Read Around the World: Children’s Books Set in Asia

Prepare to travel the globe for a glimpse into Asia’s mesmerizing cultures and spectacular landscapes through this collection of books for children and tweens. From tales drawing upon magical folklore to stories honoring ancient customs, these entertaining books allow kids to experience the wonders of Asia without leaving their home.

yes no Picture Books 9780593203446 A Boy Named Isamu by James Yang

Award-winning author-illustrator James Yang invites readers to follow a day in the life of famed artist Isamu Noguchi. As a boy, Isamu is quite perceptive, noticing his surroundings and imagining objects with a discerning lens. This standout story serves as a reminder of the wonder and whimsy found in nature and as an introduction to an acclaimed artist who transformed his love of the natural world into brilliant sculptures and landscape designs.

9780823447640 Chinese Kite Festival by Richard Lo

This bilingual beauty is an engaging way to introduce children to elements of Chinese culture. Lyrical language written in English and Chinese describes an assortment of animal-shaped kites flying through the sky, while the informative backmatter shares the symbolism of each animal.

9780525518068 Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Readers gain insight into two different ways of life in northwest India in this dazzling depiction of confluent cultures. Each page is cleverly split in two, providing a clear contrast to the extreme weather and varying lifestyles of a nomadic girl and village-dwelling boy. While the girl faces sandstorms and the boy struggles with floods, their common need for salvation leads them to a mountaintop where they joyfully join together despite their differences. Backmatter provides additional details on the Rabari people who inspired this story.

9780525555094 Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Simran Jeet Singh, illustrated by Baljinder Kaur

“You know yourself, Fauja, and you know what you’re capable of. Today is a chance to do your best.” Fauja Singh took these inspiring words from his mother to heart. He overcame a childhood disability preventing him from walking and eventually set world records for running through dedication and willpower. Fauja’s many accomplishments will amaze children, especially completing a marathon at the age of 100!

9780399170744 The Tale of the Tiger Slippers by Jan Brett

Jan Brett’s stunning artwork shines in this imaginative retelling of a Persian folktale. When an impoverished Tiger cub’s mother lovingly makes him slippers, they guide him on a successful journey to becoming a wealthy entrepreneur. The slippers stay with him his entire life, demonstrating the valuable lesson in treasuring one’s roots.

9781536205077 Riding a Donkey Backwards by Sean Taylor and The Khayaal Theatre Company, illustrated by Shirin Adl

These twenty-one comical tales starring Mulla Nasruddin, a beloved trickster in Muslim culture, are sure to elicit giggles while challenging readers to look at things from a different viewpoint. The brevity of each amusing story will leave readers begging to hear one more of Nasruddin’s funny antics.

9781611807752 Krit Dreams of Dragon Fruit by Emily France and Natalie Becher, illustrated by Samantha Woo

Krit loves living in Thailand, so, naturally, he is devastated to discover his family is moving to cold-weathered Chicago. While initially homesick, a story about Buddha building a temple from a blade of grass helps him realize the joy of finding beauty wherever he is, allowing him to feel at home anywhere.

9780735266193 Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa Fan, illustrated by Cindy Wume

Based on the author’s father’s family, this story is quite a delight! It is considered lucky to have a son in Taiwanese culture, so when a family has ten sons, they have great fortune. While the story follows the boys through their childhood into adulthood, children will love the reveal of the surprise narrator, who is the sister hiding in plain sight on each page.

yes no Early Readers and Chapter Books 9781984814869 The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

This sweet intergenerational tale introduces readers to the haenyeo, Korean women who deep-sea dive to find treasures and work to conserve the ocean. Dayeon longs to be like her grandmother, who resembles a mermaid as she swims through the sea. With her grandmother’s help, Dayeon overcomes her fear of water and enters the time-honored tradition of the haenyeo.

9780593402917 She Persisted: Malala Yousafzai by Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint

Educational activist Malala Yousafzai’s inspirational story of standing up for what she believes in is brilliantly portrayed in this chapter book biography. As the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, I can’t think of a better role model for children to learn how to persist through difficulty and pursue their passions.

9780823443291 All You Need by Howard Schwartz, illustrated by Jasu Hu

Tender text accompanied by soft, lush illustrations helps readers reflect on our shared connection as humans through our basic needs. While the poetic words describe life’s essentials, the gentle watercolors follow a child in China who grows up to travel and become an artist.

9780593181959 The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Gracey Zhang

Joy abounds in this uplifting story celebrating Japanese culture, family, and body positivity. Based on her childhood experiences, the author describes her visits to a traditional bath house with her grandmother, aunties, and cousins. Though some family members speak a different language, they all share a bond in Japanese customs. Most notable is the confidence each woman possesses as she sheds her clothes, displaying various body types, showing children that all bodies should be celebrated.

9781524771874 Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki

Carrying forged identification papers to immigrate to America, Tyrus Wong became one of the numerous “Paper Sons” from China. Through hard work and dedication, he earned a position at Disney Studios, where he infused elements from his Eastern heritage to create the background for the film Bambi, forever changing the way animation gets created.

yes no Middle Grade 9781524715700 When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Lily has always loved listening to her grandmother’s Korean folktales, but she never expected them to become a reality! When her grandmother grows sick, a tiger appears to Lily, looking to make a bargain in exchange for her grandmother’s health. With elements of magic expertly woven into an engaging coming-of-age tale, it is no wonder this masterful piece of storytelling won the Newbery Medal.

9780593113752 Kudo Kids: The Mystery of the Masked Medalist by Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani, and Michelle Schusterman, illustrated by Yaoyao Ma Van As

Video game lovers will revel in this exciting tale set in Tokyo during the Summer Olympics. While their journalist parents report on the Olympic games, siblings Andy and Mika play an augmented reality game called OlympiFan. They scour the streets of Tokyo, searching for three virtual medals that provide clues to the secret identity of the game’s creator.

9780593174340 Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki

During the 25-year memorial ceremony for the bombing of Hiroshima, twelve-year-old Nozomi learns of the tragic tales of that fateful day. She and her friends dedicate their upcoming project to honoring the survivors and lost loved ones by sharing their heartbreaking stories in hopes of finding a more peaceful future. Full of sincerity, this poignant historical fiction will stay with readers long after turning the last page.

9781524738136 The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Heart-wrenching and beautiful, this striking story transports readers to the gritty streets of India. It follows siblings Viji and Rukku as they join the large number of homeless children trying to survive each day, using nothing but their wits, determination, and friendships. The author creates a moving tale of love, loss, and moving on through exquisite storytelling.

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Read Around the World: Children’s Books Set in Asia