Modern Multicultural Books for Kids

“You cannot help shoots grow by pulling them up.” -Chinese proverb

Not just sprouting plants but young kids’ hearts are very tender. I remember my teacher reading Tikki Tikki Tembo in class. Afterward, all the kids looked my way and tried their own nonsense version of Chinese to talk to me. On the school bus, peers would make slanted eyes at me, sometimes adding, “Konnichiwa.” Nobody ever teased me more than that, but maybe they were intimidated by my possible Bruce Lee kung fu skills.

I’m glad that modern multicultural children’s books have moved beyond that classic. Now, actual ethnic authors are writing authentic tales. Some of my favorite stories are:

  • Bee-Bim Bop!; a rhyming picture book about the traditional Korean dish, with a recipe at the end.
  • Crouching Tiger;  a complex picture book about a boy respecting his grandfather through tai chi, along with a brief history of martial arts
  • 1001 Cranes; a middle-grade tale about a girl discovering her culture and connecting to her family through making origami displays

mc books for kids

What’s your favorite multicultural book for kids?

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  1. What grade were you then? Just curious.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      The teasing was mostly during elementary school. I think the picture book was in the earlier grades; Tikki Tikki Tembo is recommended for ages 4-8 years.

  2. I’m sorry you had to go through these moments at school. Stereotypes are hard to kill but you’re right that through multicultural stories writers have done a superb job.
    Bee-Bim Bop is a lot of fun and the 10011 Cranes is more emotionnally charger. I don’t know Crouching Tiger but it seems a good read too.
    Although not Korean, Joan Schoettler, one of my best friends, wrote Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth. It’s a story inspired by a visit to the Asian Museum in San Francisco and takes place in Medieval Korea. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story very moving too.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      Thanks for the support, Evelyne! I’ll have to check out your friend’s book–it sounds so interesting!

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