23 books for kids and young adults to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in Canada
May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada. To celebrate, here's a list of 23 great Canadian books for younger readers to check out!
Happy Dreams, Little Bunny by Leah Hong
Happy Dreams, Little Bunny is the first picture book by author Leah Hong. It's about a small rabbit who is having trouble sleeping but, after singing a lullaby with her mother, learns that dreams can be magical.
Happy Dreams, Little Bunny is for ages 4 to 8.
Hong is an artist, author and illustrator from Vancouver.
Peggy's Impossible Tale by Slavia Miki & Roy Miki, illustrated by Mariko Ando
Slavia Miki and Roy Miki's Peggy's Impossible Tale is a fun story about one charming guinea pig. Told in the animal's voice, and featuring colour illustrations by Mariko Ando, it's a book about the remarkable adventures of a remarkable creature.
Peggy's Impossible Tale is for ages 7-9.
When you can read it: June 15, 2021
Roy Miki is a poet, scholar, editor and Order of Canada recipient from Manitoba. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 2002 for Surrender. His partner, Slavia Miki, is an author and life coach.
Mariko Ando is an Japan-born artist and illustrator based in Vancouver.
The Doll by Nhung Tran-Davies, illustrated by Ravy Puth
The Doll follows a young girl and her refugee family as they look to make a new life in a new land. When the girl is gifted a new doll by strangers when her family arrives at the airport, she grows up grateful and is now looking to return the favour.
The Doll is for ages 3 to 7.
Nhung Tran-Davies is an Alberta author, physician and advocate for social justice through education. Her family came to Canada as refugees from Vietnam in 1978.
Ravy Puth is a visual artist and illustrator from Montreal.
THAO by Thao Lam
THAO is a picture book about feeling comfortable in one's own skin and identity. Based on Thao Lam's own childhood, THAO is about a young Vietnamese girl who is frustrated that the other kids just can't pronounce her name. During lunch, Thao is put at ease when she opens her lunchbox to discover that her mother made her favourite food — Vietnamese spring rolls.
THAO is for ages 4 to 8.
Lam is an author and illustrator from Toronto. Her other picture books include Wallpaper and My Cat Looks Like My Dad.
My Day with Gong Gong by Sennah Yee, illustrated by Elaine Chen
My Day with Gong Gong is a story about a little girl, her grandfather and a fateful day in Chinatown. Little May doesn't seem to connect with her grandpa Gong Gong, who only speaks a little English. They are out on a day trip and she isn't having much fun. But May realizes that Gong Gong knows much more than he is letting on and the two end up having a wonderful day together.
My Day with Gong Gong was a finalist for the 2021 Blue Spruce Award.
My Day with Gong Gong is for ages 4-7.
Sennah Yee is a poet and writer from Toronto. She released her debut collection of poetry, How Do I Look? in 2017.
Elaine Chen is an illustrator and art director from Vancouver.
Hug? by Charlene Chua
Hug? is a picture book about awareness and setting appropriate boundaries. Using humour, the book features a child who wants to know how many hugs is too many. In examining compassion and empathy, the child figures out just how to express what she likes and doesn't like.
Hug? is for ages 3-7.
Charlene Chua is a Singapore-born Canadian author and illustrator. She has illustrated several picture books, including The Pencil by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula, Shubh Diwali! by Chitra Soundar and Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang.
Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki
Our Little Kitchen is a picture book that features a neighbourhood with colourful characters who come together in the kitchen to share a meal. Our Little Kitchen is a celebration of food, community and laughter.
Our Little Kitchen is a finalist for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books.
Our Little Kitchen is for ages 4-8.
Jillian Tamaki is an award-winning illustrator. In 2014, Tamaki received the Governor General's Literary Award for her work in This One Summer, written by her cousin and graphic novelist Mariko Tamaki. They also collaborated on Skim. Her other books include the comics SuperMutant Magic Academy and Boundless and the picture book They Say Blue.
The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers
The Barnabus Project features a secret underground lab, genetically engineered creatures and a story about freedom. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab but they are deemed imperfect and might never see the outside world. But Barnabus yearns to be free and decides that it's time for him and his imperfect friends to make the perfect escape.
The Barnabus Project is a finalist for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books.
The Barnabus Project is for ages 5-9.
Eric Fan and Terry Fan are brothers and frequent collaborators on children's books. Their books include The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky. They also illustrated The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield.
Devin Fan is an artist, poet and youth worker. The Barnabus Project is his first children's book and marks the first time all three brothers have written and illustrated a picture book together.
