing Visibility, Continuing Absences

Despite the many accomplishments of Asian American children’s book creators, and the emergence of new writers and new topics, absences and silences remain. Children’s literature is still missing a more balanced set of perspectives on transracial adoption; specifically, this body of literature needs more adoptee-authored stories, as approximately two-fifths of the books featuring transracially adopted Koreans are written by white adoptive mothers, with only three written by adopted Koreans.39 Given that transracial adoption from Korea began in 1953, it is curious that there have been so few books that depict the experiences of the children of adoptees. One exception is Leilani, a character in Justine Larbalestier’s young adult novel My Sister Rosa (2016), who is the mixed-race daughter of a white woman and an adopted Korean man. Similarly, Grace, the protagonist of An Na’s The Place Between Breaths (2018), is the mixed-race daughter of a racially ambiguous American man (who by implication was domestically adopted) and a Korean woman who was raised in an orphanage in Korea.

Though the mixed-race population continues to grow, children’s books have not kept apace. One picture book example is Sun Yang Shin’s Cooper’s Lesson (2004), which depicts a mixed- race Korean and white child; Shin herself is an adopted Korean and an award-winning poet, though the book is not about her son as the child of an adopted person. Janet Wong’s A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems (1996) is an important contribution both in its poetic form and in that it addresses the various aspects of being Chinese, Korean, and American. Susan Tan’s series of Cilla Lee-Jenkins chapter books portray a mixed race character (Chinese and Jewish) who shares her complex perspectives on the various aspects of her identities with humor and thoughtfulness. Mike Jung’s Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities and Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes’s Secret Coders series also fill this gap by including mixed-race characters as their protagonists. There is also a lack of books told from the perspectives of mixed-race Asians in non-US settings, time periods, and genres. Therefore, Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl (2015) is an important contribution; through poetry, it shares the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who dreamed of being a drummer in a society and time when female drummers were not accepted.

Mental health is an important topic in all communities. The Alvin Ho series normalizes the young child’s anxiety and visits to a therapist. An Na’s The Place Between Breaths (2018) is driven by Grace and her father’s desire to find a cure for schizophrenia, the disease that has taken Grace’s mother. Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things (2018) addresses how the mixed-race protagonist (her mother is white and her father is Korean) handles her mother’s depression. Keller, daughter of the groundbreaking author Nora Okja Keller (Comfort Woman, 1997), also worked in publishing as an intern and in the foreign rights department, a notable fact since mixed-race individuals make up 3 percent and Asians make up 7 percent of the industry.40

In addition to addressing histories such as the Japanese American incarceration, Asian authors are broaching other difficult topics through their writings. Linda Sue Park’s When My Name was Keoko (2002) takes place during the last years of occupied Korea. Keoko adds another dimension to the stories available for young people by featuring a male protagonist; earlier novels, such as Sook Nyul Choi’s Year of Impossible Goodbyes (1991) and Yoko Kawashima Watkins’s So Far From the Bamboo Grove (1986) feature female protagonists.Bamboo Grove has been criticized by Korean American parents for distorting how brutal Japan’s colonization was for Korean people and because in Boston it was the first and only perspective shared with young students.41 Critics were concerned that the author rendered invisible the fact that Japan kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery hundreds of thousands of Korean girls—often called “comfort women”—while including mention of Korean men raping Japanese women as they fled the peninsula at the end of World War II. Keoko and Impossible Goodbyes also address sexual slavery from the perspective of the female Korean child protagonists who watch as other young girls are taken away.

Mitali Perkins and Uma Krishnaswami are two award-winning South Asian authors who write for children. However, although a growing number of children’s book writers identify as South Asian, there remains a dearth of South Asian stories (especially those with male protagonists) relative to the larger body of children’s literature. Gene Luen Yang’s 2016 “Glare of Disdain” comic for the New York Times tells a story of how in his childhood Yang felt estranged from a South Asian classmate and how in retrospect he wished he could have had children’s books that depicted South Asian boys.42 Yang muses that had he read a book such as Krishnawswami’s The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011), he may have had more empathy for and understanding of his classmate. The fact that Yang points to The Grand Plan, which features a South Asian American girl, rather than a chapter book with a male protagonist, highlights the absence of South Asian male protagonists. Books by South Asian male authors for young people, such Soman Chainani’s The School for Good and Evil series, do not necessarily explicitly depict South Asian characters. That said, Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary (2018) has a female protagonist who is close with her younger brother. The Night Diary is set during India’s partition, a painful period in Indian and Pakistani history.

