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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Qu

APALA Picture Book Award Winners and Honorees

Updated: Jan 25


APALA Picture Book Award Winners and Honorees

There are a lot of ways to find great, new books. Follow bookstgramers (like me, @AsianStoriesLibrary), peruse the shelves of your local library, throw keywords at the Internet, etc.. Another really good way, though, is to find organizations that give out literature awards and check out their winners.


The APALA (Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association) "is a professional library organization dedicated to cultivating Asian Pacific American leadership through mentorship and professional engagement, advancing social justice, and providing opportunities for dialogue and networking to promote the needs of APA professionals and those who serve APA communities." (APALA Mission).


APALA Award for Literature

Each year, the APALA honors books about Asian/Pacific Americans through their Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. They select winners and honorees in five categories: Picture Books, Children's Literature, Youth Literature, Adult Non-Fiction, and Adult Fiction. Winners and honorees are listed on their website going back to 2001. I've pulled the Picture Book winners and honorees from just the past ten years for this book list.


Shop this list on Bookshop or Amazon.


Jump to Book:


 

2023 - 2024 Winner: The Truth About Dragons

2023 - 2024 Winner: The Truth About Dragons

Author: Julie Leung (@jleungbooks)

Illustrator: Hanna Cha (@hannayoonicha)


Brought to life with lavish and ornate illustrations, The Truth About Dragons follows a young child on a journey guided by his mother's bedtime storytelling. He quests into two very different forests, as his two grandmothers help him discover two different, but equally enchanting, truths about dragons.


Eastern and Western mythologies coexist and enrich each other in this warm celebration of mixed cultural identity.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2023 - 2024 Honor: Finding Papa

2023 - 2024 Honor: Finding Papa

Author: Angela Pham Krans (@angela.pham.krans)

Illustrator: Thi Bui (@teabuoy)


Little Mai and her Papa love to play the crocodile chomp, chomp game together, but one day Papa leaves and doesn't come back. Mama explains that he is looking for a new home for them, and they exchange letters while he is away. One night, Mama says it is time to find Papa, so Mai and Mama leave everything they know behind - their pet chicken, Mai's favorite mango tree, and their home - to embark on a dangerous journey to reunite with him. They travel by land and sea, facing numerous hardships along the way. After a stay at a refugee camp, they travel to America where they meet an unfamiliar man. At least he seems unfamiliar until he kneels and says, “Chomp! Chomp!” It turns out to be Papa, and they are joyfully reunited at last.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2022 - 2023 Winner: From the Tops of the Trees

2022 - 2023 Winner: From the Tops of the Trees

Author: Kao Kalia Yang (@kaokaliayang)

Illustrator: Rachel Wada (@rachelwada)


Young Kalia has never known life beyond the fences of the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. The Thai camp holds many thousands of Hmong families who fled in the aftermath of the little-known Secret War in Laos that was waged during America's Vietnam War. For Kalia and her cousins, life isn't always easy, but they still find ways to play, racing with chickens and riding a beloved pet dog.


Just four years old, Kalia is still figuring out her place in the world. When she asks what is beyond the fence, at first her father has no answers for her. But on the following day, he leads her to the tallest tree in the camp and, secure in her father's arms, Kalia sees the spread of a world beyond.

Kao Kalia Yang's sensitive prose and Rachel Wada's evocative illustrations bring to life this tender true story of the love between a father and a daughter.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2022 - 2023 Honor: Nana, Nenek & Nina

2022 - 2023 Honor: Nana, Nenek & Nina

Author / Illustrator: Liza Ferneyhough (@dearliza.dearliza)


Nina lives in San Francisco with her parents, and she loves visiting her two grandmas across the world. Follow Nina as her two trips unfold side by side: Young readers will love poring over the details of what is the same and what is different at Nana’s home in England and at Nenek’s home in Malaysia. In each place, Nina wears different clothes, plays different games, and eats different food. But so much about visiting Nana and Nenek is the same, from warm hugs at the airport to beach days and bedtime snuggles. Nina is equally at home across the world in Malaysia or England, and both of her grandmas love her to California and back. (Description from Amazon)


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2021 - 2022 Winner: Watercress

2021 - 2022 Winner: Watercress

Author: Andrea Wang (@andreawhywang)

Illustrator: Jason Chin (@authorjasonchin)


In this 1970s rural Ohio narrative based on the author's experiences, a Chinese-American family collects watercress from a roadside ditch. The protagonist initially refuses the dinner, feeling ashamed of their modest lifestyle. To provide perspective, the mother shares a photo of her family during China's Great Famine. The emotional illustrations depict the impact of the famine, leading the protagonist to reconsider and appreciate the gathered watercress. The story concludes with the family enjoying dinner, creating a poignant contrast to the mother's past hardships.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2021 - 2022 Honor: A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

2021 - 2022 Honor: A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi

Author / Illustrator: James Yang (@yangblog)


