Wrapping Up Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Did you know that May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month? I didn’t until about halfway through the month, but, hey, now that it’s almost over here are a couple fun ways to celebrate with your kids.

First up: Ninja!

Ninja! by Arree Chung

Arree Chung’s first picture book is due out next week: it features a little boy who imagines himself to be a ninja, sneaking and hiding, and masterfully acquiring his target: cookies and milk. It’s a cute book—mostly told through the images with a little bit of narration and speech bubbles—and there are some fun online activities that go along with it. First off, you can visit Ninjafyme.com to dress up your kids (and yourself) in ninja headgear like Maxwell.

Ninjafy me
My family, ninjafied!

On Chung’s website you can also find some free coloring pages and an activity guide, including how to make a ninja mask out of a T-shirt and how to fold paper throwing stars.

Finally, thanks to Henry Holt and Company (a division of Macmillan), we have an exclusive reveal of the Ninja! book trailer, which was loosely inspired by the Star Wars Kid.

Ninja! will be released June 3, and is available now for pre-order.

Next: the Chinese Zodiac. I’ve got two picture books about the story of the Chinese Zodiac, done in very different styles.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, The Great Race

The order of the Chinese zodiac, according to legend, was determined by a great race set up by the Jade Emperor. The story explains how the wily mouse managed to be first, why the mighty dragon (who could fly) was delayed, and why there is no cat in the line-up. The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, written by Gabrielle Wang and illustrated by Sally Rippin, uses a beautiful painted style, along with little red stamps (or “chops”) showing the Chinese characters for the various animals. The Great Race, by Charles Huang and Stacey Hirata and illustrated by Jerome Lu, turns up the cuteness with chibi versions of all the animals. Both books include a section at the back matching birth years to the various animals—but remember, since Chinese New Year doesn’t coincide with the solar calendar, if your birthday is in January or February you should check the date of Chinese New Year in your birth year to be sure.

Jade Stars plush snake
Mmmmm, snake. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Great Race is published by Mini Magellan, a company that’s putting a modern look on some ancient tales. This book is the first in their Jade Stars line, and they’re planning a line of plush animals to go along with the stories. So far they’ve got the snake, horse, and sheep. My baby girl (who’s a snake herself) likes the snake.

Finally, for the slightly older crowd, the first Asian American superhero!

The Shadow Hero

Back in the 1940s, a Chinese American cartoonist named Chu Hing created a superhero named the Green Turtle. As rumor has it, Hing wanted his hero to be Chinese, but the publisher didn’t think it would sell. What is true is that you never actually see the Green Turtle’s face—it’s always obscured by his arm, or the cape, or he has his back to you.

Fast forward seventy years. Gene Luen Yang (creator of American Born Chinese and the fantastic Boxers & Saints) and Sonny Liew (creator of Malinky Robot and a comics adaptation of Sense and Sensibility) teamed up to tell the origin story of the Green Turtle, filling in some gaps and adding their own style. In their version, The Shadow Hero, the Green Turtle is definitely Chinese—though others around him don’t expect that of a costumed superhero. The story offers a peek at life in Chinatown in the 1930s with Yang’s quirky humor and Liew’s excellent drawings.

You can buy individual issues of The Shadow Hero now, or wait for the collected trade paperback from First Second Books in July—the trade paperback also explains the story of the original Green Turtle and includes his first adventure from Blazing Comics.

Happy Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month!

Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of these books.

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