South Asian Kidlit 2020 – Summer

I hope you and your families are safe and healthy. A lot has happened in the last few months. This most certainly will be a defining year in history books. I am energized by the coming together of people to protest systemic racism and police brutality. I will no longer be sitting back. I will be reading books to educate myself, having conversations about anti-Blackness sentiment within the South Asian community, and taking concrete steps to help move the needle.

If you are interested in being an ally then please read this excellent article: Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead)

Here are two lists I recommend for finding books on anti-Racism and anti-Blackness.

Adult Reading List curated by Loyalty Bookstore

Reading List for Kids 0-12. I also recommend sharing “Black Joy” books with kids.

Together, let’s be the change!

Now on to the latest in South Asian Kidlit.

  • Congratulations to Aisha Saeed and Anoosha Syed for receiving a 2020 APAAL Picture Book Honor for BILAL COOKS DAAL from the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association.
  •  Congratulations to South Asia Book Award Winners: Meena Patel for PRIYA DREAMS OF MARIGOLDS AND MASALA (picture book), Padma Venkatraman for THE BRIDGE HOME (middle-grade), and Mitali Perkins for FORWARD ME BACK TO YOU! Check out the full list of honor and highly commended books.

South Asian stories are hitting mainstream entertainment.

  • NEVER HAVE I EVER is a coming-of-age comedy series about the life of a modern first-generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood. On Netflix.
  • MIRA, ROYAL DETECTIVE is an animated mystery-adventure children’s television series inspired by Indian culture and customs. Disney Junior. See the first episode on YouTube.

Today’s South Asian Kidlit Roundup covers books releasing from June through August of 2020. The books listed below are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author or illustrator, contains a South Asian main character, or involve South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.

For a list of today’s books, check out my South Asian Kidlit Summer 2020 list at

Title: Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea
Author: Meena Harris
Illustrator: Ana Ramírez González
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  June 2, 2020
ISBN:  978-0062937407
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Inspired by a true story
Meena Harris debuts with an empowering picture book about two sisters who work with their community to effect change, inspired by a true story from the childhood of her aunt, US Senator Kamala Harris, and mother, lawyer, and policy expert Maya Harris.
One day, Kamala and Maya had an idea. A big idea: they would turn their empty apartment courtyard into a playground! This is the uplifting tale of how the author’s aunt and mother first learned to persevere in the face of disappointment and turned a dream into reality. This is a story of children’s ability to make a difference and of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood.

Title: A Gift for Amma
Author: Meera Sriram
Illustrator: Mariona Cabassa
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: August 14, 2020
ISBN: 978-1646860616
Category-Genre: Picture Book
Community Represented: Indian
In this #OwnVoices book inspired by the author’s hometown of Chennai, India, a girl explores the vibrant rainbow of delights in a southern Indian street market as she searches for a gift for her amma (mother). Endnotes explain all the items on sale and introduce readers to markets around the world.

Title: Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon
Author: Simran Jeet Singh
Illustrator: Baljinder Kaur
Publisher: Kokila
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
ISBN: 978-0525555094
Category-Genre: Picture Book – Non-Fiction
Community Represented: Indian
Fauja Singh was born determined. He was also born with legs that wouldn’t allow him to play cricket with his friends or carry him to school miles from his village in Punjab. But that didn’t stop him. Working on his family’s farm, Fauja grew stronger to meet his own full potential.
He never stopped striving. At the age of 81, after a lifetime of making his body, mind, and heart stronger, Fauja decided to run his first marathon. He went on to break records all around the world and became the first person over 100 to complete the grueling long-distance race.

Title: Monster and Boy
Author: Hannah Barnaby
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. BYR
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
ISBN: 978-1250217837
Category-Genre: Chapter Book
When Monster (who lives under the bed) meets Boy (who sleeps in the bed), Boy starts to scream―and Monster promptly swallows him. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
Told with a warm, cozy voice, the story is brought to life with adorable two-color illustrations. Filled with adventure and humor, this chapter book is perfect for sharing with kids just aging out of picture books and for newly independent readers.

