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The Best Southeast Asia Kids Books

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Titan and the Wild Boars
Written by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran & illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Don’t miss the breathtaking true story of the international rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand! One afternoon, eleven-year-old Titan, his friends from the Wild Boars soccer team, and their coach rode their bikes to explore local caves. They crawled through the narrow tunnels in the dark to reach the center of the cave. When they turned to go home, heavy rains had flooded the tunnel. They were trapped! With rising waters and monsoon season upon them, time and oxygen were running out. The world watched with bated breath as rescuers from around the globe joined forces to try to free the boys. After eighteen harrowing days, in an unprecedented effort of international teamwork, they were finally saved. Award-winning author Susan Hood and journalist Pathana Sornhiran based this picture book on Sornhiran’s first-hand reporting of the event, and Dow Phumiruk’s beautiful illustrations bring the story to life. The book also includes a timeline and back matter with additional resources.

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The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!
Written by Stephen Bramucci & illustrated by Arree Chung
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Indiana Jones meets Lemony Snicket in this hilarious new series–fully illustrated by picture book talent Arree Chung–that’s a must-have for all aspiring adventurers. “The ride of a lifetime.” –Matt de la Peña, Newbery Award-winning author Ronald Zupan is a daring master adventurer! But he actually hasn’t experienced any grand adventures . . . YET! When his world-traveling parents are kidnapped on his twelfth birthday, Ronald seizes the chance to prove himself with a dazzling, danger-defying rescue operation. Teaming up with his trusty butler Jeeves, his quick-witted fencing nemesis Julianne Sato, and his pet cobra Carter, Ronald sets course for the jungle of Borneo where his parents were last sighted. If they can crash-land a plane and outrun a hungry snow leopard, surely they can find the secret lair of Zeetan Z, the world’s most ruthless pirate! But as their adventure becomes more and more dangerous, can Ronald and his companions muster enough courage to see this adventure through?

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House Without Walls
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14
"A moving and thought-provoking picture of a refugee experience filled with both tragedy and hope."--School Library Journal
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How to Make Friends with the Sea
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Tanya Guerrero's How to Make Friends with the Sea is a middle grade debut novel set in the Philippines about a young boy's challenges with anxiety while his mother fosters an orphaned child with a facial anomaly.

Pablo is homesick.

He's only twelve years old, but he's lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.

Now they're living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip--and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don't seem so scary.

He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all...and learn how to make friends with the sea.

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Lotus Seed
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-9

“My grandmother saw the emperor cry the day he lost his golden dragon throne.”<P>So begins Sherry Garland’s emotional tale of a Vietnamese family forced to flee from their homeland to escape a devastating civil war. Set against a background of historical events, “The Lotus Seed” thoughtfully portrays refugees who have adapted to a different way of life in a new country without losing touch with their cultural heritage. Theirs is an American story about the continuity of family and culture.<P>An Alternate Selection of Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club

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  • Sarindi and the Lucky Bird - Sarindi wants to win the lucky marble from his friend, but it seems that he has no luck. His father wants a lucky bird so that he will make money as a peddle-taxi again. But sometimes luck can be a thing of the heart, as much as a thing of fate. And so it was for Sarindi.

  • Inside Out and Back Again - Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.

  • Girl of the Southern Sea - From Governor General's Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman, an empowering novel about a girl from the slums of Jakarta who dreams of an education and the chance at a better life

  • Fly on the Wall - In Fly on the Wall, a moving and hilarious diary-style illustrated novel from the award-winning author of Pie in the Sky, a twelve-year-old boy goes on a (forbidden) solo adventure halfway around the world to prove his independence to his overprotective family.

    A Best Book of the Year for Kirkus, Booklist, Chicago Public Library, and School Library Journal! Henry Khoo's family treats him like a baby. He's not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. And he definitely CAN'T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself! But that's exactly his plan. After his family's annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn't want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he's hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you're-caught secret: he's the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he's on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won't turn into the greatest disaster ever. Remy Lai takes readers on an adventure filled with humor, heart, and hijinks that's a sure bet for fans of Jerry Craft, Terri Libenson, and Shannon Hale! "Funny, enthralling, and a great reminder that being a little odd isn't a bad thing." --Kayla Miller, author of Click and Camp * Near-misses and laugh-out-loud moments abound, which will endear it to readers who like 'Big Nate' and 'Wimpy Kid.' --School Library Journal, starred review