Partly due to Simon & Schuster imprint Salaam Reads (established in 2016), headed by Zareen Jaffery, stories depicting Muslim characters are being published in greater numbers. Hena Khan’s chapter book, Amina’s Voice (2017), one of the first books published by Salaam Reads, reflects real-life events that transpired immediately prior to its publication—the plot includes the hate-crime vandalization of a mosque—and also is notable for including a Korean American best friend who questions whether or not she should change her Korean name to a more “American” name.43 Khan’s picture book, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors (2012), illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, includes beautiful, striking images that introduce colors, shapes, and artifacts important to the Muslim faith. Information books such as 1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization: Official Children’s Companion to the 1001 Inventions Exhibition (2012) also provide young readers with the rich history of and contributions by Muslims.

New Directions in Asian American Children’s Literature

In 2004, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) established the first Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature to honor the illustrations and texts in children’s and young adult works depicting Asians and Asian Americans.44 The awards, which include the categories of Children’s Literature, Young Adult Literature, and Picture Books, increase the visibility of Asian American literature. At the time of its founding, in contrast to the Coretta Scott King Award, the American Indian Library Association Award, and the Pura Belpré Award, the APALA Literature Award did not require the illustrator or author to be Asian American; the main criteria was that the content be about Asia or Asian America. In August 2016, APALA changed the award criteria, stating, “Works must be written by an Asian/Pacific Islander American.”45 The new criteria limits the number of works eligible, but perhaps incentivizes Asians to draw from their own cultures in creating new stories.

APALA’s decision to revise their award criteria came at the end of an interesting streak in which the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reported that between 2012 and 2015 Asian Americans had created more books “by” but not “by and about” Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans, which includes stories set in the Pacific Islands. In 2014, the third consecutive year that this occurred, Asians had written forty-eight books that contained Asian content but had written eighty-one books that had “no significant Asian Pacific cultural content.”46 This was anomalous; Africans and African Americans, American Indian, and Latino book creators all had lower “by” but “not about” numbers. In response, author, educator, and activist Zetta Elliott convened two roundtables asking Asian American authors, illustrators, and scholars to comment.47 Beyond these anomalies, Asian Americans continued to enjoy the highest insider authorship rate among the four groups as documented by the CCBC: in 2016, Asians wrote 217 books and 240 books contained Asian content. This trend ended when the CCBC reported that of 2017 books reviewed, 52.78 percent of American Indian/First Nations texts were #OwnVoices (thirty-eight writers), while 39.35 percent of Asian/Pacific texts being #OwnVoices (122 writers).48 However, this must be considered alongside the fact that seventy-two books had significant American Indian/First Nations content, while 310 books had significant Asian/Pacific and Asian/Pacific American content.

One reason for these numbers may be that Asian Americans are better represented in publishing when compared with other underrepresented groups, thus leading to higher rates of publication for Asian Americans. The 2015 Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey revealed that Asian Americans comprise 7 percent of publishing compared with 79 percent white, 6 percent Latino, 4 percent black, and 3 percent mixed race. Influential editors include Phoebe Yeh, who worked closely with trailblazer Walter Dean Myers as well as with writer activist Ellen Oh; Jason Low, Publisher at Lee & Low Books; Connie Hsu, who edited Dan Santat’s award-winning Beekle and Susan Tan’s Cilla Lee-Jenkins books; Alvina Ling, who works with award-winning writer Grace Lin; and Namrata Tripathi, who formed a new diverse imprint, Kokila, at Penguin Young Readers. The production of Asian America children’s books has been steady but uneven, with insufficient numbers of books, books of questionable quality, and books that distort and misrepresent Asian diaspora experiences. Asian American children’s literature has also been marked with distinction, as testified by the few but growing numbers of award-winning Asian American authors and illustrators. It remains to be seen whether the rising numbers of Asian people in publishing—as writers, illustrators, and other employees in the publishing industry—improves both the quantity and quality of Asian American children’s books.

