Tag Archives: asian american

[M] Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

15 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Eleven-and-a-half-year-old high schooler Millicent Min might be a genius, but she’s no good at making friends. When her mother signs her up for volleyball and she’s forced to tutor Stanford Wong, the basketball jock and her archenemy, she resigns herself to a terrible summer. But summer is ready to prove her wrong…

Even though Millicent may seem like an exaggerated character on the surface, she comes across as a pretty real depiction of a girl who is only good at school who is facing real problems that she needs to deal with head on. The book teaches lessons about friendship and the important things in life that all children have to learn at some point in their lives.

Millicent Min by Lisa Yee won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award in 2004 (among others).

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter M.

[J] Jeremy Lin by Marty Gitlin

11 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Jeremy Lin by Marty Gitlin is another selection from my nonfiction assignment on Asian American biographies.

It is about one of the most recent Asian American athletes to come into the spotlight, Jeremy Lin. Although I did not read this book in person, I was able to preview pages from the book on Titlewave and Google Books. The clean, modern design and bright colors are appealing to the eye, and the writing itself is engaging and interesting to read. Boxes and captions within the text and next to the pictures provide fun “pop-up” facts, and the book also includes web links, a glossary, and further resources and index.

I chose this book because Lin’s story is an inspiration to Asian Americans across the country who finally have an NBA player to call their own. He went through the same struggles that many young Asian Americans are going through today, and he managed to go to Harvard and play in the NBA.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter J.

[I] Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

10 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a diary written in verse follows ten-year-old Hà and her family as they move from war-torn Vietnam to the States during the Vietnam War. Hà struggles with having her life turned inside out before it settles down again as she adjusts to her new life in America.

Filled with imagery and onomatopoeia, this book shows the “other” side of the Vietnam War, written from the point of view of the Vietnamese refugees. In the author’s note, Lai explains that she wrote the book with second and future generations in mind to help them understand their roots. While the characters in the book are fictional, the events are based on Lai’s own experience moving to the States.

This book can be used to complement lessons on the Vietnam War. Students can do research about different aspects of Vietnam culture to present to the class.

It received recognition as a Newbery Honor Book and an ALA Notable Children’s Book in 2012.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter I.

[F] Fact Monster – Asian American Bios

7 Apr

(Part of this was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

I used Fact Monster Database – Asian Pacific Heritage Month: Celebrating Asian Contributions to America for an assignment to gather nonfiction and informational resources on a single topic, in this case, Asian American biographies.

This website was created by Fact Monster to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month and includes special feature articles about Asian Americans and their cultures, including interactive quizzes and activities. There is also a list of brief biographies of Asian Americans in many different fields, including politics, sports, literature, science, and art. All of the pages include links to relevant pages on Fact Monster if available. I chose this site because of the volume of biographies available and the ability to browse the list by occupation. I also appreciated the number of not just East Asians, but South and Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders who were on the list. Not all of the people on this list of biographies were born in the United States, but all spent a significant portion of their lives in the States and made a contribution to American society.

I never really used databases until starting library school, but I’ve found that they can be interesting resources. There are many free databases online, like Fact Monster, but there are also a lot that libraries pay for that are free to access with a library card. I really like having students use Student Resources in Context for research papers, but not all the library systems in my area offer it.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter F.

[D] Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

4 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Award-winning author and illustrator Allen Say wrote Drawing from Memory, a half-narrative, half-graphic novel about his childhood in Japan, where he first started working on his artistic skills. Richly illustrated with both photographs and drawings in different styles, the narrative focuses on his relationship with his art and with his teacher, Noro Shinpei. The different styles used throughout the book may feel disjointed at times, but readers will enjoy the little mini-narratives in the comic strip asides and in his commentary.

Although this book is set in Japan, it deals with struggles that many Asian Americans face today while following their dreams, including the cultural stigma of becoming an artist. Tweens may also be familiar with his picture books, which have earned him a Caldecott medal and honor. This book was a 2012 Sibert honor book.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter D.

[A] The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

1 Apr

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco (2012) is the true story of the art teacher that inspired the author and children’s book illustrator to become an artist. I found this book while looking for books for an assignment on family picture books throughout the decades. I have to admit that I was hoping for a good Chinese character because of the title, and I wasn’t disappointed. The title character is a Chinese woman, but the nice thing about Polacco’s portrayal of her is that she’s just another character in a touching book who happens to be Chinese.

This is a great picture book to inspire kids to overcome obstacles to follow their dreams. I also discovered later that Polacco was also the author of a childhood favorite of mine, The Keeping Quilt.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter A.

[R] Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look

20 Apr

I think this is the second book in the series, but my library didn’t have the first book, so I read this one instead, just to get a feel for it. I don’t read many early chapter books, but I had read Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, also by Lenore Look, and I wanted to read the girl version.

