Friday, May 20, 2016

Celebrating Asian American Heritage Month

I didn't realize how many special occasions occurred in May until I worked on our Celebrations book with Janet Wong. Sure, it's the end of the semester and school year (in many places) and the home of Mother's Day and Memorial Day. But it's also National Photo Month, National Bike Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and the time we celebrate National Pet Week, National Teacher Appreciation Week, Children's Book Week, National Etiquette Week, as well as World Laughter Day, World Red Cross Day, and World Hunger Day (which is close to Red Nose Day also devoted to eliminating hunger). Wow. And of course there are many other occasions, once you start digging. My family teases me that I always find SOMETHING to celebrate!

Today I'd like to pause and celebrate Asian American Heritage Month and Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month-- with a poem of course! I posted this on Facebook and Twitter, so please forgive me if you've been inundated. I love this poem by my pal Janet Wong and what it says about celebrating Asian Americans, as well as our many diverse, blended, and intertwined roots in the U.S. 

And here are the Take 5 activities that accompany this poem in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (Teacher/Librarian edition):

  1. If possible, display a map in the background that features Asia and Pacific Islands while you read the poem aloud, pausing between stanzas. One source is,100,3z.
  2. Share the poem again with pauses so the children can join in on the key words Chinese, Korean, and plucots while you read the rest of the poem aloud.
  3. Talk about how new words are “coined” and how plucot is a combination of plum (plu) and apricot (cot), just as the plucot fruit is a hybrid combination of those two fruits. 
  4. Pair this poem with the picture book Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng (Lee & Low, 2000). And for more information about celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage Month, check out the resources at
  5. For another poem about a family with roots in more than one culture, look for “Our Family” by Kate Coombs (November, page 305) as well as poems in A Suitcase of Seaweed by Janet Wong (McElderry, 1996).
Plus, if you'd like even more poetry, here's a list from my book, The Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.

Asian American Poetry for Young People

Asian and Asian American poetry for young people is not just haiku; there are many lovely, ancient and contemporary works to share with children. Here is a sampling of poetry for young people by Asian and Asian American poets.

Cheng, Andrea. 2005. Shanghai Messenger. New York: Lee & Low.
Ho, Minfong. 1996. Maples in the Mist: Poems for Children from the Tang Dynasty. New York: Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard.
Issa, Kobayashi. 2007. Today and Today. New York: Scholastic.
Izuki, Steven. 1994. Believers in America:  Poems about Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander Descent. Chicago, IL: Children’s Press.
Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out and Back Again. New York: HarperCollins.
Mak, Kam. 2001. My Chinatown: One Year in Poems. New York: HarperCollins.
Park, Linda Sue. 2007. Tap Dancing on the Roof; Sijo Poems. New York : Clarion.
Wong, Janet S. 1994. Good Luck Gold and Other Poems. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet S. 1996/2008. A Suitcase of Seaweed, and Other Poems. New York: Booksurge.
Wong, Janet S. 1999. Behind the Wheel:  Poems about Driving. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet S. 1999. The Rainbow Hand: Poems about Mothers and Children. New York: McElderry. 
Wong, Janet S. 2000. Night Garden:  Poems from the World of Dreams. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet S. 2003. Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions. New York: McElderry.

Wong, Janet S. 2003. Minn and Jake. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Wong, Janet S. 2007. Twist: Yoga Poems. New York: McElderry.
Wong, Janet. 2008. Minn and Jake’s Almost Terrible Summer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
Wong, Janet. 2011. Once Upon A Tiger; New Beginnings for Endangered Animals.
Wong, Janet. 2012. Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for  an Election Year. PoetrySuitcase.
Wong, Joyce Lee. 2006. Seeing Emily. New York: Abrams.
Yep, Laurence, ed. 1993. American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices. New York: HarperCollins.
Yu, Chin. 2005. Little Green; Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Now don't miss the rest of the Poetry Friday posts that Margaret is gathering over at Reflections on the Teche. See you there!


Linda B said...

Tap Dancing On The Roof is a favorite of mine, and of course others by Janet Wong like Good Luck Gold and A Suitcase of Seaweed. The Lawrence Yep collection is new to me although I know his fiction. Thanks, Sylvia for the poem and the list.

Mary Lee said...

I love Janet's plucot poem! So perfect for kids (and all) who are a mix...and twice as sweet because of it!

Brenda Harsham said...

I suspect we are all mixes if you go back far enough, so Asian or not, I think this poem is spot on.

Margaret Simon said...

Janet has a wonderful way with words. Plucot, such an unusual fun word and perfect for the metaphor.

Janet Wong said...

Thank you, Linda B, Mary Lee, Brenda, and Margaret! Plucots all around for everyone! (and yes, Brenda, re our shared mixed heritages and the future norm of mixed heritages) This poem is a good excuse to pass around a bag of plucots for a classroom or kitchen treat!

Charles Waters said...

Love Janet's writing and word play. "Plucots" what a word.