Tales of Courage: Asian Pacific American Heritage

Courage comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. These stories celebrate the courage of our young heroes and heroines who, in the midst of extraordinary circumstances, found a way to survive, start a new life, or simply do the right the thing.

Aani and the Tree Huggers

Age Level: 6-9

Based on true events in northern India, this is the story of a little girl's bravery. Distinctive color illustrations, inspired by Indian miniature painting, accompany the moving story.

Behind the Mask

Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: Halloween is coming. "What are you going to be?" the children ask one another. Kimin says he will be his grandfather. "Going as an old man is not very scary," They tease. What the children don't know is that Kimin's grandfather was a Korean mask dancer. And Kimin doesn't know that the mask holds a secret for him. With vibrant illustrations, Yangsook Choi joins Korean and American folk traditions in her story about a boy who finds a link to his grandfather, behind the mask.


By: Anne Ursu
Age Level: 9-12

Hazel is having trouble fitting in to her new school, although based on her experience of having been adopted, she is no stranger to feeling like an outsider. The only tolerable thing about school is that her best friend and next-door neighbor, Jack, is there with her each day. Then Jack disappears into an enchanted forest with a winter witch, and Hazel realizes that only she alone can rescue her friend. As she sets out on her treacherous journey, she soon discovers that the hard part may not be finding Jack — it may be convincing him to come home.


By: Yin
Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Age Level: 6-9

In the mid-1800s, two brothers come from China to America to help build the Central Pacific railroad, enduring great hardship, danger, and discrimination. Nevertheless, the brothers take great pride in their labors, always remembering that no matter how they are treated, "it is our hands that helped build the railroad." Author Yin offers a gripping portrayal of the Chinese laborers, brought to life with beautiful paintings from Chris Soentpiet.

Dia's Story Cloth: The Hmong People's Journey to Freedom

By: Dia Cha
Illustrated by: Chiie Thao Cha
Age Level: 9-12

Through a quiet text and a series of stunning images created from embroidered cloth, the author relates her family's often harrowing journey from China to Laos to Thailand, ultimately settling in the United States. An afterward provides additional history and ethnology.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 6-9

Girls cannot be drummers. Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule — until the drum dream girl. In her city of drumbeats, she dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós. She had to keep quiet. She had to practice in secret. But when at last her dream-bright music was heard, everyone sang and danced and decided that both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

El Chino

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 6-9

This remarkable story is based on the life of Billy Wong, a Chinese-American who travels to Europe, becomes fascinated with bullfighting, and decides to become a matador. Eventually, Billy's determination and recognition of what makes him unique helps him realize his dream. Luminous watercolors illustrate this sensitive picture book biography.

Firekeeper's Son

Illustrated by: Julie Downing
Age Level: 6-9

When Sang-Hee's father cannot send the signal that no enemies are in sight, Sang-Hee must get the coals to light the fire on the mountaintop. Based on an actual signal system used in 19th century Korea, illustrations and fluid text create a riveting story that enlivens history. An author's note provides more detail. Watch Park read an excerpt in our Meet the Author interview with her!

Fly Free!

Illustrated by: Eujin Kim Neilan
Age Level: 6-9

Product description: "Fly free, fly free, in the sky so blue, When you do a good deed, it will come back to you." Mai loves feeding the caged birds near the temple but dreams that one day she'll see them fly free. Then she meets Thu and shares the joy of feeding the birds with her. This sets a chain of good deeds in motion that radiates throughout her village and beyond. Set in Vietnam, Roseanne Thong's inspiring story is elegantly illustrated with watercolor on wood by Eujin Kim Neilan.

Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: "In 1933, seven-year-old Li Keng's father decided to bring his family from a small village in southern China to California. Getting to America was not easy…life in America during the Great Depression brought many exciting surprises as well as a few disappointments. Hunger, poverty, police raids, frequent moves, and the occasional sting of racism were a part of everyday life, but slowly Li Keng and her family found stability and a true home in Gold Mountain."

Goodbye Vietnam

Age Level: 9-12

Forced to leave the turmoil and political unrest of their native Vietnam, 13-year old Mai and her family cram into a boat and make way for Hong Kong and ultimately to America. Mai's voice provides a necessary distance as she chronicles the journey and its horrors in with even tone.


