Top Picks

Here you will find a list of resources I have found useful in the classroom and in my own research, along with a brief description of that resource. Click on the images if you would like more information or if you are interested in purchasing these texts. Please visit the forums on the SHARE page to share your favorite resources.

Ms. Kong's Top Picks For Kids

These are my personal picks of favorite books to use in the classroom as well as recommended library resources, vetted by my students and my own children. The following books are organized by main topic: history, culture, and language learning texts.   

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History

 

 

The Hmong Migration by Cy Thao. H.E.R. Publisher, 2018 (English) Grade level: 3-12

 

THE HMONG MIGRATION is an epic visual history of the Hmong people starting from the myth of the birth of the world, tracing the Hmong origin 5,000 years ago, and how they finally ended up in Saint Paul, MN. Originally featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) as part of their Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), these 50 original, full color, paintings by CY THAO are a testament to the endurance and legacy of the Hmong people. 

*Since many of the paintings in this series deal with the traumatic experiences of Hmong history, some images may be triggering for some students. In elementary classrooms, I select images from the series to discuss in an overview of Hmong history. Click HERE for the selected works Google slides presentation I created. The original series can also be found on-line HERE.

 

Hmong History for Young Scholars by See Lor. Reading Karma, 2019 (English)

Grade level: 3-8

 

Beautifully illustrated by Sebastian Tchou Vang, this nonfiction book takes on Hmong history from the Yellow River Basin in China, through the complexities of the Secret War in Laos, to the refugee camps of Thailand and relocation across the modern diaspora with a focus on Hmong in the United States. 

 

Dia's Story Cloth by Dia Cha. Lee & Lo Books Inc., 1996 (English) Grade level: K-5

 

Dia Cha tells the story of the Hmong history through a beautifully detailed sewn story cloth made by her aunt and uncle. By sharing her own family's history, she connects the reader with the overarching themes of the Hmong migration story. 

Who Are the Hmong People?/Haiv Neeg Hmoob Yog Leej Twg? Hmong Children's Books, 2019 (English/Hmong) Grade level: K-8

 

This is one of the best broad overview books available and would be an excellent resource text in any classroom, separately published in both English and Hmong. Who are the Hmong people? Where are they from? What country has the largest population of Hmong? What language do they speak? Is it true that Hmong people will greet strangers as their brothers, sisters, aunts, or uncles? This book gives a general overview of the Hmong people. A brief history of the Hmong people, especially the Hmong from Laos will be reviewed. The book also discusses aspects about the Hmong people and their culture, including topics of language, clothing, clans, families, religion, traditions, and food. 

The Hmong Journey/ Hmoob Txoj Kev Taug by Ger Thao. H.E.R. Publisher, 2018 (English/Hmong Bilingual OR Hmoob) Grade level: K-8

 

Available for purchase either as a bilingual text or in Hmoob only, this book provides an overview of life in Laos, the Secret War, and relocation to the United States. As the author describes it: “Growing up, I was never able to connect to any characters in children’s books. I felt like I did not have a voice because I was always the quiet Asian girl in the back of the room. As an educator, I see the lack, and the importance of Hmong children’s literature. The vision of The Hmong Journey: Hmoob Txoj Kev Taug is to share and keep alive the rich culture, traditions, and history of the Hmong.

 

Mai Ya's Long Journey by Sheila Terman Cohen. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2005 (English) Grade Level: 3-6

 

The story of Mai Ya Xiong and her family and their journey from the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Madison, Wisconsin, is extraordinary. Yet it is typical of the stories of the 200,000 Hmong people who now live in the United States and who struggle to adjust to American society while maintaining their own culture as a free people.

"Mai Ya's Long Journey" follows Mai Ya Xiong, a young Hmong woman, from her childhood in Thailand's Ban Vinai Refugee Camp to her current home in Wisconsin. Mai Ya's parents fled Laos during the Vietnam War and were refugees in Thailand for several years before reaching the United States. But the story does not end there. Students will read the challenges Mai Ya faces in balancing her Hmong heritage and her adopted American culture as she grows into adulthood. Fountas and Pinnell Level R

The Plain of Stone Jars/Tiaj Rhawv Zeb by Nhabee Her. Lulu Publishing Svcs., 2013 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: K-6

Nhabee was born and raised in the jungle of Laos during the Secret War. He was old enough to remember the violence of the war at its peak, the persecution of family members who aided U.S. soldiers and the details of the long trek to safety. His family escaped to Thailand and lived in the Nong Khai and Ban Vinai refugee camps for four years before arriving in Madison, Wisconsin on December 19, 1979. There, he started a new life in the U.S. along with thousands of other Hmong families. In this book, he focuses on his personal journey and relationship with this historical landmark as well as the lingering effects of the aftermath of the Secret War. 

