South Asian Books For Kids

Samta Aunty’s recommendations for books, in English, for kids growing up outside India.

Namaste! Are you, like me, always wanting to give meaningful and thoughtful gifts to the children in your life? And bonus points if they’re educational or skill building? Then stick around! Today I want to share South Asian books for kids.

In this article you’ll see books I do and do not recommend. My criteria was based on usefulness and relatability, for kids that are not growing up in India.

Again, most of these make great gifts, stocking stuffers or simply great additions to your personal library.

The reviews of South Asian books for kids are based on my honest opinion. None of these recommendations are based on a paid promotion nor any other benefit. I will not receive any sort of compensation if you choose to purchase anything. I have purchased many of these myself.  In addition to the description of each book, you’ll find an Amazon link. 

Hindu Story Book

South Asian Hindu culture book for kids about Goddess Lakshmi

Pop-up Laxmi
Samta Aunty Recommends This?

This is the story of Samudar Manthan and the birth of Goddess Laxmi. The illustrations  are beautiful, the writing is simple, short, and sweet and the pop ups make it extra kid-friendly. I recommend this for children age 9 and under. Even though 9 year olds are reading bigger books, I still recommend this because of the story, which they might not know (unless they heard the whole, longer story in my class). 

ProTip: plan ahead – buy early. It can take 1-2 weeks to receive it. 

Do you have a girl with any of these names below, in your life? If so, this is a great gift for her! There are hundreds of names for and inspired by the Goddess of Wealth, including:

  • Sahana
  • Nisa
  • Aditi
  • Padma + Padmavati
  • Shreya
  • Harini
  • Vibha
  • Anisha
  • Chandni
  • Ishaani
  • Jaya
  • Kamala
  • Mohini
  • Saanvi
  • Shreya
  • Sita

Click here for more names. 

Hindu Story Book

South Asian Hindu culture book for kids about Krishna

Pop-Up Krishna
Samta Aunty Recommends This?

This is the story of Krishna and the serpent Kaliya. It’s a tale of keeping cool under fire. It’s by the same company that makes Pop-Up Laxmi. I recommend this book…if you can get your hands on it. 

I ordered this book but never received it. It was “sent” and never arrived although I received a notification that they couldn’t deliver it. I contacted the seller through Amazon and was issued a refund. The seller said they already sent a replacement. After a week there was no delivery date available so I reached out to the seller and learned that the seller is a middle man. They placed the order with whomever actually has the books and it was never actually sent, which made me think that the first one I ordered probably never was either. The seller also said they would not be able to fulfill the order. 

The good news – the seller was responsive and didn’t hassle me about a refund. The bad news – I never received the book. 

ProTip: plan ahead, order it at least 2-3 weeks before you need it; and have a contingency plan in case the order gets canceled.  It can take 2 weeks to receive it….or not receive it at all. 

If you have a child with any of the Krishna and Krishna-inspired names below this book will be particularly apt. 

  • Abhijeet
  • Anish
  • Darsh
  • Devesh
  • Gopal
  • Govind
  • Harish
  • Janav
  • Keshav
  • Kunal
  • Mahendra
  • Madhav
  • Mohan
  • Neeraj
  • Nilesh
  • Sakshi
  • Shyam
  • Sudharshan

Find more names for the beloved mahkan-eating God here.

South Asian Culture Book

Awesome South Asian culture book for kids about female heroes and accomplished women

Stories for South Asian Supergirls
Samta Aunty Recommends This?

I love this book. There are some amazing South Asian women out there – in this book and all across the globe. I have bought it for my nieces and friends’ kids. Growing up in southern California in the 80s and 90s my siblings and I were a handful of the South Asian kids in our community and school – always different – and at that tender age, being completely honest and very blunt, it sucked at times. 

Social interaction at school was often an uphill battle due to some students’ and teachers’ assumptions and ignorance as well as our lack of knowledge of the culture, norms and customs that we did not grow up knowing nor understanding. 

Things have changed so much – for the better. The first time I read this book, I became teary-eyed, remembering my elementary-school self and the feelings of social isolation and outright inferiority that I experienced when I was little. 

When I gave this book to my niece I was full of pride and happiness knowing that she will not go through what I did or at least not nearly to the same extent. That she’s growing up in a more diverse and worldly world. 

ProTip: Plan ahead. Order it at least 3 weeks before you need it. When I last ordered it I think it was a full 3 weeks between order to delivery. 

