Growing up as the only Asian kid in my elementary school, I wish I had even one picture book about Chinese and Taiwanese Americans! Through stories, we can be comforted by knowing we aren’t alone with balancing cultures, celebrating family, and overcoming racism. I’m encouraged that more books about Chinese and Taiwanese Americans have been published in recent years.
But regardless of background, we all can discover joy, empathy, friendship, and perseverance from books about Chinese and Taiwanese Americans. To encourage diversity and inclusion, please share this list with your local schools and libraries! You can find most of these books in my Bookshop store and Amazon Affiliate shop.
Since we’re raising bilingual children, this list includes recommendations for English and Chinese picture books (when available). As usual, I’ll summarize my thoughts about each book we’ve read and share photos of the inside. For reference, my daughter is 7, and my son is 4 years old.
Please be sure to check out this post which highlights more Asian ethnicities: 100 Picture Books That Celebrate Asians in English and Chinese
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Common topics and gaps in picture books about Chinese and Taiwanese Americans
When researching books with realistic characters of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage, I noticed these common topics:
- Holidays and festivals (eg, Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival)
- Family relationships
- Food, including favorite recipes and cultural struggles
We also have some history-based picture books and stories of Chinese / Taiwanese kids enjoying regular life. However, to the aspiring authors reading this post, I’d like to see more Chinese / Taiwanese American stories with:
- Kid-friendly history
- Boys and girls playing sports
- Families having fun with art, music, and other hobbies
- Children being brave and helpful in the community
- Positive parenting
- Mixed race families
- Diverse abilities
- Faith and religion
If you’re just starting to introduce stories with Chinese and Taiwanese characters to your children or students, I recommend starting with relatable stories of joy. Empathy comes more naturally when we have a relationship based on similarities. Then, gradually discuss stories about cultural struggles and difficult parts of history.
Try this: 15 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read
Importance of “own voices” picture books by Chinese and Taiwanese American authors
In our list, most of the books have been written and/or illustrator by “own voices” creators. The term “own voices” was coined by author Corinne Duyvis to raise awareness about stories written by people who share the identity of the main character. As Disability in Kidlit author Kayla Whaley explains:
“There’s a long history of majority-group authors (white, abled, straight, cisgender, male, etc.) writing outside their experience to tell diverse stories…Time and again, marginalized people have seen their stories taken from them, misused, and published as authentic, while marginalized authors have had to jump hurdle after hurdle to be published themselves. Many feel they must fight to receive even a fraction of the pay, promotion, and praise that outsiders get for writing diverse characters’ stories, and that’s when they’re allowed in the door at all…
Books that are #OwnVoices have an added richness to them precisely because the author shares an identity with the character. The author has the deepest possible understanding of the intricacies, the joys, the difficulties, the pride, the frustration, and every other possible facet of that particular life — because the author has actually lived it.”
Understand this: How to Talk to Kids About Racism with Inclusive, Bilingual Resources
Picture books about family with Chinese and Taiwanese protagonists
I Dream of Popo
This gorgeous book celebrates the special relationship between a child and her grandmother, 婆婆 (Pópo). Through simple but meaningful, rhythmic text, we learn about a little girl who immigrates from Taiwan to the United States. She says goodbye to 婆婆 as she transitions to a new school, language, and culture. When the girl is able to travel to Taiwan to visit 婆婆 again, she notices many changes. 婆婆 has gray hair, and their languages are different. But despite the distance physically and culturally, they are still beautifully connected.
Most of the book is in English, but some words are in traditional Chinese characters.
- Author: Livia Blackburne
- Illustrator: Julia Kuo
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
- Where to buy / English ISBN: 9781250249319
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners is the most healing way I’ve ever heard our eyes described. When I first read the story with my children, I cried tears of relief. Please read my full review and trigger warning for Eyes That Kiss in The Corners here.