Trip of the Dead by Angela Misri
Trip of the Dead is a middle-grade book about the adventures of a crafty raccoon named Trip within an ongoing zombie apocalypse. Trip seems to be the last raccoon in his neck of the woods — but he soon discovers that being a raccoon just might be the answer for getting rid of zombies forever.
Trip of the Dead is for ages 9 to 12.
Angela Misri is a Toronto-based journalist and author of detective fiction and children's books. Her detective series, called The Portia Adams Adventures, is set in the 1930s, and her debut middle-grade series is called Tales from the Apocalypse.
Finding Home by Jen Sookfong Lee, illustrated by Drew Shannon
Finding Home explores the nature of human migration and how it has shaped the modern world. This middle-grade book is a nonfiction look at the past and present issues affecting immigrants and refugees — and author Jen Sookfong Lee offers a first-hand account of her experience as a second-generation Canadian.
Finding Home is for ages 9 to 12.
Lee is a Chinese Canadian broadcaster, novelist and author. Lee is the author of the novel The Conjoined and the nonfiction book Gentleman of the Shade. The Vancouver-born writer has been a past CBC Short Story Prize juror, Canada Reads panellist and The Next Chapter columnist.
Drew Shannon is a Toronto illustrator and artist. His freelance work has been featured in New York Public Radio, NPR Music and the Globe and Mail.
Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman
Music for Tigers is a middle-grade novel and coming-of-age story about a young violinist who finds out that her mother's family secretly has a sanctuary for extinct Tasmanian tigers — the island's most beloved and lost, creature — in the remote Australian rainforest.
Music for Tigers was a finalist for the 2021 Silver Birch Fiction Award.
Music for Tigers is for ages 8 to 12.
Michelle Kadarusman is a Canadian Australian Indonesian author of novels for children and teens. She is the author of The Theory of Hummingbirds and Girl of the Southern Sea, which was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
A Song for China by Ange Zhang
Ange Zhang shares the story of his father, Guang Weiran, in A Song for China. Guang Weiran was a writer, activist and military leader who used art to fight for social justice in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. His poem Yellow River Cantata, this year celebrating its 80th anniversary, became the anthem of Chinese national spirit.
A Song for China is for ages 10 and up.
Zhang is a Toronto-based animator and illustrator of children's books. Zhang is a former designer for the National Opera Theater in Beijing.
Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin
In Crossing the Farak River, Michelle Aung Thin tackles a pressing topic frequently in the news, but often underreported in fiction. Fourteen-year-old Rohingya Hasina is forced to flee everything she's ever known in this account of the crisis in Myanmar. The young characters are in the middle of a conflict that threatens her world and her identity. When Sit Tat soldiers invade their village one night, Hasina knows that they must leave. This novel introduces young readers to the military crackdown and ongoing persecution of Rohingya people, from the perspective of a courageous young protagonist.
Crossing the Farak River is for ages 11 and up.
Thin is a novelist, essayist and academic who was born in Burma, now Myanmar, and was raised in Ottawa. She made her authorial debut with The Monsoon Bride in 2011. Crossing the Farak River is her second book. She currently teaches writing at RMIT University in Melbourne.
Summerwood/Winterwood by E.L. Chen
Summerwood/Winterwood contains two linked fantasy stories about a young girl named Rosalind Hero Cheung. The first, Summerwood, begins as 12-year-old Rosalind travels to Toronto to spend the summer with her teenage sister Julie and their grandfather, the author of a famous children's fantasy series. Their stay takes a turn when Julie disappears and Rosalind discovers the dark truth behind the mythical land their grandfather wrote about in his books. Rosalind undertakes a dangerous and costly journey into Summerwood in order to save her sister.
Winterwood picks up three years later. Rosalind has not recovered from her trip to Summerwood and is getting into trouble at school. Grounded by her exasperated mother, Rosalind runs away to Toronto and is confronted by an old enemy from Summerwood.
Summerwood/Winterwood is for age 14 and up.
E.L. Chen is an author and illustrator based in Ontario. Her previous novel, The Good Brother, was published in 2015.
If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur
If I Tell You the Truth delves into the power of truth, love and understanding. After becoming pregnant after a sexual assault, Kiran leaves Punjab and arrives in Canada as a new immigrant. But when her visa expires, Kiran decides that she will do whatever it takes to protect herself and daughter Sahaara. When Sahaara discovers the real story about Kiran's past, she is determined to seek justice, even if it means being put in harm's way.
If I Tell You the Truth is for ages 14 and up.
If I Tell You the Truth is available now.
'Instagram is a medium, but it's not the work': Poet Jasmin Kaur on moving from screen to page with her writing
Jasmin Kaur is an illustrator, spoken word artist and author from Vancouver. Her approach to writing has drawn comparisons to Canadian poet Rupi Kaur and American writer Elizabeth Acevedo. She is also the author of When You Ask Me Where I'm Going.