Discussion of the Literature

Though Asian American children’s literature has been growing rapidly, there is still relatively less research on it as compared with African American and Latinx children’s literature. The advocacy group Council of Interracial Books for Children issued their first newsletter in 1966 with a focus on African American children’s books; by 1969 they were promoting books depicting Puerto Ricans, recruiting American Indians for its “new writers” contests, and receiving letters from writers in Asia. The 1972–1973 newsletter addressed misrepresentations and the relative absence of Asian Americans in textbooks and promoted the UCLA Asian American Studies Center publication Roots: An Asian American Reader as a resource for those wanting to learn about Asian American issues. The same issue announced that the council had selected four Asian Americans—including English professor and novelist Shawn Wong—for its “new writers” contest. In 1977, the council devoted an entire issue to Asian American children’s books, and throughout the 1970s Asian Americans such as Betty Lee Sung and Franklin Odo participated in council activities.

Scholars such as Mingshui Cai, Rocío G. Davis, Lorraine Dong, Violet Harada, and Junko Yokota have contributed significantly to the study of Asian American children’s books. For example, Lorraine Dong has authored articles addressing immigration (2012), Cambodian refugees (2010), and Chinese American folklore in children’s books (2013).49 Rocío G. Davis has addressed ideas of childhood and coming of age (2007).50 Junko Yokota, whose fields include children’s literature studies and librarianship, has authored articles addressing Asian American children’s books in journals such as Teacher Librarian (2009) and Voices of Youth Advocates (2010) and co-authored multiple textbooks on using children’s literature for teaching and learning.51 Together with her late husband, William Teale, Yokota has also written about children’s literature as a vehicle for international understanding (2005, 2011, 2014), an idea championed by Jella Lepman (1969), founder of the International Board on Books for Young People and the International Youth Library.52 Even so, there is still insufficient research on the literature, its use in libraries and classrooms, and its effects on readers and readers’ understandings of the Asian diaspora. For example, the first edition of Keywords for Children’s Literature (Philip Nel and Lissa Paul, 2011) does not include a chapter on Asian Americans, implying that there was not yet a robust body of scholarship on the subject.53

Studies of Asian American children’s literature also appear in larger works, such as Angela Moffett’s study on diversity within Caldecott Award winners and honors (2016).54 The journal The Lion and the Unicorn published a special issue co-edited by Rocío G. Davis and Dolores de Manuel specifically addressing various aspects of Asian American children’s books (2006 April).55 In Subjectivity in Asian Children’s Literature and Film: Global Theories and Implications (2012), scholars from various Asian countries address issues of agency and identity development in media in their specific contexts, thereby offering a transnational and global view at media depicting Asian children.56

Some children’s book writers, such as Laurence Yep and Yoshiko Uchida, and topics such as immigration and the Japanese incarceration, have received relatively more attention, while topics such as representations of Thai and Vietnamese experiences in children’s books have received less attention. Books such as Graphic Novels in High School and Middle School Classrooms: A Disciplinary Literacies Approach (2017) include graphic novels by and about Asian Americans.57 While no textbook surveying the collective body of Asian American literature yet exists, scholars are currently addressing the absence to encourage greater study of this important and growing body of work (Dahlen and Lai, 2020). With the growing numbers of children’s books by and about Asian Americans, this scholarly corpus is also sure to grow.

Further Reading

Davis, Rocío G. Begin Here: Reading Asian North American Autobiographies of Childhood. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Davis, Rocío G., and Dolores de Manuel. “Asian American Children’s Literature.” In Special Issue: The Lion and the Unicorn, 30, no. 2 (April 2006).Find this resource:

Horning, Kathleen T. From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books. Collins, 2010.Find this resource:

Lee, Sung-Ae. “Remembering or Misremembering? Historicity and the Case of So Far From the Bamboo Grove.” Children’s Literature in Education 39 (2008): 85–93.Find this resource:

Lo, Suzanne, and Ginny Lee. “Asian Images in Children’s Books: What Stories Do We Tell Our Children?” Emergency Librarian 20, no. 5 (1993): 14.Find this resource:

Makhijani, Pooja. “What a Forgotten Kids’ Book Reveals about U.S. Publishing.” The Atlantic. October 3, 2017.Find this resource:

Pang, Valerie Ooka, Carolyn Colvin, MyLuong Tran, and Robertta H. Barba. “Beyond Chopsticks and Dragons: Selecting Asian-American Literature for Children.” The Reading Teacher 46, no. 3 (1992): 216–224.Find this resource:

Park, Sarah Young. “Asian American Folklore And Children’s Literature.” In Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. Edited by Jonathan H. X. Lee and Kathleen M. Nadeau, 14–18. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011.Find this resource:

Woo, Celestine. “Bicultural World Creation: Laurence Yep, Cynthia Kadohata, and Asian American Fantasy.” In Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing. Edited by Rocío G. Davis and Sue-im Lee, 250–264. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Yamate, S. S. “Asian Pacific American Children’s Literature.” In Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom. Edited by V. J. Harris, 95–128. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon, 1999.Find this resource:

