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 10 For Kids

These are my personal picks of favorite books to use in the elementary classroom and recommended library resources. 

1. 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. 

2. 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?  

3. 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

4. The Forbidden Treasure/Lub Qhov Tsua Nyiaj Qhov Tsua Kub by See Lor. Reading Karma, 2015 (English/Hmong) Grade Level: K-5

 

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 book The Magic Stone/Lub Pov Haum

5. 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!  

6. 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.

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

 

I'm not just biased because this was written by one of my MMSD colleagues; this is an excellent book! In this book, Nhabee Her relates his own story of leaving Laos in his youth as a refugee escaping the Secret War, and returning as an adult to visit one of the great wonders of the world: the Plain of Stone Jars in Xieng Khuang province, Laos. While he focuses on the wonder of this mysterious place, he also touches on life in Laos and the aftermath of the Secret War. 

8. Superheroes/Phab Ej by Pang Xiong. Project Hmong., 2015 (English/Hmong: bilingual) Grade Level: PreK-1

 

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.

9. 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. 

10. 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-1

 

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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