“A Boy Named Isamu” portrays the story of Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), a critically acclaimed Japanese American sculptor. The book describes Isamu's exploration of nature through the eyes of a child, in a simple yet impactful manner. In the book, a young Isamu wanders away from his mother in the busy market to find a quieter place. The young boy examines the different materials in and around the market, a nearby forest, and the ocean. Upon returning home, Isamu's bedroom is filled with the treasures he found during his adventure - rocks, sea shells, sticks, and grasses - as he continues to study them.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2020 - 2021 Winner: Paper Son:

The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist

2020 - 2021 Winner: Paper Son:   The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist

Author: Julie Leung (@jleungbooks)

Illustrator: Chris Sasaki (@christopher_sasaki)


Tyrus Wong was born Wong Geng Yeo and came to America with his father in 1919. Because of the immigration law known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, meant to prevent most Chinese immigration, Tyrus and his father came under the pretense of being a merchant and his son.


Tyrus developed an interest in art, studying both Western and Chinese styles. Eventually he landed a job working as an in-betweener at Walt Disney Studios. His first major contribution was when his landscapes were used as the basis for Bambi. He later worked for Warner Brothers Studios.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2020 - 2021 Honor: Danbi Leads the School Parade

2020 - 2021 Honor: Danbi Leads the School Parade

Author / Illustrator: Anna Kim (@artbyannakim)


Danbi’s family moves from Korea to America. Danbi is nervous about her first day of school because she doesn’t understand the language, games, or dances. She begins to feel isolated, but during lunch she has an idea that helps her connect with her fellow students - a parade! At the end of the day, Danbi makes a new friend and learns how to write her name in soft, round letters.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2019 - 2020 Winner: Queen of Physics:

How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

2019 - 2020 Winner: Queen of Physics:   How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom

Author: Theresa Robeson (@tmrobeson)

Illustrator: Rebecca Huang


“Queen of Physics” is an inspiring story about the life and achievements of Wu Chien Shiung. The author effectively portrays Wu's passion for physics and how her family's support enabled her to excel despite being a girl in a time when education for women in China was rare. After completing university in China, Wu crossed the ocean to continue her study of physics at American universities. The book highlights Wu's groundbreaking work on beta decay, which was pivotal in the scientific community, leading to two male physicists winning the Nobel Prize.


Despite the discrimination she faced due to her gender and race, Wu persevered and continued her incredible work, earning the moniker “Queen of Physics”. She was the first woman and first Chinese woman to achieve many honors, including being elected president of the American Physical Society in 1975. Her story serves as a testament to the power of resilience and determination. It's amazing how much Wu Chien Shiung accomplished, despite the prejudice she faced, because her family believed in her and she always kept pushing forward.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2019 - 2020 Honor: Bilal Cooks Daal

2019 - 2020 Honor: Bilal Cooks Daal

Author: Aisha Saeed (@aishacs)

Illustrator: Anoosha Syed (@anooshadraws)


Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does? (Description from Amazon)


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2018 - 2019 Winner: Drawn Together

2018 - 2019 Winner: Drawn Together

Author: Minh Lê (@bottomshelfbks)

Illustrator: Dan Santat (@dsantat)


In "Drawn Together," a young boy is dropped off at his grandfather's house for the day, but it seems like they have nothing in common. They don't speak the same language, and their lunch choices couldn't be more different. However, when the boy starts to draw, he discovers a shared love of art with his grandfather. The two bond though the medium, which allows them to express the feelings they can’t put into words.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2018 - 2019 Honor: Grandmother's Visit

2018 - 2019 Honor: Grandmother's Visit

Author: Betty Quan

Illustrator: Carmen Mok (@carmenmokstudio)


"Grandmother's Visit" is a touching tale of love, loss, and remembrance. Grace and her grandmother share a close bond filled with rice-cooking lessons, stories of her grandmother's childhood in China, and daily walks to school. When her grandmother's health deteriorates and she passes away, Grace grapples with grief. As Grace lies awake at night, her thoughts filled with her grandmother, something compels her towards Grandmother's room for a final goodbye.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2017 - 2018 Winner: A Different Pond

2017 - 2018 Winner: A Different Pond

Author: Bao Phi

Illustrator: Thi Bui (@teabuoy)


"A Different Pond" is a Caldecott Honor (among other awards) winning picture book that follows a young boy and his father on an early morning fishing trip. The story highlights the challenges faced by the boy's Vietnamese immigrant parents, who work hard to provide for their family. The fishing trip is not just a recreational activity, but a means to put food on the table. During the trip, the father shares memories of fishing with his brother in Vietnam before he lost him in the war, prompting the boy to ponder about his father's past and that different pond on the other side of the world.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2017 - 2018 Honor: The Nian Monster

2017 - 2018 Honor: The Nian Monster

Author: Andrea Wang (@andreawhywang)

Illustrator: Alina Chau (@alinachau)


Xingling and her Popo (grandmother) are preparing for Lunar New Year. Popo is out running last minute errands when the Nian monster appears and threatens to eat Xingling. Using some clever thinking, she tricks Nian by suggesting he eat longevity noodles, fish, and rice cake first. This prevents him from devouring her and the city for several days. On New Year’s Eve, Xingling has one final trick up her sleeve to save the city from Nian, at least for this year!