Yokota, Junko. “Literature About Asians and Asian Americans: Implications for Elementary Classrooms.” In Multicultural Literature and Literacies: Making Space for Difference. Edited by S. Miller and B. McCaskill, 229–246. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Yokota, Junko. “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults.” Teacher Librarian 36, no. 3 (February 2009): 15–19.Find this resource:

Yokota, Junko. “Asian and Asian American Literature for Adolescents: What’s Important for Librarians and Teachers to Know?” Voice of Youth Advocates 33, no. 3 (August 2010): 214–215.Find this resource:

Yokota, Junko, and Ann Bates. “Asian American Literature: Voices and Images of Authenticity.” In Exploring Culturally Diverse Literature for Children and Young Adults: Learning to Listen in New Ways. Edited by Darwin L. Henderson and Jill P. May, 323–335. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2005.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America: A History (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015).

(2.) Jacalyn Eddy, Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children’s Book Publishing, 1919–1939 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006).

(4.) Min Song, The Children of 1965: Writing and Not Writing as an Asian American (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 8.

(5.) Dolores de Manuel and Rocío G. Davis. “Asian American Children's Literature,”Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children's Literature 30, no. 2 (2006): v.

(6.) de Manuel and Davis, “Asian American Children’s Literature,” 2006; and Rocío G. Davis, Begin Here: Reading Asian North American Autobiographies of Childhood (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007).

(7.) de Manuel and Davis, “Asian American Children’s Literature,” 2006.

(8.) The Cooperative Children’s Book Center uses the term “Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American.”

(10.) Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

(11.) Jeffrey Garrett, “Of Translations and Tarantulas: What's at Stake When American Children Read Books From Other Countries?” In Crossing Boundaries with Children's Books, ed. by D. Gebel (Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2006), 10–14.

(12.) Junko Yokota, “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults,” Teacher Librarian 36, no. 3 (February 1, 2009): 15.

(13.) Susan Tan, “About Me,”.

(14.) Junko Yokota, “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults,” Teacher Librarian 36, no. 3 (February 1, 2009).

(15.) Albert V. Schwarz, “The Five Chinese Brothers: Time to Retire,” Interracial Books for Children’s Bulletin 8, no. 3 (1977): 3–7; and Selma G. Lanes, “A Case for The Five Chinese Brothers,” School Library Journal 24, no. 2 (October 1977): 90–91.

(16.) Nancy Larrick, “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” The Saturday Review (September 1965).

(17.) Rudine Sims, Shadow and Substance: The Afro-American Experience in Contemporary Children's Fiction (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1982).

(19.) Grace Lin, “The Problem with Celebrating Tikki Tikki Tembo,” GraceLinBlog, 2017.

(20.) Irene Rideout, “Rethinking Tikki Tikki Tembo,” GraceLinBlog, 2012.

(21.) Personal communication with Hennepin County Library Senior Librarian Chelsea Couillard-Smith (Spring 2017).

(23.) Horning, From Cover to Cover, 26.

(24.) Matt de la Peña, “Why We Shouldn't Shield Children from Darkness,” Time 191, no. 5 (February 12, 2018); and Amanda Craig, “Why This is a Golden Age for Children’s Literature: ‘Children’s Books are One of the Most Important Forms of Writing We Have,’” Independent, June 23, 2015.

(27.) Angela Moffett, “Exploring Racial Diversity in Caldecott Medal-Winning and Honor Books,” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2016.

(28.) Martha V. Parravano, “The CCBC’s Diversity Statistics: A Conversation with Kathleen T. Horning,” The Horn Book Magazine 93, no. 4 (July 1, 2017): 16.

(29.) Horning, From Cover to Cover, 114.

(30.) Annette Wannamaker and Jennifer Miskec, “Introduction,” The Early Reader in Children’s Literature and Culture (London, UK: Routledge, 2015), 1–2.

(31.) Lenore Look, Ruby Lu, Brave and True. (Atheneum/Schwartz 2004), 87; and Hazel Rochman, Against Borders (Chicago, IL: ALA Books, 1993).

(32.) Dahlen, Sarah P. “Alvin Ho: Not Allergic to Playing Indian, Feathers, and Other Stereotypical Things,” in The Early Reader in Children's Literature and Culture: Theorizing Books for Beginning Readers, ed. Jennifer Miskec and Annette Wannamaker (New York, NY: Routledge, 2016), 158–170.

