“This is the story about a girl named Jade who loves to take care of the colorful fish in Lake Leilani.” So begins “Saving Lake Leilani,” a new children’s storybook about a young Asian American girl and her mathematical journey to save her island village’s lake. The villain? An invasive and exponentially growing weed!

Linda Louie

The book, available online now, was written by a local Asian American author Linda Diane Louie and illustrated by Lisa Aihara.

The story and its clever mathematical problem have a unique twist: the ending is open-ended and asks the young readers to solve the problem themselves. There are hundreds of different interpretations and answers to the simple math problem. While the math principle of exponential growth is best suited for elementary-aged readers, the story and Aihara’s beautiful watercolor illustrations are engaging for any age.

This is Louie’s first children’s book. “I wrote the story over 10 years ago, but as a teacher and math coach, I just never had the time to turn it into a book,” she says.

Lisa Aihara

Louie worked for public schools in Los Angeles and Pasadena for over 20 years. She long dreamt of creating a book to challenge even the youngest readers to explore mathematical concepts in a creative and playful way. “Math should be fun and not scary!” she says. When she retired, she asked family for help finding an illustrator. 

Many Little Tokyo supporters may recognize Aihara’s illustrations from the Little Tokyo Community Council’s artwork, stickers, and enamel pin collection. Aihara is a Japanese American visual artist, writer, and a mom of two.

“I draw — pun intended — inspiration from my own life, my sense of humor, playful art style, and my knack for storytelling to create an emotional connection,” says Aihara. Her delightful watercolor illustrations are inspired by the lush landscapes of Kauai, Hawai’i. 
Louie told The Rafu, “I believe that what we learn in the classroom is a building block for understanding the world around us.” She hopes the book inspires youth to become problem-solvers and, of course, lovers of fish.

A perfect holiday gift, “Saving Lake Leilani” is available online at

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