10 Inspiring Books Featuring Asian American Pacific Islander STEM Pioneers

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In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are presenting a collection of children’s books featuring inspiring AAPI biographies that spotlight trailblazers from various fields such as science, technology, engineering, the arts, and more. Each book aims to educate and motivate young readers by sharing the life stories of individuals who overcame challenges to make substantial contributions to society. From pioneering scientists and influential activists to visionary architects and brave aviators, these books offer powerful examples of perseverance, innovation, and leadership, and reflect the rich cultural heritage and the impactful contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the world.

Asian American Women in Science: An Asian American History Book for Kids, by Tina Cho profiles 15 brilliant Asian American women who have made significant contributions to science. It showcases women like Kazue Togasaki, a pioneering Japanese American doctor; Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese American physicist involved in top-secret projects; and Isabella Aiona Abbott, an expert in Hawaiian marine plant life. The book emphasizes how these women overcame challenges using their intelligence and determination, and it explores their diverse achievements in technology, medicine, and science.

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom, by Teresa Robeson is a children’s biography that highlights the life of Wu Chien Shiung, a notable Chinese-American physicist. The book describes how she overcame significant challenges related to gender and racial discrimination to make critical advancements in physics, particularly in beta decay. Aimed at young readers, it uses engaging illustrations and clear explanations to make complex scientific concepts accessible. The story emphasizes Wu’s perseverance and the recognition she eventually received for her contributions to science.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines, by Jeanne Walker Harvey is a children’s biography that illustrates the life of Maya Lin, the architect behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The book details her childhood explorations and artistic influences from her parents, highlighting her development into a renowned architect. It emphasizes her creative process and the obstacles she overcame, inspiring young readers with her story of perseverance and innovation in design.

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee, is a children’s biography by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Carl Angel, that celebrates the life and achievements of Maggie Gee, one of only two Chinese American women to serve as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) during World War II. The book traces Maggie’s childhood fascination with flying, inspired by her hero Amelia Earhart, through to her adult contributions during the war, where she faced and overcame significant challenges due to her gender and ethnicity. The narrative, while focused on her aviation career, also delves into her personal struggles and triumphs, providing a compelling and inspirational story for young readers, especially those interested in history and aviation

Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All, is a compelling picture book co-authored by Olympic ice dancers Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani, and journalist Dane Liu, with illustrations by Aaliya Jaleel. It showcases the lives and achievements of thirty-six influential Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through vibrant illustrations and accessible biographies. The biographies explore the lives and achievements of thirty-six notable figures like Daniel Inouye, a U.S. Senator and war hero who overcame disability, Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian origin in space, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a globally recognized actor and entertainer. Each biography showcases how these figures have overcome challenges and made significant contributions to their fields, offering readers a wide range of real-life heroes and role models.

I Am I. M. Pei, by Brad Meltzer is a children’s biography that introduces young readers to I. M. Pei, a world-renowned Chinese American architect known for iconic structures like the Louvre Pyramid. The book highlights the qualities that made Pei a great hero, focusing on his childhood and how his early influences shaped his career. It’s designed to inspire kids to aspire to greatness by embodying heroic traits themselves. The book also includes a timeline and photos at the end to enrich the reader’s understanding of Pei’s life and achievements.

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist, is a children’s picture book by Julie Leung (Author), and Chris Sasaki (Illustrator), that presents the biography of Tyrus Wong, a Chinese American immigrant who became a legendary animator, famously responsible for the distinctive artistic style of Disney’s “Bambi.” The book traces Wong’s journey from a young boy in China, through his immigration to America as a “paper son,” to his rise as a major artist blending Eastern and Western artistic styles. The narrative highlights his challenges and triumphs, aiming to inspire children with his resilience and creativity.

We Are Here: 30 Inspiring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Have Shaped the United States, authored by Naomi Hirahara in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and illustrated by Illianette Ferandez, is an inspiring anthology that shines a light on the significant contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) to the United States. This beautifully crafted book not only celebrates well-known individuals like Bruno Mars and Naomi Osaka but also highlights lesser-known pioneers and contemporary leaders across various fields. These profiles include activists, scientists, artists, and other changemakers such as Grace Lee Boggs, Chien-Shiung Wu, and Mau Piailug, demonstrating the diverse and rich heritage of the AAPI community.

Peggy Cherng: A Kid’s Book About Seeing Problems as Opportunities, is part of the Mini Movers and Shakers series by Mary Nhin, illustrated by Yuliia Zolotova. This children’s book introduces young readers to Peggy Cherng, a pioneer in the restaurant industry, portraying her as a problem-solver who views challenges as opportunities for growth. Peggy Cherng is the co-founder and co-CEO of Panda Express, a highly successful American Chinese fast food restaurant chain. With a background in engineering and computer science, Peggy Cherng played a crucial role in systematizing the operations of the restaurant through the development of innovative and custom software systems. Her leadership and vision have been central to Panda Express’s growth from a single restaurant in California to a global brand with thousands of locations. Peggy Cherng is also known for embedding a culture of continuous learning and personal development within the company.

Shining a Light: Celebrating 40 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Changed the World, by Veeda Bybee and illustrated by Victo Ngai offers succinct, inspiring biographies of 40 influential AAPI figures. The book spans a diverse array of personalities from historical reformers to modern-day icons, each portrayed through engaging narratives and vivid illustrations. It emphasizes their contributions and the adversities they overcame, aiming to inspire young readers with their impactful stories.

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