Indian Moral Stories

South Asian based moral stories for kids

Short Stories From Panchtantra for Kids
Samta Aunty Recommends This?

These books aren’t necessarily Indian culture specific as they are stories about human nature. What makes them Indian is they take place in India. So the clothing, norms, and traditions are Indian. I have mixed feelings about these short stories. On the one hand, they teach morals; and the animal characters are nice and fun for kids. It’s the method of teaching that irks me. They use animals and humans as characters to demonstrate human behavior. The thing I don’t like is that some (most) show the worst qualities and characteristics in people. A lot of the stories focus on negative behavior vs. reinforcing positive behavior. And while it’s good to be prepared for the world I don’t like introducing kids to negative behavior. 

When I perused through some of these stories, it reminded me of how I reacted the one and only time that I watched Law & Order Special Victims Unit. I didn’t know – going in – what Special Victims Unit meant – I just started watching and was quickly devastated. There were crimes and behaviors that would never occur to me. And in a way some Panchtantra stories introduce unpleasant behavior – things (I think) a lot of kids would never even think of – hence I cannot recommend these.

The purpose of the stories is to prepare children for the world but I’m careful when it comes to these stories. I often edit to reduce the violence as well as the way the story unfolds. I also prefer to focus on the ones that reinforce positive behavior i.e. helping others vs. the ones where the moral is, for example, tit-for-tat. I’m not kidding, at the end of each story they have a one-liner with the moral and one is tit-for-tat. Seriously??

One more thing, while the stories are in English, the writing style is not necessarily relatable for kids growing up in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. I know…I’m really selling it, right? I do have a few Panchtantra books that I use as inspiration for story telling in my classes. I definitely take creative license and alter before sharing with children. 

Would I purchase this as a gift? I did once and won’t again. 

Hindu Culture Book

The Little Book of Hindu Deities
Samta Aunty Recommends This?

This is a great book for children to not feel lost when they go to the mandir. Growing up, (and probably also because I’m Jain and not Hindu) I knew the names: Vishnu, Krishna, Lakshmi, Ram, Sita, Shiv, Parvati, etc. but I didn’t know who was who.The only ones I could decipher were Ganesh and Hanuman. 

My students are the same. This book is fantastic for that. It gives a short and understandable description of each God. 

Personally I love the illustrations in this book too. To be honest, when I was little, I found images of the Gods pretty creepy. They weren’t illustrated in the cartoonish-childlike way you see in this book. 

Hindu Culture Book

Ganesh’s Sweet Tooth
Samta Aunty Recommends This?

This is such a sweet (pun intended!) story. I can’t tell you how many times in class, when I’m sharing a story about Ganesh, a student will say, “Aunty, didn’t Ganesh LOVE to eat ladoos? I love ladoos too!”. That never gets old. 🙂

Hindu Culture Book

Ramayana: Divine Loophole
Samta Aunty recommends this?

Though the story of Ramayan and Raavan’s character started before Ram was even born, kids will get the gist of the story – good guy vs. bad guy and good conquering over evil; all while learning the names of the characters.

Hindi Numbers Book

South Asian Hindi counting book for kids

Bindi Baby Numbers
Samta Aunty recommends this?

This book is for little kids, who can read, or for parents to read to kids as a way to learn counting from 0-10 in Hindi. In my opinion, this book is not for kids who are focused on learning conversational Hindi. I think it’s better for little kids, in India, who are learning to read and write in Hindi. Each page has a number with the Hindi word and the Roman spelling in English. The Hindi script is a lot bigger than the English. Additionally each page has a picture. For example:

On the page for 5, the example is “paanch saikilen”. If it did not have a picture of bicycles it would have taken me a minute to understand what “saikilen” is. The examples on all the pages are like this – relatable for kids in India.

I am infinity % bias, but I think my video that teaches counting 1-10 is way better….and it’s free, on Virtual PreSkool’s Youtube channel

Hindu Culture Book

If you want your child to learn Hanuman Chalisa this is a great book. What I like is that it’s not just about memorization but also understanding. And the explanations are good. Additionally it will inspire interest in the story of Ramayan. 

I recommend it for kids 10+ who can read it on their own and process the pronunciation. The words are written in Hindi and English. What’s awesome is the translation of each word is given as you can see in the picture.

It’s still good and helpful because instead of just memorizing a bunch of words your child will understand what it means. But that’s why I suggested it for age 10+ as it requires ability to make cognitive connections in addition to pronunciation.

