Asia Book List – Living Books For Kids

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Asian History in the Curriculum

Asian history is covered each year throughout the Australian Curriculum. At My Homeschool we follow the Australian curriculum covering Ancient China in Year 7 and Japanese and Mongol History in Year 8.


Asia – A Rookie Geography – Allan Fowler

A large print photographic book covering various aspects of Asia: landscapes, people, some animals and landmarks. Ages 5 – 8 yrs

Asia Book List – Ancient China 2000BC to 1200AD

Life in Ancient China by Paul Challen – Picture Book

Ancient China (See through History) by Brian Williams (OOP)

The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warrior by Jane O’Conner

The Year of Tiger by Alison Lloyd – Historical Fiction (206 BC – 220 AD)

In ancient China, the Great Wall is crumbling on the edge of the Han Empire. In the wall’s shadow, 12-year-old Hu is starving. On the other side of the wall, China’s enemies are gathering strength.

A Treasury of Chinese Folk Tales by Shelly Fu

The Magic Horse of Han Gan by Chen Jiang Hong (OOP) Picture Book

Dragon Keeper by Carol Wilkinson (Fantasy Fiction set in Han Dynasty Ancient China) Print version out of print but ebook on Bolinda.

It is a fantasy novel about a young slave girl who becomes a dragon’s friend. It won CBCA award in 2004. It is scary in places and has an attempted child sacrifice. An adventurous tale for the young girl that speaks about friendship.

The Silk Route: 7000 miles of History by John. S. Major (Picture Book)

The Silk Route traces the early history of the silk trade–from the mulberry groves of China to the marketplace in Byzantium–and explores how two of the world’s greatest empires were brought together, forever opening the channels of commerce between East and West.

Chinese History Stories: Stories from the Zhou Dynasty, 1122-221 BC

The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia.

The Ch’i-Lin Purse: A Collection of Ancient Chinese Stories – Linda Fang

A wonderful collection of nine ancient Chinese stories, filled with warmth and kindness. Ages 7 – 13 yrs

Attila the Hun – Bonnie Harvey
His is a great overview of how a wild barbarian learnt the lessons of Rome so that he could strike some crushing blows at their Empire. Excellent illustrations. One of the great leaders of the ancient world. Pb Ages 8 — 16 yrs

The Mongol Expansion

Genghis Khan – Brenda Lange
The biography of a medieval world leader, whose kingdom was larger than that of Alexander the Great. Wonderful historic and modern pictures. Ages 10 — 18 yrs.

The Great Wall of China -Leonard Everett Fisher
Feverishly the Chinese built their great wall, the only hope of keeping out the barbarian Mongols in the north. An exciting pictorial account of the building of this wonder. Ages 5 — 10 yrs.

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade – Diane Lee Wilson
Oyuna, a Mongolian girl with a crippled foot, living on the Steppes with her tribe at the time Kublai Khan ruled Mongolia and northern China (1200’s), dreams of riding a swift horse in the race at Karakorum, a seeming impossibility for a girl and a cripple. Her destiny takes her to the court of the Khan and to a happy ending. Amazing look at life in the Mongolian tribes, the importance of the horse to them and the power of Kublai Khan. Ages 11 -16 yrs

Note: Part of Mongolian life included the seers or shamans. They are included in the story (although they are referred to as ‘dangerous’ and clearly outside of the life of ordinary people). A shamaness develops a herbal cure for the Khan’s sick horses.

Asia booklist for kids

Asia Book List – China

The Rise of Modern China by Tony Allan (OOP)

The struggle between the Nationalist and the Communists and how they united to fight Japan. – Non fiction – Ages 12 and up

The Man who Changed the World: The Story of Sun Yat Sen by Pearl Buck (OOP)

An account of China’s history that led to Communism. – Non fiction -Ages 12 and up

Sun Yat Sen by Geoffrey Barlow (OOP)

A biography of this man and his heritage. – Non fiction -Ages 8 and up

The Royal Diaries: Lady of Ch’iao – Laurence Yep

Set in Southern China in 531 AD, this is a fictionalised diary based on the facts known about this princess of the (Southern) Hsien Chinese. The Chinese historian, Wei Chien, recorded that this princess commanded armies and developed military strategies. Ages 12 – 16 yr

The Heavenly Man – Paul Hattaway

Chu Ju’s House – Gloria Whelan

Chu Ju is a brave Chinese girl from the provinces. When a sister is born, Chu Ju runs away from home, leaving her parents free to have a son if possible, to help on the farm. Her adventures lead to her working on a sampan on a great river, on a silkworm farm, in a rice paddy where she finds a happy, permanent home, and visiting the city. A moving look at different aspects of modern Chinese society. Five stars! Ages 8- 14 yrs

