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McGillis Students Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month With Books!

by Heather Novotny, Librarian


May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and our students are celebrating by reading great books. There is no pleasure like seeing your identity reflected in a book -- and books are crucial windows looking outward onto the lives and experiences of our peers. The McGillis Library is fiercely committed to developing and maintaining a collection of books that speak to all of our students' lives. This is, in part, why McGillis students are such diverse readers.


This year, our 5th Graders have discovered Front Desk and Three Keys by author Kelly Yang. Mia Tang, the main character in these novels, may as well have been one of our 5th Grade classmates this year! During each read-aloud, from September through May, Mia, her family, and their close friends have shared their unique, dynamic, and often heartbreaking life experiences with us. We've became intimate with the stories Mia tells of how her Chinese parents and their immigrant friends uphold and support each other through some pretty rough situations, wherein they have to confront the systemic racism at the heart of the American Dream. Alongside her parents' struggles to make ends meet cleaning and managing a motel, Mia runs the front desk, and pursues her dream to become a writer by crafting countless essays for school, as well as letters on behalf of friends who face discrimination, deportation, and job termination, to name a few. 


“Front Desk is a really good book about following dreams and being the best you can be,” shared Akash, McGillis 5th Grade student.


"Truly the most rewarding thing about reading Kelly Yang's books, was to hear the kids begging for more at the end of each chapter, and for the sequel, Three Keys, at the end of Front Desk. They couldn't be left hanging! The characters were complex and likeable, even the original antagonists experienced tremendous growth. All their struggles truly came alive, and brought out the fiery passion for fairness and justice that is inherent in kids of this age. I can't recommend these books enough!" shared Ariane Green, 5th Grade Teaching Assistant.  


“Three Keys is really captivating… you want to read more. It’s really interesting and based on a true story,” offered Kai, McGillis 5th Grade student. 


Below is a list of my favorite books celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage. For more great recommendations, see the Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association’s awards page.


Book recommendations for Lower School Students | Kindergarten-Grade 2


Book recommendations for Lower School Students | Grades 3 - 5


Book recommendations for Middle School Students | Grades 6 - 7


For questions, or if you need help to reserve a book, email me at