By: Milly Lee
Illustrated by: Yangsook Choi
Age Level: 6-9

When Sun learns that it is time to make the journey to America, he begins to prepare for his interrogation at Angel Island. Sun studies hard, but he often gets the directions of the compass mixed up. What will happen if he can't remember if the school is east or west of his house? Based on the story of her father-in-law, Milly Lee provides a touching look at the story of Chinese immigrants who came through Angel Island, complemented by Yangsook Choi's lovely and evocative paintings.

My Freedom Trip

Illustrated by: Steve Jenkins
Age Level: 9-12

In this intense and moving book, Frances and Ginger Park share the story of their mother's escape from North Korea as a young girl. On the night that Soo prepares for her freedom trip, she bids her mother a tearful farewell and begins a journey during which she will travel by train and foot to reach the border with South Korea. Filled with suspense and heartache, the story is a tribute to those who set out for freedom — and those who stay behind.

Nim and the War Effort

Age Level: 6-9

Nim, a young girl living in San Francisco's Chinatown during World War II, is determined to collect the tallest stack of newspapers to support her school's newspaper drive and the national ongoing war effort. The story and its evocative illustrations depict the cultural traditions and quiet determination of a Chinese American family trying to embrace their American identity while the country is at war with Japan.

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story

Age Level: 6-9

As a young boy, Hiroki Sugihara lived in Lithuania, where his father was a diplomat. One morning, the family woke up to find a crowd of people outside of the house. They were Jews from Poland looking for visas and safe passage to Japan. Despite the danger that he and his family would be in, Hiroki's father began writing visas for the refugees and continued for many days, saving thousands of lives — "Sugihara's survivors." This unforgettable story as remembered by Hiroki will resonate with readers for a long time to come.

Running Shoes

Illustrated by: Jason Gaillard
Age Level: 6-9

Sophy longs with all of her heart to attend school, but it is too far away to walk without running shoes. When a kind stranger sends her a pair of shoes, Sophy doesn't waste any time running all 8 kilometers straight to the school. She is the only girl and the boys ridicule her, but once given the opportunity, Sophy is determined to realize her dream. Lovely paintings evoke Sophy's spirit and the beauty of the Cambodian countryside.

Starry River of the Sky

By: Grace Lin
Age Level: 6-9

Rendi, a self-centered, unhappy boy runs away from home and winds up in a sad town. Storytelling, however, instigated by a mysterious newcomer allows Rendi to mature and help the villagers. The rich narrative incorporates tales inspired by Chinese tales in this worthy companion to Where the Mountain meets the Moon.

Tea with Milk

By: Allen Say
Age Level: 9-12

At home, Masako speaks Japanese and sips green tea with her parents. But at her friends' houses near San Francisco, May speaks English and enjoys pancakes and tea with milk and sugar. When May's parents decide to return to Japan, she feels lost. May finally begins to find her way in the big city of Osaka, where she makes a special friend who also speaks English — and drinks his tea with milk and sugar. Allen Say brings tenderness and humor to his mother's unforgettable story in this beautiful tribute to his parents.

The Night Diary

Age Level: 9-12

It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together. 2019 Newbery Honor Book and Walter Honor Book, Younger Readers Category.

The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic

Illustrated by: Abigail Halpin
Age Level: 9-12

Dini and Maddie, very best friends, are back in the same country at the same time! Better still, Dolly Singh, the starriest star in all of Bollywood, is in America too. Life seems perfect to Dini — but why can't she untie the knot in her stomach? Because so much can go wrong when a big star like Dolly is in town. This sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything will have fans cheering for Dini's ability to save the day once again!

The Whispering Cloth

Illustrated by: Anita Riggio
Age Level: 9-12

After much practice, Mai is finally ready to make her own pa'dau, or embroidered story cloth. Listening to the stories of her grandmother and the other women at the refugee camp, however, she feels that there are no stories left for her to stitch. Can she find a story of her own? This moving tribute to the Hmong people is richly enhanced by a breathtaking, intricate story cloth woven for the book by pa'ndau artist You Yang.

Yasmin's Hammer

Illustrated by: Doug Chayka
Age Level: 6-9

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, as two girls work hard all day to help support their family by chipping bricks into small pieces, older sister Yasmin seeks a way to attend school and learn to read so that she can have a better life one day. Includes author's note about conditions in Bangladesh, child labor, and how to help.