Vietnamese American Picture Books

When I was little, I wished I had books with characters who looked like me, shared my family’s experiences, and whose stories would be similar…

When I was little, I wished I had books with characters who looked like me, shared my family’s experiences, and whose stories would be similar to mine. Now that I’m a mother, I am so incredibly proud that these Vietnamese American Picture Books are now in bookstores and libraries around the world.

Here is a list of my must-have Vietnamese American picture books!

Disclosure: Some links are affiliated, meaning that I will earn a commission if you click through the links and make a purchase.

1. WISHES by Mượn Thị Văn and illustrated by Victo Ngai- Inspired by the life of the author, this poetically sparse story follows a young girl who must leave their life behind to find a new life filled with new beginnings and wishes for a brighter future.

2.  WHERE WILDFLOWERS GROW by Hà Dinh & Illustrated by Bao Luu- Today Hà and her Vietnamese family are moving from a refugee camp in the Philippines to America and everyone is excited except for Hà .  She doesn’t want to leave her best friend and teacher but learns that like wildflowers, she can keep growing no matter where she goes.

3.  FINDING PAPA by Angela Pham Krans & Illustrated by Thi Bui- Inspired by the author’s experience, Mai and her mother embark on a dangerous journey to find Papa who had left Vietnam to find freedom and a better life in America for their family.  Along the way, they encounter help and refuge that lead them to papa in their new home.

4. ÁNH’S NEW WORD: A STORY ABOUT LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE by Hanh Bui and Illustrated by Bao Luu- Ánh lives in a Vietnamese refugee camp with her grandma after leaving Vietnam. Feeling lost in her new temporary home and in translation, Ánh surprisingly finds a picture of an animal on a shirt that her kind teacher has been teaching her. Excited to share the new word that she has learned in English, Ánh shows children that they too can show courage and learn a new language one word at a time.

5. DRAWN TOGETHER by Minh Le & Illustrated by Dan Santat- A boy visits his grandfather but is unable to speak the same language as his grandfather.  After feeling confused and frustrated because of their lack of communication, they find a way to speak to each other through drawing.

6. I AM BOTH: A VIETNAMESE REFUGEE STORY by Kerisa Greene- Hương enjoys her life in Saigon then one day, her family decides to take the last flight out of the city to America. In her new home, she makes new friends and learns that home and the traditions that are special to her from home can be found no matter where she is in the world.

7. THE YELLOW AO DAI – by Hanh Bui & Illustrated by Minnie Phan- International Day is coming up at Naliah’s school and she can’t wait to perform a traditional Vietnamese Fan Dance in her ao dai. After realizing that she no longer fits her ao dai, she tries on a beautiful yellow ao dai that belongs to her grandmother in her mom’s closet and accidentally rips it.   With the help of her mom, she patches it up and learns about her grandmother’s legacy and how to make old traditions her own.

8. GIBBERISH by Young Vo- Dat is new to the country with his mom and he feels lost and scared at school. All the children seem to know how to speak English, except him. Will he be able to find a way to communicate and enjoy going to school without speaking the new language?

9.  WORDS BETWEEN US by Angela Pham Kran and illustrated by Dung Ho- Felix’s grandma moves in with him and his family from Vietnam but she doesn’t know English and he doesn’t know Vietnamese. When grandma gets lost, Felix comes up with a plan to teach her English as the bond over flashcards and words that help bond them together.

10. A DIFFERENT POND by Bao Phi & Illustrated by Thi Bui- Bao and his father go fishing in the early hours of the morning at a pond in Minnesota to provide their family additional food.  At the pond, Bao’s father shares stories of the pond in Vietnam that their family left behind to find a better life in America.

11. SIMONE by Viet Thanh Nguyen and illustrated by Minnie Phan- A wildfire caused Simone and her family to evacuate their house to a nearby gym at a high school. Along the way, Simone and her mom see firefighters fight the fires and it reminds her mom of when she had to leave her home in Viet Nam due to a flood. Using her art, Simone works with a friend to create a piece of work that reminds them that even as kids, they too can create a more sustainable future for everyone.

12. LAST FLIGHT by Kristen Mai Giang and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk- Based on the author’s life, Kristen Giang is an eight-year-old girl who takes the last flight out of Vietnam with her family before the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Follow their journey as Kristen pretends to be space explorers with her sister to shield themselves from tear gas and find comfort from the stuffed animal that they were able to fit into their suitcase to find a new life in America.

13. A HUNDRED YEARS OF HAPPINESS by Thanhhà Lai and Nguyen Quang and illustrated by Kim Lien – An’s grandma, Bà is having a hard time remember memories that they share. To help, An and her grandpa, Ông decide to plant seeds that yield the gấc fruit to make her favorite dish, xôi gấc that they enjoyed during their wedding day many years ago. An hopes that by eating her xôi gấc, Bà will remember her wedding wish of a hundred years of happiness.

14. DUCK FOR TURKEY DAY by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kathryn Jules- Thanksgiving is approaching, but Tuyet doesn’t celebrate with turkey. Instead, she eats duck with her family for Thanksgiving and is afraid that she is the only person in class who doesn’t eat the traditional food. When the class shares that everyone actually eats something different to give thanks with their family, she realizes that everyone has more in common than they think.

15. THE DOLL by Nhung N. Tran-Davis and illustrated by Ravy Puth- Inspired by the author’s life, a young girl receives a doll from a group of strangers who welcomed her and her family as they arrive from Vietnam to their new home. Decades later, the girl grows up and welcomes another group of refugees who have come to find safety and a new life. Among the refugees, she sees a little girl, to whom she gives her doll to.

16. THAO by Thao Lam- Thao is new to the country and whose name is not like any of her classmates. While there are only four letters in her name, her classmates find it hard to say her name correctly and even makes fun of it and her. Feeling conscious, she decides to change it to another name, possibly, Jennifer. During lunch, she opens up her lunchbox and finds her favorite dish, Vietnamese spring rolls, gỏi cuốn, which makes her feel comforted and brave enough to simply be herself.

17. MY FOOTPRINTS by Bao Phi and illustrated by Ngoc Diep Barbara- Thuy feels twice as a different from other kids. She’s Vietnamese American and has two moms. Sad and angered from the taunting of other children at school, she finds comfort in her imagination as she imagines footprints of different creatures in the snow and comes home into her moms’ loving arms. With her family, she realizes that like the creatures that she imagines, she too, is beautiful and powerful.

If you need Asian American activities for your classroom, check out the resources below.