Children's Books Celebrating East and Southeast Asians

by Lantana Publishing on June 11, 2021

Our work is about celebrating and amplifying under-represented voices in any way we can. As part of our Decade of Diversity pledge to see 25% diverse books in schools by 2030, we’ll be using our blog and Bookshop page to share some fun and fab booklists featuring characters from an under-represented and marginalized group who are rarely main characters in stories, and books written by #OwnVoices authors. This way, we hope to provide readers with many magical windows and mirrors that expands their minds, opens they hearts, and deepens their compassion.

Today, award-winning British Filipino author Candy Gourlay shares her favourite East and Southeast Asian books, with a special focus on books where young Filipinos are the stars! 

It’s amazing to see the wonderful range of faces, cultures and stories from these corners of the world’s most diverse continent!

Picture Books


A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui (Capstone Global Library)




Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hodder)




Rabbit Bright by Viola Wang (Hodder)



Wave by Suzy Lee (Chronicle)



Is It a Mermaid? by Candy Gourlay (Otter-Barry Books)



Middle-Grade / YA


We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow)




Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths
by Maisie Chan (Piccadilly Press)






A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Houghton Miflin)




Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins)





All That I Can Fix by Crystal Chan (Simon & Schuster)





Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (Tamarind)





Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling)



Graphic Novels


I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib (Crown)




They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, etc.(IDW)




American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)




The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens by Pepper Roxas (Flying Eye Books)




Lola by J. Torres and Elbert Or (Oni Press)




Flamer by Mike Curato (Henry Holt & Co)




Thank you for this wonderful list, Candy! 
Learn more about her work on or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Head on over to our affiliate page on Bookshop to buy some of these amazing titles! Your purchase will support indie bookshops. Click HERE.

Check out Lantana's ESEA books written by #OwnVoices authors below!


Kaya's Heart Song
by Diwa Tharan Sanders and Nerina Canzi

Kaya is looking for her heart song – the song that happy hearts sing. Her search takes her on a journey deep into the jungle where a broken down carousel waits for a very special song to make it turn again… Grounded in the principles of mindfulness, this joyful story set in the vibrant jungles of Malaysia will truly make your heart sing.

Click HERE to look inside!

Dragon Dancer
by Joyce Chng and Jérémy Pailler
It is the eve of Chinese New Year and Yao is preparing to wake the ancient sky dragon, Shen Long, from his year-long sleep. From the moment Shen Long opens his great amber eyes and unfurls his silver-blue tail, Yao will be propelled on a magical journey through the skies of Singapore to battle the bad luck of the previous year and usher in the good.

Click HERE to look inside!

Phoenix Song
by Tutu Dutta and Martina Peluso


When Arohan’s brothers go missing on the slopes of the hill behind their home in Malaysia, Arohan must ensure they return safe and sound. But does he have what it takes to placate the guardian of the bamboo grove and summon the mythical phoenix?

Click HERE to look inside!

Candy Gourlay was born in the Philippines, grew up under a dictatorship and met her husband during a revolution. Growing up, she wondered why books only featured pink-skinned children who lived in worlds that didn't resemble her tropical home in Manila. It took her years to learn that Filipino stories, too, belong in the pages of books. Her latest book is a comics biography (with illustrator Tom Knight) of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who happens to be credited with "discovering" the Philippines. Her novel Bone Talk was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Prize in 2019.

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