- Author: Joanna Ho
- Illustrator: Dung Ho
- Publisher: Harper Kids
- Where to buy / English ISBN: 9780062915627
Books about Chinese and Taiwanese American kids having fun
Jason Chin books
Both of my children are obsessed with Jason Chin’s books! His specialty is science, and he presents interesting facts through relatable storytelling. While the details are perfect for my 7-year-old daughter, my son stays occupied by the captivating illustrations. Several of Jason Chin’s books have been translated to simplified Chinese which we read with the help of our Youdao dictionary pen.
We have and recommend all of the following books:
- Grand Canyon 大峡谷
- Redwoods 穿越侏罗纪原始森林
- Coral Reefs 穿越寒武纪珊瑚礁
- Island 一座岛的600万年
- Gravity 万有引力
- Nine Months
And there are many more on our wish list!
Explore this: The Best Human Body Science Toys for Kids
Katrina Liu books (Mina Learns Chinese series)
Katrina Liu is the author of the Mina Learns Chinese series. Her books are perfect for bilingual families and include English, simplified OR traditional Chinese, and Hanyu Pinyin. Please read my review of the Mina Learn Chinese books and learn where to buy them here!
A Big Bed for Little Snow 小雪的大被子
A little boy “小雪” gets up after bedtime to jump and play on his big, fluffy bed. His creative imagination wonders if his bed is a cloud and whether the feathers are snowflakes! Originally written in English, the Chinese translation by 谢媛媛 and 赵伟轩 is also beautiful.
- Author and illustrator: Grace LIn
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Where to buy:
Edna Ma Adventures in Mandarin Immersion in Chinese and English
Based on a true story, anesthesiologist Dr. Edna Ma was inspired to share the story of her son, Dean, and his best friend, Ethan. Dean is Chinese American while Ethan is African American, and the boys become best friends in a Los Angeles Mandarin Immersion school. They discover how much they have in common, and they even go abroad to Shanghai together.
Text is fully bilingual, simplified Chinese and English, with Hanyu Pinyin for non-fluent readers.
- Author: Edna Ma
- Illustrator: Irfan Budhiharjo
- Publisher: Dr. Ma Publishing
- Where to buy:
Grace 说 books
We LOVE the Grace 说 series which features a dad encouraging his daughter:
- Grace 说恒心 / Grace 說恆心 (Grace Said Persistence)
- Grace 说专心 / Grace 說專心 (Grace Said Focus)
- Grace 说耐心 / Grace 說耐心 (Grace Said Patience)
Two of these books are compatible with the Luka Reading Robot. Read the full review about “Grace Said” Focus, Patience, Persistence Chinese Picture Books here or click on the links below to buy.
- Author: Eric Liao 廖树清
- Where to buy:
Books about Chinese and Taiwanese food
If you’ve ever felt like your family’s vegetables were different, this book is for you! A little girl is worried that her mom’s vegetable garden is “ugly” in contrast to her neighbors flower gardens. However, her mom reassures that “these are better than flowers”. Later, the girl learns to appreciate the vegetables when they grow and are ready to be eaten. Neighbors coming over to enjoy delicious soup made from their vegetables. The book concludes with a vegetable soup recipe!
- Author and illustrator: Grace Lin
- Publisher: Charlesbridge
- Where to buy
Andrea Wang’s new book, Watercress, is truly beautiful, though a bit serious. At this time, the story means more to me than my children who don’t quite understand the challenges of first generation immigrants. This particular story made me reflect on the vast differences in privilege with each successive generations in our family.
- Author: Andrea Wang
- Illustrator: Jason Chin
- Publisher: Neal Porter Books
- Where to buy / English ISBN 9780823446247:
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
This is a cute book about a girl, Amy, who struggles with making bao. All too relatable, her creations come out strange and silly, but she learns to have fun and keep trying. Her family teaches her the steps, and a recipe is included at the back of the book!
