I Am Small
By Qin Leng

In Leng’s I Am Small, a little girl named Mimi gets confronted with the reality of being a little kid in a big big world and bemoans the problems that comes her way. Living in a world with the belief of the glass always being half empty, she wishes that everything around her didn’t always end up being bigger than what she is.

Everywhere that she goes, little Mimi worries about all of the things that she cannot do because of her size and complains about every circumstance that she is put in. Everything from being the smallest one in her family and to her peer and not being able to enjoy her trips to the bakery and supermarket to only being able to write on the bottom of the blackboard during class time, Mimi gets denied the opportunity to enjoy these moments that others are given.

As she gets consoled by her friends, they see her entire situation much more differently. They are able to point out that being the smallest doesn’t always have to be that bad and that there are also benefits that she has that many of them don’t. They acknowledge that she is at the front of the line at lunch, she wins at hide-and-seek, gets the biggest piece of the cake, and so much more.

Even though her friends try to convince her that there are advantages to being short, Mimi isn’t buying it. She believes that it will take more than words to convince her to change her mind on the issue. When she thinks all hope is lost, her father tells her that a special surprise is waiting for her at home. Upon her arrival, Mimi discovers something in her mother’s arms that will change her perspective for the better and in the process, she is also able to come to an acceptance with who she is as an individual.

Leng’s illustrations and use of water color compliment the tone of the story while also suggesting to readers the idea of how it’s okay to be different.

I Have a Little Lantern
Gan Dayong

Young children being afraid of the dark is not a new phenomenon that needs any introduction as they’re mutually connected to one another. In fact, fear is a natural and necessary emotion that sends us a warning signal to be careful and cautious.

In Dayong’s I Have a Little Lantern, this subject matter gets revisited as readers follow along on a journey of a young girl’s eventful trip to school and her encounter with the darkness. Holding a lantern in one hand and her belongings in the other, the young girl’s journey to school is anything but ordinary as she finds herself surrounded by the darkness of the night.

Determined to get to her destination, she notices that she is not alone in this adventure as she stumbles across creatures of all different shapes, sizes, and color. Many, if not all of whom happens to feel skeptical about what lurks within the darkness of the night. Fearing the existence of monsters following in their footsteps, the girl offers a solution to their problems by offering her lantern as a guide through the forest. Traveling in a pack, the young girl and her group of animals of both big and small felt the security that came over them of the glow from the lantern until an unexpected little guest spoils their whole idea.

As all of them saw the light from the lantern flicker away, the idea of the existence of monsters as just an illusion went with it. Are they going to be trapped in the forest forever? How are they going to see without the light from lantern? Are there really monsters hiding around every corner waiting to devour them?

When all hope seemed lost, an unexpected guest comes to the rescue and relieves them of their fears and anxieties of being trapped in the dark. Dayong’s story is one that teaches us not only to overcome our fears with bravery but also reveals to us the importance and benefits of friendship during difficult times.

Millie’s Missing Yawn
By You Jung Byun

Lying in bed next to her stuffed teddy bear, a young girl named Millie found herself stuck in a strange predicament that she needs help solving. Unable to fall asleep, she realizes that she is missing something on her to-do list before bedtime; one that she had done every single night before falling asleep.

With her eyes wide awake, Millie waste little time in trying to complete her nightly checklist before calling it a night. Having everything completed but failing to find her yawn, she spring out of bed with her teddy bear Milo to search for it. Where did her yawn go? Did someone take it from her? Is it gone forever?

Their quest to find her yawn begins in her home as she asks her dog about the whereabouts of her yawn. Having little to no luck, her quest proceeds to take her to many different famous sights in the world. From soaring high in a hot air balloon to sailing the high tides of the sea in a sailboat and eventually blasting off in a rocket ship to the moon, there is never a dull moment where she is not entertained by her surroundings.

Unable to find her yawn at every location and feeling discouraged from her unlucky adventures, she decides that it’s best for both of them to travel back home. As Millie lies in bed with her teddy bear Milo gazing up at the stars, she cannot think but to stay positive in the face of disappointment. In that moment, her face is overcome with all of the joy that she feels in having met all of the wonderful friends on their crazy adventure. Having found something meaningful to remember from her adventure, she is overwhelm with tiredness and immediately begins feeling something all too familiar build inside of her ready to be let out.

From start to finish, Byun’s story is one that will teach kids about the power of positivity and to always be relentless in their pursuit of their goals. Covered with beautiful artwork and simplistic text, this story is not one to sleep over quite literally and figuratively.

My City
By Joanne Liu

Curiosity is the name of the game as Liu transforms a young boy’s mundane stroll to the local mailbox into an artful delight. Set in the beautiful lights and sounds of the city life, Max is called to deliver a letter for his mother. With the letter in hand and a little determination, Max encounters many different aspects of street life weaving through traffic.

Hoping to make it back home in one piece, Max runs into city streets where he is surrounded by tall skyscrapers and people of many different backgrounds. Before long, he is caught window looking through a laundromat engulfed in a beautiful array of colors spinning round and round.

Not exactly the right place to deliver the letter, he moves on and finds himself being surrounded by a host of strangers waiting to cross the street. Being a dwarf amongst giants, he realizes that the strangers he encounters are too busy to enjoy the wonderful sites that the city has given them and are more concerned with the digital world at first glance.

