As a child, I always begged my parents for just one more bedtime story, never wanting to go to sleep. The magic of children's books transported me to such wonderful adventures, but I often struggled to find stories with characters that looked like me or that represented my family. This inspired me to create my children’s book Aloha Everything.
To do it, I partnered with one of the most talented artists in Hawaiʻi. Together, we focused not only on capturing the joy and imagination of our readers, but also on creating a space for learning about Hawaiian history, ecology, and culture. With breathtaking hand-painted illustrations inspired by the rich vibrancy of the islands and twenty-five Hawaiian words and phrases woven throughout the narrative, we’ve watched the book ignite important discussions for children and adults alike.
In the past, AAPI voices were often left out of many conversations, but there are so many incredible people working hard to change that. I feel invigorated every time I find amazing stories by remarkable creators of AAPI books.
AAPI Heritage month is a perfect time to spotlight incredible stories that should be read and shared throughout the year! I’d love to show you some of my personal favorite AAPI books that have brought me inspiration throughout my journey.
Watercress is a crisp, poignant story about a young girl who learns to appreciate her family's history and connection to their homeland. The book encourages readers to embrace their roots, cherish their memories, and appreciate the significance of family. Andrea Wang’s “A Note from the Author” at the end of the story is especially illuminating and moving.
My First Day follows the journey of a young boy as he navigates the vast Mekong Delta. He’s on his way to the first day of school! This inspiring story depicts an “everyday event” with magic and whimsy. It reminds us of the things that we all have in common while also leaving us with a deeper appreciation for the diverse lives and experiences of children around the world.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners is a tender and joyful picture book about a young girl who comes to celebrate both her personal and family identity. It's a captivating story that invites readers to embrace self-love and appreciate the beauty in diversity. I highly recommend reading the book alongside its radiant companion piece, Eyes that Speak to the Stars.
Kapaemahu draws inspiration from Hawaiian legend and lore. It tells the story of four traveling healers who are neither female nor male in spirit and who journey from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi long ago and share their exceptional gifts with the people. Kapaemahu is a dual-language story written in both English and Hawaiian. The book is based on a stunning short film, which I also highly recommend watching.
Grandfather's Journey is a wistful, thoughtfully illustrated story that documents a man’s immigration to the US and demonstrates the enduring connections between person and place. It serves as a reminder that our hearts are complex and nuanced; we are all made up of many layers: our roots, our heritage, our families, and our choices.
The Jewel in the Forest is a mesmerizing story about a young hula dancer who ventures into the forest to gather ferns for her lei poʻo before a performance. I cherished this book so much as a child that I read it until the pages wore thin and needed a replacement copy. The story beautifully showcases how hula is not just about performance and dance, but also about fostering a deep connection with the āina, the land.
These are only a few of my favorite AAPI children’s books, but there are many more which deserve our attention and a spot on our bookshelves. Books featuring diverse characters not only promote representation but also help children develop empathy, respect, and an appreciation for different cultures. By introducing young readers to the rich histories and cultures present in AAPI books, we provide some children with an opportunity to see themselves in a book for the first time and we provide other children with the opportunity to broaden their perspectives and deepen their understanding of cultures beyond their own.
Aloha Everything is available for purchase on Kickstarter until June 30th, 2023.
Kaylin Melia George grew up listening to the stories of Molokaʻi. She breathed in the epic Hawaiian legends her mother gifted her as bedtime stories. It was the planting of these early seeds that drove Kaylin to dedicate her life to storytelling across a spectrum of mediums. Before working in children’s literature, Kaylin began her professional journey in filmmaking as an award-winning director and screenwriter. Working across the United States and Japan, her portfolio has included narrative work recognized by The Academy (of Oscars notoriety), as well as documentary pieces created for some of the most recognizable non-profits in the world (including the World Wildlife Fund and The Asian Cultural Council), and national commercials for publicly traded companies. Today, Kaylin collaborates with Mythify Studios in the creation of epic world-building art books. Kaylin began working on Aloha Everything in 2020 and dedicated herself to the telling of this story for over three years. Every line of the book’s poetry has been carefully crafted to excite and inspire. With Aloha Everything, Kaylin returns to the start of it all. This is the story she has always needed to tell.