May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Here are middle grade titles celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander voices that I recommend.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai
Hà is 10 years old and her life is turned upside down when she moves to America from Saigon. She misses Saigon’s markets, traditions, friends and papaya trees. But Hà and her family were forced to leave their home when the Vietnam War happened. She’s now living in Alabama and trying to adjust to it’s strange food, cold people and different landscape. Hà has only the resilience of her family to cling to as she grieves and heals.
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
Sai is an assistant to the most revered mapmaker in Mangkon, a Thai-inspired fantasy world. She is playing the part of a cultured young lady when in reality her father is a conman and she’s trying to raise her status to a new social position. This story follows her on an expedition to the uncharted southern seas. Along the way she learns they might be headed toward the Sunderlands, a land rumored to be full of dragons, danger and riches. The story is lush and thought-provoking as Sai tries to forge a new path for herself.
Tiger Honor by Yoon Ha Lee
Tiger Honor is the second book in Yoon Ha Lee’s Thousand Worlds series.
Sebin is a young nonbinary tiger spirit who wants to one day be the captain of a battle cruiser in the the Thousand World Space Forces. When Sebin receives their acceptance letter from the academy they also receive news their Uncle Hwan, a captain in the Space Force, has been accused of stealing a magical artifact. He is now considered a traitor.
Sebin is on a mission to clear their Uncle’s name but of course nothing goes according to plan. Upon arriving at orientation, Sebin is told they are to report to a ship, which is highly unusual. But something goes drastically wrong and now it’s up to Sebin and three other cadets to figure out if it’s sabotage.
The Guardian Test by Christina Soontornvat
Plum has, shockingly, been accepted to the Guardian Academy on Lotus Island. Guardian Academy is an elite school where kids are taught to transform into magical creatures sworn to protect the world called Guardians. Unfortunately Plum is struggling in school. Unlike her classmates who are able to transform, she can’t summon up any magic. But Plum is determined to stay among her friends and embrace her inner animal form.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Jude is from Syria where things in her hometown have become so volatile she and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Unfortunately that means leaving behind her father and brother. America is immediately overwhelming to Jude. Too loud, too fast and school in the U.S. is nothing like she could have imagined.
She is labeled “Middle Eastern,” something she’s never heard before. This label comes with an assumption of identity that doesn’t match the life Jude has lived. But there are also good surprises in the form of new friends, new family and even a school musical. Maybe Jude can make America her home after all.