To commemorate Asian Heritage Month, we recommend some books that celebrate Asian culture and history.
Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes by Mahak Jain, illustrated by Anu Chouhan
Most of us have experienced some form of trepidation when embarking on something completely unfamiliar to us. Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes shows that having the courage to attempt something new can actually lead to fun experiences and teachable moments. In the book, a little girl named Paro joins a ballet class, but she’s worried because the only dance she knows is bharatnatyam, which she has learnt from her mom. Bharatnatyam is very different from ballet, but when Paro makes friends with Marco and Dana, the three of them teach each other the dance moves they know and have lots of fun in the process. Accompanied by vibrant illustrations by Anu Chouhan, this is a lively picture book with echoes of the real-life collaboration between Bharatanatyam icon Rukmini Devi Arundale and ballerina Anna Pavlova. Grades Preschool-2
Xiran Jay Zhao’s thrilling middle-grade novel blends fantasy with comedy to tell a moving story of a young boy learning about his roots. Zachary Ying lives alone with this mother and hasn’t had too much exposure to his Chinese heritage. Little does Zack know that he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China to undertake a mission that might upset the very balance of the mortal realm. Zack’s mission is to seal the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before the upcoming Ghost Month blows it wide open. Hilarity ensues when the First Emperor botches his attempt to possess Zack’s body and binds to Zack’s AR gaming headset instead, leading to a battle where Zack’s mom’s soul gets taken by demons. Zack has no option but to complete this mission before the underworld floods into the mortal realm, and he loses his mom forever. Grades 3-7
UK-based author Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne reflects her interest in South-Asian history, mythology, and epic fantasy. We are immersed in a bygone era where we meet an exiled princess named Malini who has been imprisoned by her despotic brother in an ancient temple called the Hirana. Set on a cliffside, the temple lies in ruins, but was once a revered source of magical deathless waters. Malini spends her time plotting her revenge against her brother, but it’s only when she meets Priya that she realizes she can actually do something. Priya also wants to exact revenge against Malini’s brother and to do so, she infiltrates his house pretending to be a servant. The Hirana’s magical deathless waters beckon Priya and she seeks them out. When Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, that of a powerful priestess desperate to save her family, she teams up with her to steal the throne from her brother. In doing so, their destinies become irrevocably tangled as they embark on a quest to set an empire ablaze. Grades 10-12