 

Culture

 

Tradition by Duachaka Her. Duachaka Her., 2020 (English) Grade level: K-8

 

In this mini comic, author/illustrator Duachaka Her reflects on the reality of keeping up with traditions in the world today. The story also touches on some Shamanist customs in the Hmong culture. The engaging illustrations and straightforward writing make all of Duachaka Her's comics and graphic novels highly accessible to a wide range of readers.

Then and Now & The Collection by Duachaka Her. Duachaka Her., 2015 (English) Grade level: K-8

 

Then and Now is a story about the desire for change and belonging. Everyday Yia walks to the garden with her parents to tend and harvest their crops. One day, after coming back from their garden, they received a letter from Yia’s older sister, who had recently arrived in America. Her sister writes about how amazing America is—making Yia want go there too. Follow Yia as she encounters a ghost, discovers a cucumber, and reminisce of her homeland.

 

 

The Collection is comic book about a Hmong-American 5th grader juggling her school and home life meanwhile uncovering the importance of her culture. Follow Duab as she struggles to complete a school project, help her sister get used to the school lunch, and host a family reunion party. 

 

 

 

 

Melody of the Qeej by Mai Kou Xiong. Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and Minnesota Humanities Center, 2013 (English, with a few Hmong vocabulary words) Grade Level: K-5


Phengxue was always too busy with soccer and friends to take an interest in the ancient Hmong qeej (“keng”), until his two best friends encounter the instrument during a visit. Their curiosity brings them to Grandfather, whose wisdom teaches the three boys the importance of the qeej during Hmong funerals. Not only does this instrument play beautiful melodies, it also guides a loved one’s soul back to the land of the ancestors. Phengxue’s heart is pulled by its soft music, as if the qeej is speaking to him, nudging him to learn this special instrument. Will he answer its call to become a great qeej player?

The Imaginary Day by May Lee-Yang. Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and Minnesota Humanities Center, 2012  (English) Grade Level: 2-5

 

I think I have read this book ten times now with my own two children; they love it so much. We've even finished the book and they immediately request to read it again. That's when you know it's a good book. It's a great adventure story that is easy for kids to relate to and particularly exciting for Hmong American students to see themselves reflected in such a real way.

On the first day of summer break, twin brothers, Tou Bee and Tou Cher are bummed when their mom takes away their video games. She makes the crazy suggestion that they use their imaginations instead! Determined to find their video games, the boys go on a quest that includes ninjas, dungeons, wild dogs, and even a dragon!

Astrid & Apollo Book Series by V.T. Bidania. Capstone., 2020 (English) Grade level: K-5

 

In this 4 part book series, we follow 8 year old twins, Astrid and Apollo and their Hmong American family, on their adventures as they attend the annual Hmong New Year events, go fishing, go camping, and attend a Hmong Sports Festival. Each chapter book contains not only an engaging story, but also a glossary of terms, facts about the Hmong, discussion questions, and writing prompts. These books come highly recommended by my Hmong club students!

Many Ideas Open the Way: A Collection of Hmong Proverbs by Randy Snook. Shen's Books, 2003 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: K-5

 

Illustrator Randy Snook does a beautiful job capturing the essense of these centuries old Hmong proverbs in a modern way with his stunning photographic illustrations.

From witticisms about family members to how to behave in politics, the twenty Hmong proverbs gathered in this book reflect the many facets of Hmong culture that have thrived throughout the years. These sayings give readers an insight into the way of the Hmong people, where wisdom and personal relationships are central. Each proverb is presented in its original Hmong language and also translated into English.

 

The Forbidden Treasure/Lub Qhov Tsua Nyiaj Qhov Tsua Kub by See Lor. Reading Karma, 2015 (English/Hmong) Grade Level: K-6

 

See Lor has created several wonderful books based on folktales from the centuries old Hmong oral tradition. She has chosen to print her books separately in English and in Hmong, rather than as a bilingual text (one of very few authors doing this work). This is a choice that sets her work apart as a great tool for strengthening literacy skills. Her books also have an excellent print quality, not to mention she works with very talented illustrators (like my personal favorite, Kao Lee Thao).

Forbidden Treasure is an inspired Hmong folktale that teaches about kindness, humbleness, and greed. For her kindness, Pa Chia was taken to a forbidden treasure, unreachable and untouched by humans. When My Kue found out about Pa Chia’s secret, her greed got the best of her.

