Australian Curriculum – Asia-Pacific texts

One of the most common questions we are asked in the lead up to the implementation of the Australian Curriculum, is a list of all our books that fit into the Asia-Pacific theme.  Below are some of our suggestions:


The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas

This is the stunning picture book version of Li’s novel Mao’s Last DancerThis true story follows a young boy from poverty during Mao’s reign over China, to the bright lights of the ballet stage in the United States.  Not just for primary students, this book has Visual Literacy applications throughout primary and secondary.

Look inside.

Video of Li and Anne.


Krakatoa Lighthouse  and Little Brother by Allan Baillie

Allan Baillie has a long history of writing adventure stories set in Asia.  In these instances, the story takes place in Indonesia, during the eruption of Krakatoa, and Cambodia, during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.  Suitable for upper primary students, Baillie’s stong-willed characters bring the eras and dangerous situations to life.

Krakatoa Lighthouse extract.


The Hidden Monastery, The Garden of Empress Cassia, A Ghost in My Suitcase, The Lion Drummer and Our Australian Girl: Poppy by Gabrielle Wang

As a fifth generation Chinese-Australian woman, Gabrielle often explores themes surrounding her Asian heritage.  Gabrielle’s beautiful writing has opened the eyes of many readers to Chinese dragon parades, life for a modern-day ghost-catcher in Shanghai, Chinese myths and legends and even the plight of a young Chinese-Aboriginal girl during the gold rush.  Gabrielle never explores “issues” in a heavy-handed way, but rather uses her adventurous and courageous characters to reveal various aspects of Chinese culture both in Australia and abroad.

Teachers’ Notes for Ghost in My Suitcase

Teachers’ Notes for The Hidden Monastery

Teachers’ Notes for Our Australian Girl: Meet Poppy

Middle Readers

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

A constant favourite with teachers and students alike, Chinese Cinderella is popular with upper primary and lower secondary classes.  A good companion to Mao’s Last Dancer, this book explores the life of an unwanted Chinese daughter during the 50s and 60s.

Teachers’ Notes


Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford

Now in its sixth instalment, the Young Samurai series is an action-packed adventure story set in Ancient Japan.  Following a young, English martial arts apprentice, these books are a great way of enticing reluctant readers in upper primary and lower secondary and include everything from pirates to ninjas.  They also satisfy both the Asian and Ancient Civilisations strands of the curriculum and have wide applications across both English and History.

Visit the website for teachers’ notes, background from the author and more information on Ancient Japan and martial arts.


The Year of the Tiger and Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors by Alison Lloyd

Alison Lloyd’s many years of the study of Ancient China come to life in these two books for middle readers.  Wicked Warriors is a fabulous, non-fiction account of China’s first Emperor.  With funny illustrations from Terry Denton, this is ideal for reluctant readers who can dip in at will.  The Year of the Tiger is the fictional account of two boys, from different classes, who become friends and join a battle to fight the barbarians.

Teachers’ Notes for Year of the Tiger

Unit of Work for Year of the Tiger

Teachers’ Notes for Wicked Warriors


Thai-Riffic! and Con-nerd by Oliver Phommavanh

Raised in Sydney to Thai parents, Oliver knows only too well what it is like to be a young Asian boy in Australia.  Oliver’s mad-cap humour has captured readers across primary and secondary whilst bringing to life the experiences of a Thai boy trying to deny his culture and a Chinese boy trying to escape the academic pressures of his mother.

Unit of Work and Teachers’ Notes for Thai-Riffic!


The China Coin by Allan Baillie

Set against the background of Tiananmen Square, The China Coin has been on the HSC list for a number of years.  However, it has also been popular with classes in lower secondary.



Mao’s Last Dancer and Mao’s Last Dancer: Young Readers’ Edition by Li Cunxin

Across the adult, young readers’, picture book and film editions, this story can now be made accessible for a range of reading abilities and ages.  A study of all four editions would also make a worth-while and multimodal exploration.

Unit of Work and Teachers’ Notes

Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang

In her first young adult novel, Wang uses the life of her mother to explore a teenage girl’s experience of war time Melbourne and Shanghai.  This romantic story is a vivid depiction of Australia and China during WWII.

Teachers’ Notes

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation is loosely based on the author’s experience of moving from Hong Kong to New York in the 1990s.  The story follows a young girl who migrates with her mother, only to end up in a country where she does not speak the language and where her mother is forced to work in a sweat shop to pay off their debts.  This is a powerful exploration of poverty hidden behind bright lights and the determination of a young girl to use her education to help her family.

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