The best middle-grade books featuring Asian-American/Canadian kids by Asian-American/Canadian authors

Who am I?

I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, a child of immigrant parents, and I’ve always been curious about other cultures and far-off places. Moving to Hong Kong gave me the chance to explore my Chinese cultural roots and learn the language. I spent 14 very happy years in Hong Kong and my experiences there were the inspiration for my middle-grade debut, The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei. Like the character Holly-Mei, I love dumplings, bubble tea, and field hockey. The books I chose are ones that reflect my experience of being born and raised in a new world.


I wrote...

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei

By Christina Matula,

Book cover of The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei

What is my book about?

Holly-Mei Jones couldn’t be more excited about moving to Hong Kong for her mother’s new job. Her new school is right on the beach and her family’s apartment is beyond beautiful. Everything is going to be perfect... right?

Maybe not. It feels like everywhere she turns, there are new rules to follow and expectations to meet. On top of that, the most popular girl in her grade is quickly becoming a frenemy. And without the guidance of her loving Taiwanese grandmother, Ah-ma, who stayed behind in Toronto, Holly-Mei just can’t seem to get it right. It will take all of Holly-Mei’s determination and sparkle (and maybe even a tiny bit of stubbornness) to get through seventh grade and turn her life in Hong Kong into the ultimate adventure!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Many Meanings of Meilan

Christina Matula Why did I love this book?

This story made me reflect on and appreciate the power of names. Twelve-year-old Meilan moves with her family from Boston’s Chinatown to Redbud, Ohio for a fresh start. When the principal insists on changing her name to Melanie, she starts to question her name and its meaning. Her nickname, Lan, has many meanings in Chinese and she tries to fit into all of them: basket – to carry the burden of her family’s stress; blue – to reflect her mood; and mist – to be invisible at school; before cherishing her name’s true meaning: beautiful orchid.

By Andrea Wang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Many Meanings of Meilan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

"The little girl I was would have been thrilled to encounter Meilan... having found a character who embraces the complexity of being both Chinese and American, I would have been able to echo her words: 'I am not alone.'"
-New York Times Book Review by Jean Kwok

A family feud before the start of seventh grade propels Meilan from Boston's Chinatown to rural Ohio, where she must tap into her inner strength and sense of justice to make a new place for herself in this resonant debut.

Meilan Hua's world is made up of a few key ingredients: her family's…


Book cover of Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

Christina Matula Why did I love this book?

Yumi is a girl trying to both please her Korean parents and live her own dream – that of attending comedy camp and becoming a stand-up comedian. I thought it was a fresh and funny take on the balancing act that many children of immigrants feel they must undertake. It made me think of the unspoken pressure I felt to study Science at university and how years later I was finally able to go back and study what interested me (creative writing!).

By Jessica Kim,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Stand Up, Yumi Chung! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her "Yu-MEAT" because she smells like her family's Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she's reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in…


Book cover of When You Trap a Tiger

Christina Matula Why did I love this book?

This was a touching book about a mixed Korean girl who tries to help her sick grandmother, Halmoni, get better through the power of stories. With a bit of magical realism and Korean folklore brought to life, Lily finds her own voice (so she is no longer what she describes as a “QAG – quiet Asian girl”) and begins to understand her own ancestry. Like Lily, I found a connection to my heritage via stories and folklore.

By Tae Keller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When You Trap a Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NEWBERY MEDAL • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN AWARD FOR CHILDREN'S LITERATURE
 
Would you make a deal with a magical tiger? This uplifting story brings Korean folklore to life as a girl goes on a quest to unlock the power of stories and save her grandmother.

Some stories refuse to stay bottled up...

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni's Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now…


Book cover of Hello, Universe

Christina Matula Why did I love this book?

Virgil is a quiet Filipino boy trapped in a well by the class bully. Helped by his friends – each with their own finely layered story – Virgil not only gets rescued, but also finds his inner voice. I loved the effortless diversity of the characters, which wasn’t the basis of the story, but truly enriched it.

By Erin Entrada Kelly, Isabel Roxas (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hello, Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Newbery Medal

"A charming, intriguingly plotted novel."-Washington Post

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly's Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships.

Told from four intertwining points of view-two boys and two girls-the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero). "Readers will be instantly engrossed in this relatable neighborhood adventure and its eclectic cast of misfits."-Booklist

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and…


Book cover of Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl

Christina Matula Why did I love this book?

This book takes young Shinji Takahashi from the comfort of his contemporary life and throws him into the world of ancient Mesoamerican culture, an evil corporation, and the illustrious Society of Explorers and Adventurers. I liked that Shinji is of Japanese heritage (and his ancestors’ role as guardians of a temple in Hokkaido were what drew him into this adventure) but it wasn’t the basis for his heroism in this fun-filled adventure.

By Julie Kagawa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

One of the most beloved stories from The Walt Disney Parks is now a romping middle grade adventure series! High-tech wizardry, old world legends and a little bit of Disney magic all shine through in Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl, the first book in the Society of Explorers and Adventurers series from renowned best-selling author, Julie Kagawa.

"One cannot fight destiny, boy. Even if one did not ask for it. The idol calls for you, and you must answer its call..."

Shinji Takahashi is just an ordinary kid. An ordinary homeschooled smart-alecky kid being raised by his…


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Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

Book cover of Too Good

Carol Moreira Author Of Riptides

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by the relationship of humanity to nature. When I was young, we moved all the time – my dad was in the military and we moved to a new base every 18 months. All those military bases were located in the British countryside and, in the absence of other forms of continuity, nature became like a best friend. I still walk every day. Reconnecting with trees, grass, the sounds of birds, centres and energizes me. I get my best ideas when walking. But, of course, nature is also threatening – Covid and cancer are natural. I’m fascinated by that juxtaposition and always trying to reflect it in my work.  

Carol's book list on the beauty and threat of the natural world

What is my book about?

This is a steamy tale of vulnerability and betrayal. Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend's attractive husband, David.

Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her admiration for his wife, Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn to Grace's man, unheeding of the dangers.

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

What is this book about?

Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend’s attractive husband David. The sight of his lean gardener’s body working in the hospice grounds fills her with longing and makes her forget the sadness in both the hospice and her marriage.
Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her friendship and admiration for his wife Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn into a passionate romance with Grace’s man unheeding of the…


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