Children’s Books Set in South and Southeast Asia
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Chapter Books Set in Pakistan
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
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.
Iqbal 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
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.
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
Reedy’s well-written narrative shows Zulaikha’s life in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. A
Chapter Books Set in India
Find picture books set in India here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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