Title: American as Paneer Pie
Author: Supriya Kelkar
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
ISBN: 978-1534439382
Category-Genre: Middle Grade – Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian. When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha. To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school. When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

Title: Orientation (Marvel’s Avenger’s Assembly #1)
Author: Preeti Chhibber
Publisher: James Lancett
Publication Date: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN: August 4, 2020
Category-Genre: 978-1338587258
Community Represented: Middle Grade – Superheroes
Kamala Khan was an average middle school kid. That is, until a cloud called a Terrigen Mist swept through the New Jersey waterfront and activated her super powers! After taking on the persona of Ms. Marvel, she’s been fighting crime in Jersey City, and has caught the eye of some pretty well-established super heroes. But that’s not always a good thing…
After Kamala is caught by news cameras taking on a super villain — and accidentally destroying a building along the way — she gets a letter from Captain Marvel herself! It’s great that she’s fighting crime and sticking up for people, but maybe a regular school isn’t the best place to learn how to do that. If she wants to continue as Ms. Marvel, she’s going to need to take on some new extracurricular activities — mainly, training with other young super heroes alongside the Avengers!
Now Kamala is the new kid at the Avengers Institute. Her classmates are all kids like her, they have special powers, but most of them have gotten into some trouble or drawn attention to themselves. The big news at the Avengers Institute this year? An academic decathlon in which students will group up into teams and compete against each other in super heroics. Kamala and her friends Miles and Doreen will have to go up against a team led by some kids who fight less than fair — and have some trouble with the concept of “fighting for good” — in this funny, action-packed look at some ordinary middle school kids who just happen to have some extraordinary powers.

Title: Hunted by the Sky
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
ISBN: 978-0374313098
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.
Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl―Gul―in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance―and discovers a magic he never expected to find.
Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort…a world with secrets deadlier than their own.

Title: 10 Things I Hate About Pinky
Author:  Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
ISBN: 978-1534416819
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Romantic Comedy
Community Represented: Indian-American
Pinky Kumar wears the social justice warrior badge with pride. From raccoon hospitals to persecuted rock stars, no cause is too esoteric for her to champion. But a teeny tiny part of her also really enjoys making her conservative, buttoned-up corporate lawyer parents cringe.
Samir Jha might have a few…quirks remaining from the time he had to take care of his sick mother, like the endless lists he makes in his planner and the way he schedules every minute of every day, but those are good things. They make life predictable and steady.
Pinky loves lazy summers at her parents’ Cape Cod lake house, but after listening to them harangue her about the poor decisions she’s made (a.k.a. boyfriends she’s had), she hatches a plan. Get her sorta-friend-sorta-enemy—who is a total Harvard-bound Mama’s boy—to pose as her perfect boyfriend for the summer.
When Samir’s internship falls through, leaving him with an unplanned summer, he gets a text from Pinky asking if he’ll be her fake boyfriend in exchange for a new internship. He jumps at the opportunity; Pinky’s a weirdo, but he can survive a summer with her if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
As they bicker their way through lighthouses and butterfly habitats, sparks fly, and they both realize this will be a summer they’ll never forget.

Title: A Thief Among the Trees: An Ember in the Ashes Graphic Novel
Author: Sabaa Tahir and Nicole Andelfinger
Illustrator: Sonia Liao
Publisher: Archaia
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
ISBN: 978-1684155248
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy – Graphic Novel
Elias, Helene and Tavi are Fivers –in training to become elite military recruits for the Martial Empire at Blackcliff Academy. When they’re sent on a dangerous mission to steal a heavily-guarded poison on Isle South, they soon find themselves up against surprising enemies — including other recruits. As the true horror of their assignment is revealed, these three will begin to confront the harrowing realities of Martial rule, their place in the system . . . and the choices they must make to survive.

Title: More Than Just a Pretty Face
Author: Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  August 4, 2020
ISBN: 978-0316492355
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Romantic Comedy
Community Represented: Pakistani-American
Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.
When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man, a school-wide academic championship, it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her…the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her…the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

Title: Star Daughter
Author: Shveta Thakrar
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062894625
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens—and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.


Title: The Knockout
Author: S.A. Patel
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date:  August 18, 2020
ISBN: 978-1635830590
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Community Represented: Indian-American
A rising star in Muay Thai figures out what (and who) is worth fighting for in this #ownvoices YA debut full of heart. If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. Shes landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, excelling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough and her training is only making it worse. Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride shall have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused on the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history if she has the courage to go for it.

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2 Responses to “South Asian Kidlit 2020 – Summer”

  1. Darshana

    One more book for the list. A picture book biography about the Democratic nominee for VP, Kamala Harris!

    Title: Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice
    Author: Nikki Grimes
    Illustrator: Laura Freeman
    Publisher/Date: Atheneum, August 25, 2020
    ISBN: 978-1534462670
    Category-Genre: Picture Book – Biography
    When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”
    As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard. Her dedication led to her being selected as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in the 2020 election.


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