I love these books because they have Chinese main characters, with pictures, so it’s even more apparent. I’m Taiwanese, but as books go, this is close enough. This book is great because it has Ruby with a cousin from China who doesn’t really speak English.

I was just talking to my cousin about a similar incident the other day. She was telling me about her experience at school when she first moved to America from Taiwan and how the teachers at her junior high (she was in 7th grade) had a Japanese girl “translate” for her (this was about 30 years ago, when there was less sensitivity to these issues…).

Her brother was at the same elementary school as one of our other cousins who was a couple years younger, and all the teachers got the American-born cousin to translate for the one that just moved from Taiwan. The only problem was that the American-born one couldn’t speak Mandarin, and his Taiwanese was limited to the phrase “chicken poop.”* So his “translating” consisted of repeating everything the teacher said in English slower and more loudly.

My cousin and I were almost literally ROTL while talking about this, but that was the reality at the time, even in such a diverse place as Los Angeles. It was slightly better while I was growing up, but not so much better that I don’t jump at the chance to read these new books with Asian main characters that have popped up in the last ten years or so whenever I see them.

In the book, Ruby’s cousin is deaf, which adds another dimension to the communication mishaps that can occur. The book is funny and genuine, with adorable illustrations that will draw even the most reluctant readers in. Best for early elementary (Ruby is in second grade in the first book), girls will the Ruby Lu series, and there is an Alvin Ho series for boys that is equally funny and engaging. Of course, eager readers may devour both series, but it looks like there will be plenty of new titles to come.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter R. 

*This is probably not entirely true, but there is an often-told story in our family of how he went to Taiwan and all he could say was “chicken poop.” He will never live it down, no matter how many iPhone apps he designs at Apple.

[A] A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

1 Apr

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is a Newbery Award winner about an orphan and a cripple set in 12th-century Korea. I found it while browsing the Newbery Honor books shelf at the local library and thought it would be great for my students (who are primarily Korean American). I especially liked the descriptions of pottery-making in the book (I used to dig up clay from the garden), and I also enjoyed reading about an Asian main character.

I had chosen this book to read with my rising 5th graders last summer, but since I was on vacation the first half of the summer, I didn’t actually get to read it with them. I did read it with my 6th grade private tutor student, and he really enjoyed the story, but the work was probably a little too easy for him. Both the boys and girls in the 5th grade class said they enjoyed the book, though. I recommended Park’s Project Mulberry to read on their own, and I know a few of them did end up reading it.

This book is great for boys and girls from about 4th to 6th grades, but boys may be able to relate to the main character better. Contains themes of family and courage, also has bullying and character death. Park’s other book mentioned in this post, Project Mulberry, may be better for girls, since the main character in that book is a girl (although her best friend is a boy).  

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter A. 

[REVIEW] 1001 Cranes by Naomi Hirahara

9 Jan

I’m sure many of you have read or heard of the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes about the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, or at least heard of the tradition of folding paper cranes in Japan.

1001 Cranes by Naomi Hirahara takes a look at how that tradition was changed in America by the Japanese Americans and turned into a display used for celebrations, like weddings and anniversaries. Through these displays, 12-year-old Angela Kato learns to come to terms with disruptions in her family, beginning with her parents’ impending divorce. Despite being American through and through for generations, her family still clings to many aspects of the Japanese culture, including an independence to not rely on others and suffering in silence from not “monku” (complaining).

When I started reading the book, I realized that the book takes place in the city where I work now, Gardena, and its environs. I practically grew up in Gardena, and I’ve read a lot of books, but this was the first time that I had ever read a book set in this specific city. Beverly Hills, Hollywood, maybe even Long Beach I can understand, but Gardena? Not that it’s a bad thing. I think more books should be set in places I know. 🙂

Most of my students live in or near Gardena, and the center where I teach is located there, so this book is perfect for them. I actually work within walking distance of the Buddhist temple that I think is described in the book.

And not only was the main city where I am now, but the city where my sister and I always stop to eat In-N-Out at on our way down from the Bay Area, Kettleman City, is also mentioned when the main character drives down from near Stanford to Gardena with her mom. My sister graduated from Berkeley and is doing a Masters program at CSU East Bay right now, so we’ve taken the trip quite a few times.

I picked up this book when I was browsing the library to find books for my 5th and 6th graders last year, all of whom are Korean American girls. Most, if not all, also have an interest in Japanese culture through their exposure to anime and manga. I’m not Japanese American, either (although many of my friends growing up were), but many parts of the book resonated with my experiences growing up as an Asian American.

You don’t have to be an Asian American girl to get something out of this book, though. Hirahara is a wonderful storyteller, and the pacing and tone will keep even reluctant readers interested. The book also teaches valuable lessons about family and dealing with separation and loss.

This book is especially good for Asian American girls around middle school age, but it can be read by advanced upper elementary readers and can be interesting for high school and beyond. Parents should be aware that it has some adolescent themes (dating, first kiss).