- Author: Kat Zhang
- Illustrator: Charlene Chua
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books
- Where to buy / English ISBN 9781534411333:
I Love Boba!
This adorable story celebrates the Taiwanese staple, boba, with catchy text in Chinese and rhyming in English! The book begins with a map of Taiwan to introduce the background of this fun drink! I also appreciate the choking hazard warning at the end of the book; boba pearls could get aspirated, especially in children 4 years and younger. The books are available in Traditional Chinese with Pinyin and English or English only.
- Author: Katrina Liu
- Illustrator: Dhidit Prayoga
- Publisher: Mina Learns Chinese
- Where to buy: Amazon
- Mandarin audio narration: Author’s website
A little boy named Ling Sung goes to school in a diverse classroom, but he feels left out because he can’t do things like the other kids. One day, he feels confident when his peers are in awe of his chopsticks skills, and he shows them how to use them. While we like the racial diversity, please make sure to read other stories, because it could reinforce the stereotype that Chinese / Taiwanese boys have limited capabilities.
- Author: Bernard Ashley
- Illustrator: Derek Brazell
- Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing
- Where to buy / English ISBN 9780517883327:
Apple Pie Fourth of July
A little girl works in a Chinese restaurant on the 4th of July and wonders who would want to come on an American holiday. As customers gradually trickle in, her father mentions that fireworks were invented in China. The day ends with the girl enjoying apple pie while watching the fireworks. While the dialogue isn’t deep, the story can be a conversation starter about the year-round hard work of Chinese American immigrants and the balance of cultures.
- Author: Janet S. Wong
- Illustrator: Margaret Chodos-Irvine
- Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
- Where to buy / English ISBN 9780152057084:
Brandon Makes Jiǎo Zi (餃子)
Brandon is a kid excited about his grandparents visiting from China and making dumplings together! This book is mostly written in English but introduces a few traditional Chinese characters with Hanyu Pinyin: 餃子 (jiǎo zi / dumplings), 婆婆 (pópo/ grandma), 公公 (gōnggòng / grandpa), and 好吃 (hào chī / yummy).
- Author: Eugenia Chu
- Illustrator: Helena Chu Ho
- Publisher: Outskirts Press
- Where to buy / English ISBN 9781478774082:
Empowering books about Asian children with special needs
Christian Singaporean author Lianne Ong wrote these inclusive stories about people with diverse abilities. While the focus is on personal character rather than culture, I appreciate how these books bring positivity to a topic that is normally taboo in Asian culture.
- Author: Lianne Ong
- Illustrator: Nicolas Liem
- Publisher: Armour Publishing
- Where to buy:
Explore this: Positive Affirmations Kids Need to Hear
Books about traditional Chinese culture
This inspiring tale is about a Chinese girl, Ruby, who had a grandfather who let his grandchildren undergo tutoring, regardless of whether they were boys or girls. Ruby loves to learn! She tells her grandfather that she would rather attend university than marry. Working hard to defy stereotypes, she becomes the first Chinese woman in her generation to attend college.
- Author: Shirin Yim Bridges
- Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
- Publisher: Chronicle Books
- Where to buy / English ISBN 9781452145693:
安的种子 An’s Seed
During winter, Ben, Jing, and An receive a dormant lotus seed from their master. Although Ben and Jing rush to plant their seeds, they are unable to get the seed to sprout. Meanwhile, An waits patiently for spring to come. The story teaches children the important virtues of patience and hard work.
Note that the main part of the book is in simplified Chinese with Pinyin, but the back has complete English translations plus a bilingual vocabulary list of keywords and phrases.