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2016 - 2017 Winner: Puddle

2016 - 2017 Winner: Puddle

Author / Illustrator: Hyewon Yum (@yumhyewon)


"Puddle" is a delightful book that celebrates creativity, family bonds, and the magic of rainy days. Billy initially feels grumpy due to the rainy weather, believing there is nothing to do. However, his resourceful mom attempts to lift his spirits by suggesting they draw together. Initially Billy declines, but he eventually succumbs to his curiosity and joins his mom in creating art inspired by the rainstorm outside. Unable to resist the temptation, Billy jumps in a rain puddle and gets his mom soaked. But it’s OK because it’s just a drawing. Inspired by their artwork, Billy and his mom decide to venture outside for a walk, where the young boy spots a real puddle. What will happen next?


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2015 - 2016 Winner: Juna's Jar

2015 - 2016 Winner: Juna's Jar

Author: Jane Bahk

Illustrator: Felicia Hoshino (@felishino_illustration)


After Juna's best friend moves away, Juna, an imaginative Korean American girl, goes on magical adventures by way of her special kimchi jar.


Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together, and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector moves away without having a chance to say good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night. She plunges into the depths of the ocean, swings on vines through the jungle, and flies through the night sky in search of her friend. What Juna learns is that adventure -- and new friends -- can be found in the most unexpected places. (Description from Amazon)


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.



2014 - 2015 Winner: Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

2014 - 2015 Winner: Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Author: Chieri Uegaki

Illustrator: Qin Leng (@qinillustrations)


“Hana Hashimoto, sixth violin” is an empowering children's book that beautifully captures the journey of a young girl who dares to pursue her musical dreams. Hana Hashimoto has just started learning violin, but she’s determined to perform in the school talent show. Inspired by a summer visit to her Ojiichan, a professional violinist, Hana diligently practices, demonstrating the importance of dedication and perseverance. The night of the talent show, five other violinists perform before Hana, and her nerves almost get the best of her. Hana summons her courage and imagines the audience disappearing and only Ojiichan, her beloved grandfather, watching her performance.


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.



2014 - 2015 Honor: Father's Chinese Opera

2014 - 2015 Honor: Father's Chinese Opera

Author / Illustrator: Rich Lo


The Chinese opera is anything but boring. Songs, acrobatics, acting, and costumes make the opera a truly spectacular show to behold. Spending a summer backstage at his father’s Chinese opera, a young boy is instantly enamored with the performers and works hard to be a part of the show. Rehearsing the moves day and night with the show’s famous choreographer, the boy thinks he is soon ready to perform with the others. But the choreographer doesn’t agree. In fact, he laughs at the boy when asked to join the acrobats. Upset, the boy goes home to sulk. What will he do next? Will he give up on his dream, or will he persevere and work his way up in the show? (Description from Amazon)


Get it from Amazon.



2013 - 2014 Winner: Red Kite, Blue Kite

2013 - 2014 Winner: Red Kite, Blue Kite

Author: Ji-li Jiang

Illustrator: Greg Ruth


When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, fly kites from their roof and look down at the crowded city streets below, they feel free, like the kites. Baba loves telling Tai Shan stories while the kites--one red, and one blue--rise, dip, and soar together. Then, a bad time comes. People wearing red armbands shut down the schools, smash store signs, and search houses. Baba is sent away, and Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Though father and son are far apart, they have a secret way of staying close. Every day they greet each other by flying their kites—one red, and one blue—until Baba can be free again, like the kites.



Inspired by the dark time of the Cultural Revolution in China, this is a soaring tale of hope that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to love from a distance. (Description from Amazon)


Get it from Amazon.



2013 - 2014 Honor: Barbed Wire Baseball

2013 - 2014 Honor: Barbed Wire Baseball

Author: Marissa Moss (@marissamossauthor)

Illustrator: Yuko Shimizu (@yukoart)


Based on the life of Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura, the father of Japanese-American baseball, “Barbed Wire Baseball” is a story of hope and resilience. Zeni loved baseball and became both a successful player and manager. But when the US entered WWII and Executive Order 9066 was signed, Zeni and his family were among the 120,000 American citizens of Japanese descent who were wrongfully relocated and incarcerated.


Despite his situation, Zeni determined to continue doing what he loved. While imprisoned, Zeni and his sons carefully created a clear and level surface, planted grass, and built bleachers, working until they’d created a suitable baseball field. Zeni hits the first home run on the field and although “he knew he was still behind a barbed wire fence, […] he felt completely free, as airy and light as the ball he had sent flying.”


Get it from Bookshop or Amazon.


Read my full review with additional pictures on Instagram.




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