(33.) Wannamaker and Miskec, 6.

(35.) Erin E. Kelly, Books.

(36.) Jamie Campbell Naidoo, The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children (Association for Library Service to Children, 2014).

(38.) Sarah Park Dahlen, conversation with author, February 2018.

(39.) Sarah Y. Park, “Representations of Transracial Korean Adoption in Children’s Literature” (PhD diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009); and Sarah P. Dahlen, “How to Evaluate Children's and Young Adult Books about Transracial and Transnational Asian Adoption,” in Diversity in Youth Literature: Opening Doors Through Reading, ed. Jamie Campbell Naidoo and Sarah Park Dahlen (Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2013), 149–163.

(40.) Jason Low, “Where is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey Results,” Lee & Low Blog (New York City: Lee & Low Books, 2016).

(41.) Sung-Ae Lee, “Remembering Or Misremembering? Historicity and the Case of So Far From the Bamboo Grove,” Children's Literature in Education 39, no. 2 (June 2008): 85–93.

(42.) Gene Luen Yang, “Glare of Disdain,” The New York Times, 2016.

(43.) Clara Janzen, Muslim Prayer Space Tarnished,” UWIRE Text, April 4, 2017.

(44.) Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association. Literature Award Guidelines & Nominations.

(45.) Jason Low, “Diversity Baseline Survey,” Lee and Low Blog, 2016.

(46.) CCBC School of Education, Multicultural Literature 2014 (Wisconsin, 2014).

(47.) Zetta Elliot, “Race & Representation in Asian American Kid Lit,” Zetta Elliot Blog, 2015; Zetta Elliot, “‘Asian Pride’ in Kid Lit,” Zetta Elliot Blog, 2015.

(49.) Lorraine Dong, “Leaving Home for a Home: Asian Immigration to America in American Children’s Literature,” International Symposium on “International Migration and QiaoxiangStudies” Conference Proceedings.Vol. 1. Jiangmen, PRC: Guangdong Qiaoxiang Cultural Research Center, Wuyi University, 2012: 82–95; Lorraine Dong, “Crossing the River and Ocean: A Review of Cambodian American Literature for the Young,” Cambodian American Experiences: Histories, Communities, Cultures, and Identities. ed. Jonathan H. X. Lee (Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing), 247–263; and Lorraine Dong, “Once Upon a Time in Chinese America: Chinese American Folklore in American Picture Books,” Amerasia Journal 39, no. 2 (2013): 48–70.

(50.) Rocio G. Davis, Begin Here: Reading Asian North American Autobiographies of Childhood (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2007).

(51.) Junko Yokota, “Asian Americans in Literature for Children and Young Adults,” Teacher Librarian 36, no. 3 (Spring 2009): 15–19; and Junko Yokota, “Asian and Asian American Literature for Adolescents,” Voices of Youth Advocates 33, no. 3 (2010): 214–215.

(52.) Junko Yokota and W. H. Teale, “Bringing the Best of Characters into Primary Classrooms,” In What a Character! Character Study as a Guide to Literary Meaning Making in Grades K-8, ed. Nancy L. Roser and Miriam G. Martinez (Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2005), 154–167; Junko Yokota and W. H. Teale, “Materials in the School Reading Curriculum,” in Rebuilding the Foundation: Effective Reading Instruction for the 21st Century, ed. T. Rasinski. (Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press, 2011), 66–87; Junko Yokota and W. H. Teale, “Picture Books and the Digital World: Educators Making Informed Choices,” The Reading Teacher 67, no. 8 (2014): 577–585; and Jella Lepman, A Bridge to Children's Books (Dublin, Ireland: O'Brien Press, 1969).

(53.) Philip Nel and L. Paul, Keywords for Children's Literature (New York: New York University Press, 2011).

(54.) Angela Moffett, “Exploring Racial Diversity in Caldecott Medal-Winning and Honor Books,” MA thesis (San José State University, 2016).

(55.) Rocio G. Davis and Dolores de Manuel, “Asian American Children’s Literature,” The Lion and the Unicorn 30, no. 2 (April 2006): v-xv.

(56.) John Stephens, ed., Subjectivity in Asian Children's Literature and Film: Global Theories and Implications. Children's Literature and Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 2012).

(57.) William Boerman-Cornell, J. Kim, and Michael L. Manderino, Graphic Novels in High School and Middle School Classrooms (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).