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Apprentices
Written by & illustrated by Ian Schoenherr
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-

It’s 1954, and Janie Scott is in boarding school in New Hampshire, trying to make a new life. Two years have passed since she last saw the mysterious apothecary–or his defiant son, Benjamin. All she knows is that her friends are out there somewhere, trying to keep the world safe in an age of mounting atomic power. On the other side of the world, Benjamin is treating the wounded in a jungle war, and experimenting with a magical new formula that will let him communicate with Janie across the globe. <p/>But Janie has her own experiment underway, and it’s attracting interest from sinister forces. Benjamin calls on their friend Pip for help, and they have to race to find one another, and to unravel the mystery of their powerful new enemies. <p/>A magical new adventure, following Maile Meloy’s critically acclaimed novel <i>The Apothecary</i>, with captivating illustrations by Ian Schoenherr.

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Tara and the Towering Wave: An Indian Ocean Tsunami Survival Story
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

When her mother announces a holiday vacation to Thailand, Tara isn’t thrilled. She’d rather stay home with her friends, but Mom is determined they use the girls’ trip to explore their Thai heritage. Tara is reluctant to travel so far from home, especially to a country she doesn’t feel connected to. But then disaster strikes. The day after Christmas, a massive tsunami sweeps through Phuket, Thailand. Tara’s resort vacation suddenly becomes a fight to survive - and find her mother in the wreckage.

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Hush!
Written by Minfong Ho and Holly Meade
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-6

A lullaby which asks animals such as a lizard, monkey, and water-buffalo to be quiet and not disturb the sleeping baby.

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Lalani of the Distant Sea
Written by Erin Entrada Kelly & illustrated by Lian Cho
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

"Fast-paced and full of wonder, this is a powerful, gripping must-read."--Kirkus (starred review)

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Mommy Sayang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

In a Malaysian <i>kampung, </i> or village, lives little Aleeya and her dear Mommy <i>sayang</i>. Aleeya and Mommy do everything together, and in Aleeya’s dreams, they dance among enormous hibiscus flowers. Aleeya loves to ask Mommy if she will always be by her side. Mommy assures her that she will, <i>Insh’Allah</i>. But one day, Mommy becomes sick. Alone, Aleeya waits for her return, and it’s in this moment that Aleeya realizes <i>she</i> can always be by Mommy’s side. With a hibiscus flower in hand, Aleeya goes to Mommy’s bedside to bring her love and hope. Little by little, Mommy <i>sayang</i> gets better. <br>

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  • Rickshaw Girl - Naima is a talented painter of traditional alpana patterns, which Bangladeshi women and girls paint on their houses for special celebrations. But Naima is not satisfied just painting alpana. She wants to help earn money for her family, like her best friend, Saleem, does for his family. When Naima’s rash effort to help puts her family deeper in debt, she draws on her resourceful nature and her talents to bravely save the day. Includes a glossary of Bangla words and an author’s note about a changing Bangladesh and microfinance.

  • Tua and the Elephant - One day, Tua makes an accidental acquaintance–one with wise, loving eyes and a very curious trunk. And this elephant needs her help. From the bustling night market to the hallowed halls of a Buddhist temple and finally, to the sanctuary of an elephant refuge, this clever girl and her beloved companion find that right under their noses is exactly what each has been searching for: a friend.

  • Rising Water - The incredible true story of the twelve boys trapped with their coach in a flooded cave in Thailand and their inspiring rescue. On June 23, 2018, twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand when disaster struck. A rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them as they took shelter on a shelf of the dark cave. Eight days of searching yielded no signs of life, but on July 2 they were discovered by two British divers. The boys and their coach were eventually rescued in an international operation that took three days. What could have been a terrible tragedy became an amazing story of survival. Award-winning author Marc Aronson brings us the backstory behind how this astounding rescue took place. Rising Water highlights the creative thinking and technology that made a successful mission possible by examining the physical, environmental, and psychological factors surrounding the rescue. From the brave Thai Navy SEAL who lost his life while placing oxygen tanks along the passageways of the cave, to the British divers that ultimately swam the boys to safety, to the bravery of the boys and their coach, this is the breathtaking rescue that captivated the entire world.

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