Children’s Books Set in South and Southeast Asia

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Are you looking for children’s books for kids that take place in south and southeast Asia? Specifically Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Vietnam? Or you might be looking for stories in Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist countries. Find more about these countries and religions in this list of novels.


Isn’t it wonderful that we can connect to the larger world through stories? These will give your children a sense of place and culture, building empathy and understanding.


I hope you enjoy these wonderful middle grade books.

Chapter Books Set in Pakistan

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Amal Unbound
 by Aisha Saeed
Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord and is forced to leave her home and school to work in his home as a servant — indefinitely. She finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author deftly sets the scene of rural Pakistan. Readers will feel transported, feel the injustice personally, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Written in a diary as letters to her Mama, Nisha shares how her life is turned upside down when the British rule of India ends in 1947, splitting the country into two — the Muslim north where she lives becomes Pakistan and the Hindu south remains India. Even though Nisha’s mom was Muslim, Nisha, her brother, her doctor Papa and her grandmother are forced to leave their home in the north because they are Hindu. There’s violence everywhere; nowhere is safe, not even the trains. It’s a harrowing journey and confusing time. This story, filled with historical significance, is masterfully told. You won’t want to put this one down. (Set mostly in Pakistan; ends in India.)

Omar Rising
by Aisha Saeed
Incredible writing about one (scholarship) boy’s fight to stay in a prestigious private school, this is a superb book of determination, resiliency, and community set in Pakistan. Omar gets a scholarship to attend a prestigious Pakistani boarding school, a step in fulfilling his dream of becoming an astronomer and buying his mom a house. But, his hopes are dashed when he’s told that scholarship students must work, must get A+ grades, and can’t do sports or clubs. Omar is grateful for his new friends and teachers but he’s worried he’ll lose it all so he studies all the time, even asking for tutoring help from the strict headmaster. Despite his efforts, his grades aren’t enough and he gets kicked out. Until, his classmates support him with a walk-out and the headmaster gets the board to change their mind, and the rules.

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
by Francesco D’Adamo, translated by Ann Leonori
Based on a true story of children who are slaves in a rug factory, chained to their looms, Fatima has been working for Hussain Khan for three years before a boy named Iqbal arrives. Iqbal opens her eyes and the eyes of the other children to the truth that they would never be free unless they escape. Iqbal helps the children find hope for a better life.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)
by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
This is a powerful, well-told personal story from the wise, self-reflective perspective of Malala Yousafzai. Malala draws readers in with her accounts of daily life in Pakistan — the sounds, smells, sights, habits. We are hooked from the first page. As the stage is set, we learn how her country used to be and the fearful place it became with the Taliban’s influence. After she is shot for her blog writing in support of educating females, she’s taken to England for recovery and safety. The confusion and contrast between the countries and cultures really stand out during this time. But what is even more striking is Malala’s hope, positivity, and belief in what she stands for. You can’t read this book and not be changed by it.

Chapter Books Set in Afghanistan

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Shooting Kabul
by N.H. Senzai
Miriam gets left behind when her family flees Afghanistan. Her brother Fadi feels responsible and hopes to find Miriam using his photography by winning a photography competition that will take him to India. The author gives readers a strong sense of Afghani culture in this timely book.

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Words in the Dust
by Trent Reedy
Reedy’s well-written narrative shows Zulaikha’s life in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. A
Her cleft-palate makes others turn away in disgust, her father’s second wife treats her poorly.


Chapter Books Set in India

Find picture books set in India here.

chapter books from southeast and south Asia (INDIA)
The Bridge Home
by Padma Venkatraman
This is the story of sisters and brothers and resiliency and courage. Set in India, Viji writes this story as letters to her little sister Rukku who has intellectual disabilities. She recalls how the two of them ran away from an abusive father and sick mother to the big city where they meet two friendly brothers and live with them under a bridge, scrabbling to survive by collecting trash. After moving to a mosquito-filled cemetery filled, Rukku gets a terrible cough and fever. So does one of the brothers. What happens next almost destroys Viji. She wonders how prayers and faith can coexist with misery and pain. She wonders how life can move on. Ultimately, it is the kindness of her new family that helps her see more in the future than misery. It’s an honest, eye-opening story that reveals the plight of many homeless children in India and yet, finds a way to be hopeful, too.

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani Dasgupta (INDIA)
This story pulls you in from the first page –“I was done for — abandoned by my parents, covered in rakkosh snot, and about to be eaten. This was the worst birthday ever!” When her parents are kidnapped, 12-year old Kiranmala discovers that she’s a princess from another realm. But there’s a lot more she’ll learn — like who her real parents are (yikes!) and that demons can be your friends. You’ll love every second of this entertaining, Indian mythology adventure.


Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Tiger Boy
by Mitlali Perkins
Neel and his sister hope to find the reserve’s escaped tiger cub before Mr. Gupta who wants to kill the cub.


Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Homeless Bird
by Gloria Whelan
13-year-old Koly isn’t getting the arranged marriage she thought, she’s been sold. But she’s a survivor and with the help of strangers, she will find a way.



Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Bamboo People
by Mitlali Perkins
This coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Myanmar (formerly called Burma.) Narrated by two fifteen-year-old boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma, Bamboo People explores the nature of violence, power, and prejudice.


Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Mai visits Vietnam with her grandmother where she feels out of place in a country where she doesn’t know the country or the customs or her relatives. There she learns to appreciate the beauty of the culture and her heritage.

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Water Buffalo Days
by Huynh Quang Nhuong, illustrated by Jean Tseng and Mou-sien Tseng
You’ll experience life in the highlands of Vietnam people farm the land. Tank is Nhuong’s family’s new water buffalo. He becomes Nhuong’s best friend–defends him from bullies, crushes a threatening wild tiger, as well as plays a central role in the family’s farming success.


Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
Rickshaw Girl
by Mitlali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Naima’s a skilled artist in the traditional patterns (alpacas) but that won’t help her family with money. She decides to try dressing as a boy and driving her father’s rickshaw — but she wrecks it! Now the family really needs money so Naima finds a solution. She’ll work painting rickshaw decorations.


Children’s Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia

Children's Chapter Books Set in South and Southeast Asia








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