Bruised by Tanya Boteju
Bruised is a YA novel about Daya Wijesinghe, a teen girl who navigates first love and identity after a family tragedy. After a tragic accident results in the death of her parents, Daya has taken to bruising herself as a way to cope with her grief. It leads her to the physical and colourful world of roller derby. Bruised explores Daya's healing process and journey to wellness.
Bruised is for ages 14 and up.
Tanya Boteju is an author and educator based in Vancouver. Her debut YA novel, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens, followed a high school student named Nima and explored themes of gender identity and belonging.
The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur
Set in 1426 Korea, The Forest of Stolen Girls is a YA novel about a young woman named Hwani who seeks to know the truth about a past crime that affected her family. But when her detective father vanishes after looking into the mystery, Hwani is forced to locate her family and solve the mystery that forever changed all their lives.
The Forest of Stolen Girls is for ages 13 and up.
June Hur is a South Korea-born writer based in Toronto. She has a degree in history and literature from the University of Toronto. Her work is inspired by her personal journey. She is also the author of The Silence of Bones.
Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan
In the YA novel Zara Hossain Is Here, Zara Hossain is the only Muslim teen at her Texas high school, which makes fitting in a bit of a challenge. When a bullying incident escalates into a violent crime, Zara is forced to choose between the only home she's ever known or finally making a stand.
Zara Hossain Is Here is for ages 14 and up.
Sabina Khan is a Muslim author and educator based in British Columbia and originally from Bangladesh. She is also the author of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali.
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena
Hunted by the Sky is a YA adventure novel set in medieval India. Gul, a young girl, has a birthmark on her arm that makes her a mark. Her parents were murdered because Gul is marked. A group of female rebel warriors take Gul in and train her to become one of them. Gul has one thing on her mind: revenge.
Hunted by the Sky won the 2021 White Pine Award.
Hunted by the Sky is for ages 12 and up.
Tanaz Bhathena is a YA novelist based in Mississauga, Ont. She is also the author of The Beauty of the Moment and A Girl Like That.
Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal
In thriller writer Sheena Kamal's first YA novel Fight Like a Girl, Trisha grew up with an abusive father who would come and go as he pleased. In an effort to break the chain of violence in her family, Trisha chooses to channel her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing.
Fight Like a Girl is for ages 14 and up.
Kamal is a Vancouver-based writer of crime novels including The Lost Ones which won the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and It All Falls Down. She Fights Like a Girl is her first YA novel.
Letters from Johnny by Wayne Ng
Letters from Johnny is the story of 11-year-old Johnny Wong, who is living in Toronto in the 1970s on the brink of the FLQ crisis. Johnny lives with his mother, a Chinese immigrant, and develops a fatherly relationship with a local draft dodger. But when the children's services come, questioning Johnny's mother, and a neighbour is found murdered, Johnny begins to think that his little family is threatened — and it's up to him to protect them.
Wayne Ng is a novelist, travel writer and social worker from Toronto, who now lives in Ottawa. He is also the author of the novel Finding the Way: A Novel of Lao Tzu.
Kung Fu Master by Marty Chan
Marty Chan's middle-grade novel Kung Fu Master is about a teenager named Jon Wong. His friends at school assume that because he's Chinese, he's good at math and science. And when they find out that he likes to pretend to be a martial arts warrior, rumours spread that Jon isn't a nerd — he's a kung fu master. Rather than tell the truth, Jon pretends it's true. But what will happen when he's asked to prove it?
Kung Fu Master is for ages 9-12.
Chan is a children's book author based in Edmonton. His other books include the Ehrich Weisz Chronicles and the Keepers of the Vault series.
Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali
Misfit in Love is the latest book by Toronto author S.K. Ali and sequel to her debut YA novel Saints and Misfits. In Misfit in Love, it's summertime and Janna's brother Muhammad is getting married. But things quickly get complicated — her brother's wedding isn't going according to plan, her father is acting strange and her mother is spending a lot of time when an old friend. On top of all that, two new people enter Janna's life that leave her confused about love and relationships.
Misfit in Love is for ages 14 and up.
S.K. Ali is a writer and teacher from Toronto, best known for her YA novels, Saints and Misfits and Love from A to Z.
- This list has been updated to reflect the fact that Peggy by Slavia Miki & Roy Miki, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch, has been discontinued. It has been replaced with Peggy's Impossible Tale by Slavia Miki & Roy Miki, illustrated by Mariko Ando.May 31, 2021 8:03 AM ET