I also highly recommend her books: The Magic Stone/Lub Pov Haum

The Myth of the Owl/Dab Neeg Hais Txog Plas by Bao Xiong. Sun Press, Inc., 2006 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: K-5

 

My Hmong Club students recommend this as one of their favorite books to read and it also inspired us to illustrate some Hmong folktales of our own since the illustrations are a result of collaboration between an artist and the Community Cultural Dance Club youth. This bilingual book relates the origin story of why owl can turn his head in all directions, stemming from a series of comical events between plants, animals, and Hmong god-like figure, Yawm Saub.

Puag Thaum Ub: Hmoob Xeem by Brian V. Xiong. H.E.R. Publisher., 2020 (Hmoob) Grade Level: K-12

 

This book, beautifully illustrated by Choua Xiong, is a folktale story about how in the beginning, there were heavy rains and water flooded the world. There were no other humans and animals. There were only two siblings, hidden in a drum. The two siblings married each other in order to have children and this is how the Hmong clans came to be. 

Nuj Yob: The Hmong Jungle Book by Kou Yang. H.E.R. Publisher., 2019 (English) Grade Level: K-5

 

Nuj Yob is the only survivor of a deadly disease that’s left him without a mother, a father, or a family. Or so he thinks...He is eventually adopted by a kindly farm pig, but knows he will outlive his foster-mother. On her deathbed, Nuj Yob hears rumors that his brave uncle had not died, but in fact, had transformed into a tiger. Armed with this knowledge, Nuj Yob begins an adventure to seek out his ferocious Tiger Uncle and learns the true meaning behind love, family, and how to be a human. This rich fairy tale, traditionally shared through oral, Hmong storytelling, is finally transcribed and recorded by Dr. Kou Yang. 

 

Language Learning Texts

Hmong ABCs/Xyaum Nyeem Ntawv Hmoob by Dr. Kha Yang Xiong. Hmong Children's Books., 2019 (English/Hmong: bilingual but mostly Hmoob) Grade Level: K-8

 

The Hmong language is one of the most musical languages in the world. The language can be compared to a do re mi music scale. One word can have eight different meanings depending on the tone or pitch that is used. This is a bilingual English and Hmong book intended to teach beginning skills in reading Hmong. In addition, this book includes lessons about the Hmong people and their culture. This beautiful book includes stunning photographic images and well crafted alphabet practice pages, organized around the single consonants, (does require a basic literacy level of Hmoob).

Who Loves You?/Leej Twg Hlub Koj? by Stephanie Xiong. Stephanie Xiong., 2018 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: PreK-5

 

Outstanding illustrations by Vam Moua make this children's book automatically engaging for students and each page visually prioritizes the Hmoob language as well as offering an opportunity for kids to practice kinship terminology, using repetitions in phrasing. 

The Family That I Love / Tsev Neeg Uas Kuv Hlub by See Lor. Reading Karma., 2017 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: PreK-5

 

The Family that I Love is a dual language (Hmong/English), picture book that teaches children how to properly address family members. This book includes the grandparents from both sides of the family and a family tree and is beautifully illustrated by Duachaka Her.

Superheroes/Phab Ej by Pang Xiong. Project Hmong., 2015 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: PreK-3

 

This is a great emerging readers level book. My own kindergarten age son enjoys reading it independently and aloud to us. This book, along with the others in Pang Xiong's Project Hmong series, are a great start for young readers and even preschool age kids.

Tempt your young readers to read and imagine their super power wishes.  Young readers can use their imagination to relate to the characters and independently read the words.

Kuv Pog by Xe Yang. H.E.R. Publisher., 2020 (Hmoob) Grade Level: PreK-3

 

This sweet story about a day in the life of Grandma, is a lovely rhyming book completely in Hmong (Hmoob Dawb) written by experienced veteran teacher, Xe Yang. We go along with Grandma as she goes for a rides a bike, gardens, cooks, reads, enjoys nature, and spends time with her family. 

My Family Is Special To Me/Kuv Tsev Neeg Zoo Tshwj Xeeb Rau Kuv by Bao Xiong. Sun Press, Inc., 2006 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: PreK-3

 

Another excellent bilingual resource for emergent readers. This was a regular go-to book for independent reading time for some of my youngest Hmong Club students. The colorful illustrations, repetition of key vocabulary words, and the focus on a core Hmong value of kinship roles, makes this a great resource for young readers! 

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