Summer Stories: Asian Pacific American Heritage

The summer can bring all kinds of surprises, from unexpected family vacations to the realization that your parents' embarrassing customs may not be quite so bad after all. Follow the adventures of globe-trotting kids, national heroes, and kids stuck at home looking for a little bit of excitement in these stories celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage.

1001 Cranes

Young girl with origami crames
Age Level: 9-12, Middle Grade

When twelve-year-old Angela Kato arrives in L.A., the last thing she wants to do is spend the entire summer with her grandparents. But in the Kato family, one is never permitted to complain. Grandma Michi and Aunt Janet put Angela to work in their flower shop, folding origami and creating 1001-crane displays for newlyweds. At first, Angela learns the trade begrudgingly. But when her folding skills improve and her relationships with family and friends grow, Angela is able to cope with her troubles, especially her parents’ impending divorce.

Apple Pie 4th of July

Young girl looking at container of Chinese food
Illustrated by: Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

"No one wants to eat Chinese food on the Fourth of July," says a young girl to her parents who insist on keeping their Chinese restaurant open on Independence Day. An honest portrayal of the tug between traditions old and new, as well as what it really means to be American.

At the Beach

Age Level: 3-6
Language: Chinese

Xiao Ming and his mother are spending a summer day at the beach, and the sand is the perfect place to draw characters for words such as "sand" and "water." Xiao Ming's mother helps him see the picture within each character — a trick sure to appeal to readers new to the Chinese written language. The colorful, intricate illustrations, created by cut-paper collages, will fascinate young children. This book is one of a four-part series by the author about Chinese characters related to the different seasons.

Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic

A family together around a table filled with food
By: Ginnie Lo
Illustrated by: Beth Lo
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9

Jinyi and her sister love visiting Auntie and Uncle Yang's home, where they enjoy dumpling-eating contests and backyard adventures with their cousins. One weekend, on a Sunday drive among the cornfields near Chicago, Auntie Yang spots something she has never before seen in Illinois. Could it be one of their favorite Chinese foods — soybeans?! Excited by their discovery, the families have their very first soybean picnic. Every year after that, Auntie Yang invites more people to share the food and fun.

Father’s Chinese Opera

Young boy sits backstage
Age Level: 6-9

The Chinese opera is anything but boring. Songs, acrobatics, acting, and costumes make the opera a truly spectacular show to behold. Spending a summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera, a young boy is instantly enamored with the performers and works hard to be a part of the show. Rehearsing the moves day and night with the show’s famous choreographer, the boy thinks he is soon ready to perform with the others. But the choreographer doesn’t agree. In fact, he laughs at the boy when asked to join the acrobats. Upset, the boy goes home to sulk. What will he do next?

Kohala Kuamo'o: Nae'ole's Race to Save a King

Kohala Kuamo'o: Nae'ole's Race to Save a King
Illustrated by: Aaron Kawai'ae'a
Age Level: 9-12
Language: Hawaiian

When a prophecy proclaims that the unborn Kamehameha would grow to overshadow the ruling chiefs, his life from birth is in danger. Nae'ole races with the helpless infant across the Kohala district of Hawai'i Island to bring Kamehameha to safety. Three generations of the Kawai'ae'a family join together to give us this unique look at place names of the Kohala area and the important events that shaped Hawaiian history. Bilingual edition.

Pacific Crossing

Pacific Crossing
By: Gary Soto
Age Level: Middle Grade

In Japan for the summer to practice the martial art of kempo, Lincoln Mendoza sometimes feels like little more than a brown boy in a white gi. Yet with the help of his Japanese brother, Mitsuo, Lincoln sees that people everywhere, whether friend or kempo opponent, share passions much like his own — for baseball, family traditions, and new friendships.

Pacy Lin #3: Dumpling Days

Young Chinese American girl surrounded by illustrations
By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Pacy is back! This summer, Pacy's family is going to Taiwan for an entire month to visit family and prepare for their grandmother's 60th birthday celebration. Pacy's parents have signed her up for a Chinese painting class, and at first she's excited. But everything about the trip is harder than she thought it would be. At least the dumplings are delicious…

Ruby Lu, Brave & True

Illustrated by: Anne Wilsdorf
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

Eight-year old Ruby experiences life with a contagious joie de vivre. However, she really hates Chinese school and worries about the new cousin from China along with other easily recognizable concerns in this episodic, engaging novel. Ruby's life continues in the equally engaging Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything (2006).

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

Illustration of Sammy Yo
By: Paula Yoo
Illustrated by: Dom Lee
Age Level: 6-9

As an Asian American child growing up in California, Sammy Lee was only allowed to use the public pool on Wednesdays. But Sammy was not easily deterred from his dream of becoming an Olympic diver, and at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, he became the first Asian American to win a gold medal in U.S. history. Paula Yoo and Dom Lee skillfully bring Sammy's story to life in this inspirational biography.

Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time

By: Lisa Yee
Age Level: Middle Grade

Stanford flunks English and is forced to go to summer school instead of his beloved basketball camp. What makes it worse is Millicent Min, girl genius, is brought in to act as his tutor. This is a very funny book that will especially appeal to boys.

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku

Illustration of Duke Kahanamoku

"The Pacific Ocean was Duke's backyard." So begins the tale of Duke Kahanamoku, often considered the "Father of Modern Surfing." Duke won six Olympic medals as a swimmer, but surfing was his passion. Duke, who encountered discrimination throughout his lifetime, was also a hero, saving eight people singlehandedly from a capsized boat in 1925. Readers will enjoy discovering the story behind Duke's unforgettable legacy.

The Ugly Vegetables

Young girl with mother in garden
By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9
Language: English

In a neighborhood of flower gardens, a Chinese-American girl and her mother plant what the child considers to be ugly vegetables. The ugly vegetables, however, become attractive and help build community when made into a delicious soup! A recipe is included.