Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hmong Children's Literature

We celebrated Hmong New Year in La Crosse earlier this month. As always, it was amazing with fantastic food, fun, music, dancing, sports and so much to see. Hmong people have been living in the area for forty years now and have brought much to strengthen the community including this celebration.

Teaching in an elementary school, I want to make sure that the Hmong culture is also represented in our library. I wrote about that on the Nerdybookclub blog. I've looked around and have found some great books and have also added some artifacts to our collection. A few people have asked me about specific titles and resources so I wanted to share them here.

The best possible place to start when looking for resources is online with Hmong ABC. They have a physical bookstore in St. Paul, MN on Como Ave. If you are close enough to visit, it's also helpful to visit both the Hmongtown Marketplace (this is where you will find the bookstore) and the Hmong Village Shopping Center. Both shopping areas are in St. Paul and provide access to all kinds of Hmong art, clothing, music, and more. One other online resource for Hmong handicrafts is Redgreen Rivers™.

At Hmong Village, I also found a place that makes custom t-shirts and pins, Big Eye Little Eye. They have an online presence, though not all of their products are shown there. I was able to buy a t-shirt that shows the numerals 1-10 and the Hmong words for each of them. When I wore it to school many students were able to count in Hmong with me as we read my shirt. I looked, and that particular shirt isn't available online yet. You can see it here in our library window display.

Our school has a large story cloth that shows the journey of the Hmong people from Laos to Thailand and then to the U.S. Our art teacher also purchased a smaller story cloth showing Hmong New Year. He has it on display in his classroom. There is another small cloth I purchased at Hmong New Year that shows all sorts of animals. At the markets and the local New Year celebration, I've also acquired a small girl's traditional outfit, a pair of baby shoes, a ball that is used in a game at New Year, a purse, and a bracelet. These items will all be going into the Hmong Culture Kit I'm putting together for the LMC. The kit will be available for checkout to staff. I would also like to add at least one music CD and a few other items, but it will be a work in progress.

As for books, Hmong ABC is not the only place to get them, but they have the most extensive collection that I have found anywhere. Here are a few more places that offer Hmong materials:

The Reading Together Book Project - Melody of the Qeej, Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon, and The Imaginary Day

D.C. Everest High School - Zaj Lus: A Hmong Children's Story Collection, titles for older students or for professional collections: Looking Back, Stepping Forward: The Hmong People, Hmong in the Modern World 

Project Hmong: Books for Young Readers - This is a series of controlled vocabulary books that are also bilingual.

Here are two newer self-published titles that I want to highlight:

Hmong Names by Susan Kaying Pha - here's an article about it from Hmong Times Online. I've had baby name books in my library before and students love to look up their names along with other family member names and even those of friends. I'm planning to purchase this one soon.

Gathering Fireflies was written by Mai Chao, an art teacher in our community. She wrote this novel-in-verse and created some illustrations to accompany the text. It's aimed toward middle school and high school. She wrote about a young boy who is interviewing his grandparents and learning about his cultural heritage. Mai Chao believes that it's time for Hmong voices to tell their own stories. I own this one for my personal collection, but would recommend it to our middle and high school.

If you would like to see the titles we have available in our school, visit our catalog via this link. Click on Northern Hills and then search Hmong. We only have about 50 titles right now, but I'm always looking for more.

Here are some of our most popular titles:

Zaj Lus : A Hmong Children's Story Collectionby D.C. Everest Students and Staff

Many Ideas Open the Way : A Collection of Hmong Proverbs by Randy Snook
The Terrible Journey : A Hmong Child's True Story of His Escape from Laos to Thailand by Cha Ya
Dia's Story Cloth by Dia Cha
I Won't Bite! : English/Hmong = [Kuv tsis tom!] by Rod Campbell
Pw zoo, Tus Me Ntshuab/Good Night Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann
Ka's Garden/Kab lub vaj by Maggie Lee McHugh and Dr. Bee Lo
Tougi the Toad Finds His Smile by Gaonou Thao

My Family is Special to Me by Bao Xiong

Nine in One, Grr! Grr! told by Blia Xiong, adapted by Cathy Spagnoli

Another favorite is our Hmong New Year book. Students and staff from our school made this using Shutterfly. Several of our students took cameras to Hmong New Year. The photographers got many wonderful photos that were used to create a nonfiction book that shares the celebration. 

If you know of other titles that would be good for us to acquire, please let me know.

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