The Royal Diaries: Anacaona: Golden Flower of Haiti

A princess in 1490 when the Spaniards arrive. Ages 12 – 18 yrs

Chinese Cinderella – Adeline Yen Mah

This is an amazing true story set in South-East China in the mid 1900’s. The author’s mother dies and she is brought up largely unloved, despite her family’s wealth. Through the foreign concessions, Japanese rule, Chiang Kai Shek, the Communist Revolution and the family’s flight to British Hong Kong, Adeline’s hopes plummet, right up to a dramatic happy ending. The children’s version of Failing Leaves, this is a vivid portrayal of the human capacity for meanness, malice and love. And did you know that the Cinderella story we all know actually was a Chinese story to start with! Ages 14 – 18 yrs

The China Coin – Allan Baillie

A teenage girl goes with her Chinese mother back to China for a holiday after her father’s death. They tour the country looking for their ancestor village. This books takes you around modern China. It gives insight into the Chinese people during the massacre at Tiananmen square Beijing in 1989. This book is used as an HSC text. Ages 14 – 18 yrs.

Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told with Tangrams – Ann Tompert

Little Soo asks Grandfather Tang for a story. To tell it, he arranges tangram pieces which change shapes quick as a wink as it progresses. Ingenious. The last page shows a tangram square you can make, and then you can make the figures from the story also. Ages 6 – I I yrs

Red Scarf Girl – Ji Li Jiang

Mao’s Last Dancer – Li Cunxin

Under Chairman Mao’s reign, the author is chosen from a farm commune to train in Beijing as a ballet dancer. Under a gruelling regime of exercise, he succeeds and eventually defects to the West. He now lives in Australia. This is a classic and moving rags to riches story. Adapted for younger readers, because a little of the content in the original version was unsuitable. Ages 12. 17 yrs

Asia Book List – India

Ghandi: A Photographic Story of a Life by Amy Pastan

A DK biography of the “Father of India”. Ages 12 and up

The Royal Diaries Jahanara: Princess of Princesses

A story about the childhood of an Indian Princess – not American Indian. Ages 11 — 16 yrs

Homeless Bird – Gloria Whelan

A young girl in an arranged marriage in India. Her husband dies within days of their wedding and the girl becomes a household servant to the husband’s family – as is not uncommon. eventually thrown out, she goes to a refuge and rebuilds her life. The plight of young widows in India. Simply wonderful story. Ages 10 — 17 yrs

Daughter of the Mountains – Louise Rankin

Momo has always wanted a Lhasa terrierv – a dog like the ones the Tibetan Buddhist priests hold sacred in their temples. When a trader brings Pempa to her parents’ teahouse, Momo’s dream comes true. Then a band of robbers steals the valuable dog, and to recover him, Momo must make a dangerous journey from Tibet right through India to Calcutta to find him. Newbery Honor Book. Ages 7 —14 yrs

Amy Carmichael: Let the Little Children Come – Lois Hoadley Dick

The story of Amy Carmicheal is very compelling. She is a missionary women who left her home in Ireland to become a mother to many orphans.

The Hidden Jewel – Dave & Neta Jackson (OOP)

A fictionalised story drawing from the life of Amy Carmichael. In the early 1900’s Amy went to India and discovered girls being sold to the temples as infants, spending their lives in frightful servitude of the gods. She formed a refuge and a mission to rescue as many of these as she could, and raised them to know and love the true God who valued them. Wonderful story for younger children whom the more sinister aspects of her rescues may frighten. Ages 8 – I2 yrs

Teresa of Calcutta – Jeanene Watson

An informative and moving biography of Mother Teresa. Sower series. Ages 8 — 16 yrs

Asia Book List – South East Asia

Goodbye, Vietnam – Gloria Whelan

“When Mai’s family discovers that Vietnam government soldiers will soon apprehend her father and grandmother, the family slips away in the night. They trudge through the swamps of the Mekong Delta toward the sea. The gut-wrenching trip to Hong Kong is just another step toward a new life, which the family eventually finds. Whelan’s characters are distinctive, and her story is riveting, haunting, and memorable, reflecting the human virtues of determination, hope, love, and courage in the face of the most devastating of circumstances and injustices.” Booklist

Ages: 9 to 12

Killing Fields, Living Fields – Don Cormack

A history of the Cambodian church during communist rule and today.

Ages: 14 +

Little Brother – Alan Baillie

The shots were so close they seemed to explode inside Vithy’s head. He threw himself to the ground and clapped his hands over his ears . . . It’s Cambodia. The killing machine that is the Khmer Rouge is in power. Vithy has lost everyone and everything he loved – except his older brother, Mang. They’ve escaped from almost certain execution, but the brothers become separated and Vithy is left alone to ‘follow the lines . . . to the border’ – his brother’s last instructions. But which lines? Which border? A gripping tale of the journey of a boy alone and in danger as he tries to find his brother and escape to freedom.

Anna and the King – Margaret Landon

In the 1860’s the King of Siam (Thailand) hires an English governess to teach his children English manners and academics. Anna Leonowens encounters a society where all must grovel before the king whose word is law. She sees a part of society no Westerner had ever seen and develops an understanding of the kingdom and the king. Her work with the young prince hastens the modernisation of this kingdom. Incredible true story. Adapted for ages 8 – 14 yrs.