- Author: Zaozao Wang
- Translator: Helen Wang
- Illustrator: Li Huang
- Publisher: Candied Plums
- Where to buy / English & Chinese ISBN 9781945295133:
The Empty Pot
Paired with adorable illustrations, this folktale celebrates honest effort and integrity. An emperor gives a flower seed to each child in his kingdom. He challenges the children to come back in one year to show who grows the best flower; the winner will become the heir to his throne. During that year, a boy named Ping, who loves gardening, struggles to grow anything from the seed. He’s embarrassed when the other children present beautiful flowers to the emperor. None of the seeds were supposed to bloom; Ping was the only honest child.
Picture books about Chinese and Taiwanese American History
This history-based story about the Chinese railroad workers in the 1860s is told from the perspective of a grandma to her grandson. Qingming festival (eg, Tomb-Sweeping Day) is a day to honor ancestors, so we learn about two brothers named Shek and Little Wong who left China to find work in California. Despite brutal discrimination (lower pay, threats) and dire conditions (eg, avalanches), they build a great railroad and eventually called California home.
While the story addresses death indirectly (eg, “one [avalanche] had swept away a crew of workers”), the author’s note mentions, “thousands of Chinese lost their lives. Some of the recovered bodies were sent back to their families in China. Many were undiscovered and forgotten, and their graves remain unknown and scattered along the trackside, a silent tribute to their accomplishment.”
- Author: Yin
- Illustrator: Chris Soentpiet
- Publisher: Puffin Books
- Where to buy / English ISBN: 9780142500552
Red Kite, Blue Kite
During the Cultural Revolution in China, a little boy and his father are separated suddenly but try to stay connected through their special pastime, kite flying. Baba promises his son that he will fly his kite while looking for his so that they can “see” each other. However, for some time, Baba is not able to fly his kite. Although the book leaves out details like the 1.5 million deaths during the Cultural Revolution, the father and son are lucky to be reunited at the end of the story.
I highly recommend this story as an introduction to Chinese history; you can download this pdf for deeper discussion. I’ve read it several times with both of my children and am shocked that there are so few reviews of this poignant story. I really hope Red Kite Blue Kite stays in print!
- Author: Ji-li Jiang
- Illustrator: Greg Ruth
- Publisher: Hyperion Books
- Where to buy / English ISBN: 9781423127536
More Chinese history and culture books on our to-read list:
Picture book biographies about Chinese and Taiwanese Americans
Notable Chinese / Taiwanese American women
For Women’s History Month, my daughter and I enjoyed reading about Wu Chien-Shiung, Hazel Ying Lee, and Maya Lin. Each of these books does a great job of amplifying each woman’s strengths. Authors Theresa Robeson and Julie Leung also take time to acknowledge the challenges of racism and sexism faced by Wu Chien Shiung and Hazel Ying Lee. However, Maya Lin’s struggles are briefly mentioned on a page but are not the focus of this particular narrative. All are beautifully illustrated.
- 物理天后 推翻宇宙定律的吳健雄 Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom: Amazon | Bookshop | Books.com.tw
- The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee: Amazon | Bookshop
- Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines: Amazon | Bookshop
More details of each book and more amazing female leaders can be found in the link below.
Notable Chinese / Taiwanese American men
- Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist: Julie Leung also wrote this biographical picture book about Disney artist Tyrus Wong (originally named Wong Geng Yeo). Tyrus immigrated from China to America, initially starting life here as a janitor while dreaming of turning the mop into a paintbrush, eventually getting a chance to create for Bambi. As much as I want to appreciate the illustrations, I am disappointed with how the people are portrayed. With so few books about Asian men, we really need realistic images. However, the back of the book does feature a few photographs of Tyrus Wong and his family.
Picture books about Chinese / Taiwanese Festivals and Holidays
The vast majority of books about Chinese / Taiwanese revolve around festivals, and I’ve reviewed them previously in other posts. A plethora – perhaps too many – are available in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, and English. Please click on the images below to learn more!
What are your favorite picture books with Chinese and Taiwanese American protagonists?
If you end up reading this book, let me know what you think in the comments below! We’d love to hear about your learning experience with the books you choose! What other books do you recommend we check out?