Max quickly finds out that he is not the only one that has an appreciation for the city as he glares into a puddle of water and seeing his reflection. Moving along on his quest to locate the mailbox, Max bring his curiosity with him to other parts of the city that he has yet to lay his eyes upon.

From the moment he steps out the door to the moment he delivers the letter in a beautiful star darkened night, there is never a single dull moment in Max’s trip as he finds that there is excitement waiting for him around every street corner.

Told from a child’s perspective, Liu’s emphasis on focusing more towards the visual artistry aspect of a story rather than the textual celebrates the mundane of life in the city but also encourages everyone that there is more to life than meets the eye if we only take the time to see the world around us.

The Happiest Tree
By Hyeon-Ju Lee

Author and illustrator Lee introduces readers to the joys and pains that comes with growing up witnessed and told through the perspective of a gingko tree in her latest book.

Upon being uprooted and planted in a new setting next to a tall apartment building, the young gingko tree observes the different stages of life reflected through the revealing of the different levels of the building as the tree grows taller and taller with time.

Sometimes joyful, sometimes sad and lonely, the tree’s reflections of what is witnessed are simple yet philosophical. During the beginning stages, the small tree has its first encounter with the tall building and is only able to see what is on the ground level.

As time passes and the tree begins to grow taller and taller, the tree becomes a witness to the lives of the people who live in the apartments whose windows are closest to its many branches. In the process of meeting them, the tree empathizes with the others that it encounters and get an occasional pruning from the groundskeeper enabling the tree to reach its fullest potential.

From meeting a young family and being in the happiest times of its life at the lower level to having an encounter with a lonely elderly woman who only has photos of her family for company and eventually having grown to as tall as the building itself and feeling lonely and isolated seeing nothing but its own shadow, Lee’s book portrays the balance of life and aging in an optimistic way that readers of all ages will appreciate.

The artwork and colors used by Lee are also perfectly done and work in harmony with one another as readers see the emotions the tree feels through its life as colors matches the mood during a particular time period. Overall, Lee’s story is a direct parallel to that of human maturation and is also a call to the celebration and appreciation for community and all that life offers both good and bad.

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival
By Christina Matula

The idea of connecting people of different generations within a family through the use of cultural storytelling and sharing of food is celebrated in this story.

With hearts of thanksgiving and eyes for an appetite, an Asian family gathers around a dinner table to enjoy the traditions of the holiday known as the Mid-Autumn Festival. Sitting in her seat, the unnamed narrator’s face lights up in excitement waiting in anticipation to taste all of the different flavors and aromas from all the dishes that were prepared.

From the steamed fish to stir-fry broccoli to the orange persimmon, the girl had her mind wrapped around one dish that satisfied her sweet tooth. What could that be? Filled with a sweet filling and having a flaky crust, the mooncakes became the yearly star of the show during dessert. Upon cutting them into equal smaller portions, the young girl realizes that each mooncake came with a design she couldn’t quite figure out and convinces their grandmother to tell the story of the lady that is carved on each mooncake.

Sharing in the same excitement as the two little girls, the grandmother begins by telling them of the legend of a brave young archer Hou Yi and his wife Chang’e in Chinese culture. The grandmother explains to them how Hou Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine out of the ten suns in the sky that were scorching the Earth. As a reward for his bravery, Hou Yi was given an immortality potion by the Immortals.

Worried of it being in the hands of the wicked, the couple decides that it was best for them to store it away. One day when her husband is away, an evil thief with bad intentions arrives at her doorsteps planning to do no good. In desperation, Chang’e consumes the whole bottle and becomes immortal but is also transported to the moon for eternity at the same time.

Coming home and learning that his wife has gone away from him physically, he realizes that it is only fitting to honor her courage and bravery by taking her favorite foods and presenting them to her while gazing up at the moon as a showing of their love. As a result, the narrator is overjoyed in learning about her culture and reveals what she is thankful for this year and hopes in for the future.

A great selection for any young reader ready to discover more of their cultural background.

The Tiger Prince
By Hong, Chen Jiang

Two worlds collide in this epic Chinese folktale between man and beast where both sides are destined for revenge where the unlikely of heroes comes from the unlikely of places.

Set deep in the great forest a tigress has plotted to get even with her attackers after learning that the deaths of her cubs came at the hands of the hunters who had come from the villages afar. With her heart filled with rage and sadness, she pours out that feeling of anger and sorrow onto the people of the villages prompting the village officials to take action and come to a solution to this problem.

Before long, in a hasty decision, the King vows for vengeance for his people and summons an army of soldiers before ultimately getting his plans interrupted by an unlikely of person who has magical abilities. Not wanting to put more fuel onto the fire, the elderly women step up and suggests to the furious King the craziest idea of sending one of his own to ease the tension between the two sides.

Promising no harm will come to the little one if the King would go through with what the elderly woman had planned, both the King and the Queen agrees to go ahead with the plan. As the child disappears into the thick forest, the King can only watch as his only son travels into the world of the unknown. With the tigress nowhere in sight, Wen decides that it was best for the tigress to come to him instead and decides to sleep under a tree.

Spotting the kid all alone with her keen sense of smell, the tigress takes compassion over the little one and takes him as one of her own. Being welcomed as one of their own, the tigress teaches the boy everything that there is to know about life in the great forest until the King and his army comes back searching for his son. their relationship that is built between man and beast over time will not only break the circle of violence but also teach us a thing or two about forgiveness, motherly love, trust, and friendship.

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