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam – Nhuong, Huynh Quang

The author lived in a hamlet in the central highlands of Vietnam, before the Vietnam War. Surrounded by jungle on one side and a river on the other, he and the villagers encountered animals daily–some easily tamed, others, like tigers and wild hogs, which were terribly dangerous. Full of life! Also available: the sequel with more wonderful tales from the author’s childhood: Water Buffalo Days. Ages 6 – 14 yrs

Torches of Joy – John Dekker

A chapter from a present-day book of Acts. In the 1960’s John and Helen Dekker go to bring the message of Christ to the Dani, stone age tribespeople hidden away in a remote part of Irian Jaya. A remarkable transformation takes place that could only be directed by the hand of God. Ages 8 yrs – adult

Asia Book List – Japan

Japan and the Shoguns

Commodore Perry and the Land of the Shoguns: 

We loved this book. Although based in the 19th century it still gives you a feel for the Shoguns and how they preserved their culture. This Newbery Honor Book relates how in 1853 American Commodore Matthew Perry and his troops sailed to Japan–a land where few people even knew America existed–bringing a new way of life and opening up the Land of the Rising Sun to the West. Full colour. We really like this book.

The Samurai’s Tale By Erik Christian Haugaard

In turbulent sixteenth-century Japan, orphaned Taro is taken in by a general serving the great warlord Takeda Shingen and grows up to become a samurai fighting for the enemies of his dead family.

Born in the Year of Courage by Emily Crofford (OOP)

Set in mid-1800’s a young fisherman is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan.

The Big Wave by Pearl Buck

Set in the beginning of the 20th century. Kino lives on a farm on the side of a mountain in Japan. His friend, Jiya, lives in a fishing village below. Everyone, including Kino and Jiya, has heard of the big wave. No one suspects it will wipe out the whole village and Jiya’s family, too. As Jiya struggles to overcome his sorrow, he understands it is in the presence of danger that one learns to be brave, and to appreciate how wonderful life can be.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes – Eleanor Coerr

Based on a true story, young Sadako faces the battle of her life when she is diagnosed with “atomic bomb disease” (leukemia). She turns to an old Japanese legend that says if she makes one thousand paper cranes she will be well. Ages 8 — 12 yrs

So Far from the Bamboo Grove – Yoko Kawashima Watkins

This is one of those very worthwhile books. The author as a young girl, and her family, flee North Korea and their beautiful home in a bamboo grove, ahead of the Russians and North Korean Communists, and the Americans too. Because they are Japanese and it is WW2. Unsupportive of their own government’s role in starting the war in the Pacific, they are nevertheless caught up in the results. They survive through amazing difficulties and make the trip across the strait to Japan where the struggle continues in a nation trying to rebuild itself. Presents a perspective of WW2 rarely seen. Riveting. Ages 13 -18 yrs

Shipwrecked – Rhoda Blumberg

A biography of Manjiro, the first Japanese person to visit the West, and an important advisor to the Japanese during Commodore Perry’s visit to Japan. Well illustrated with artifacts and realistic drawings. Ages 8 — 15 yrs

Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven – The Royal Diaries  by Kathryn Lasky (OOP) but I bought mine at Amazon for 20 cents (and paid $19 in postage).

The youth of the princess of Japan, 1858. A fictional diary based on known facts about Kazunomiya’s life. Ages 11 – 16 yrs

The Old Man Mad About Drawing – Francois Place

This biography brings to life the famous Japanese illustrator and printmaker, Hokusai, also the inventor of the manga. The Japanese-style coloured illustrations bring the reader into 19th century Edo. All of his techniques are explained and clearly illustrated in this special story. HB Ages 8 – 16 yrs

Asia Book List – Korea

A Single Shard – Linda Sue Park

A story of a twelfth century Korean boy who comes to work in a potters village. Sent to the king’s court to show his master’s pottery, little does he know that this difficult and dangerous journey will change his life forever. Newbery Award winner. Ages 8 – 15 yrs

Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi

It is 1945, and courageous ten-year-old Sookan and her family must endure the cruelties of the Japanese military occupying Korea. Police captain Narita does his best to destroy everything of value to the family, but he cannot break their spirit. Sookan’s father is with the resistance movement in Manchuria and her older brothers have been sent away to labor camps. Her mother is forced to supervise a sock factory and Sookan herself must wear a uniform and attend a Japanese school.

When My Name Was Keoko – Linda Sue Park

A true story of a Korean family living under the Japanese occupation before WW2. As Japan begins to lose the war, the Korean colony is affected. Sun Hee’s family members go to sacrifice much to keep the Korean flag flying in their hearts, while not offending their oppressors. Tells a lot about Korean customs and family life, from the point of view of 13 year old girl Kim Sun Hee, who had to take the Japanese name, Keoko, during the occupation. Inspirational. Ages 10 – 16 yrs

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