Hindu Culture Book

Tales of Gods and Goddesses
Samta Aunty recommends this? yes and no

There are 10 stories in this compilation: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvati, Ganesha, Hanuman, Indra, Surya. They are written in Indian English; so if you are reading it to your child and can edit the words to be more relatable then I recommend it. The illustrations are so-so and in my opinion, some are a little scary (snake).

This book has the story of the birth of Goddess Lakshmi. Giving a gift? I’d rather give the book that I recommended earlier, Pop-Up Laxmi, which is the same story, in a heartbeat over this book. 

I would not buy this to give as a gift to a child. It was given to me as a gift. As a teacher it’s a fantastic resource that I can use to incorporate into my lessons but I will not be sharing the illustrations with my students.  

Hindu Culture Books

Amar Chitra Katha
Samta Aunty recommends this?

with some caveats

Firstly, the link is for one book but there are literally hundreds. This review is for Amar Chitra Katha as a whole, not a particular book. 

Amar Chitra Katha is the OG in Hindu mythology stories for kids. You can find individual stories as well as compilations with anywhere from 10-100 books.  

Here are my caveats on these: If you are reading this to your child and can change the words, skip some violent parts or explain some of the totally unrelatable aspects then these are great books…er, graphic novels? 

Or, if you have a kid that’s just REALLY into mythology, that’s maybe a bit older or mature and can get to the heart of the story then and only then, I’d recommend these as a gift. The writing style is definitely Indian English. And a lot of times thoughts and parts of the plot are implied instead of explicitly communicated which can be confusing. The graphics are impressive but they’re not kiddish. And I have to admit some of them left me going, “what?!”. 

Indian Culture Book

Always Anjali
Samta Aunty recommends this?

This is a great story about a girl who is relatable not only to girls of South Asian descent but for any child that has an ethnic name. You’re not going to find the name “Anjali” on a ready to buy license plate frame at the Hallmark store. And this book teaches us that not only is that ok. It’s a good thing. 

It’s SO relatable. When I was little there were times when I disliked my name because it was different. People made fun of it (I can’t tell you how many people have called me “Samta Claus”) and no one pronounced it right. Aside from South Asian people, even today, no one pronounces it correctly. I admit when I was little there were times that I wished I had a “normal” name. 

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s and I went to the Jain Center that I gained a new perspective. The Pathshala teacher asked me “Beta, what is your name?” And when I said, “Samta”…I will never forget his reaction. His expression was one of wonder and amazement. He went on to say what a beautiful name I have and what a deep meaning it has. I never knew and I never appreciated it until that day. 

This a great book that teaches kids to be proud of their name as well as the deep and rich heritage that inspires it. 

Indian Culture Book

Let’s Celebrate Holi
Samta Aunty recommends this?

For age 8+

Though Holi is technically a Hindi festival in origin, it is celebrated across cultures tthroughout India. This is an activity book about India’s beloved Festival of Colors. I think it’s cute and educational while being interactive. It feels like a good thing to have on a flight. But I think I was the only one who felt that way. I gave this to my niece when she was almost 6.5. She perused it, once, for a few minutes and then it sat on her bookshelf collecting dust – it was a miss…for her. 

I think I will try again when she’s 8 or 9. I specified that my niece was almost 6.5 because kids change and grow so rapidly. Perhaps she wasn’t ready. I also, later, realized that I gave it to her before she had actually experienced Holi. She’d never celebrated it until later that year so at that time it was this abstract thing. Now that she has celebrated it she might like this book more. Come to think of it as I’m writing this, I think I will remind her that she has this book. But I’ll wait a couple months as we get closer to Holi (it’s currently the beginning of December).

Hindu Mythology Book

365 Tales From Hindu Mythology
Samta Aunty recommends this?

I really like this book. It has short to very short snippets of popular as well as more obscure stories from Hindu mythology. And the stories are very condensed. For example there’s a paragraph summary about Ramayan….Ramayan, the epic, as in several hours to get through….in a paragraph. That’s what makes this a great taste test resource – test out a couple stories on your child and if they ask follow up questions then you’ll know they’re interested.

Hindu Mythology Book

Ramayana for Children
Samta Aunty recommends this?

This is a beautifully created book that explains the epic tale for children with wonderful illustrations. I have given this book to a few friends’ kids as gifts and they all enjoyed it.


In this article I shared South Asian books for kids. There are so many books out there (which I am very grateful for). In this article I reviewed several books and provided explanations for why I recommend the ones I do as well as the ones I don’t. I will update this article as I come across more. Happy reading! Happy learning!

Books Reviewed:

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