Chinese New Year picture books for preschoolers and up.

Chinese New Year will begin on the 16th February this year and it is a festival that will continue to be celebrated for around two weeks.

The date of Chinese New Year differs each year as it is based on the lunar calendar.

Dependent on the year, the Chinese Zodiac determines which animal will be the focal point. 2018 is the year of the Dog and it is particularly significant to those born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018.

Chinese New Year is a festival filled with colour and sound and picture books are a great tool to use to make children more aware of this celebration.

To begin, the following book is a great read to use when discussing festivals and using the book as a reference point.

Festivals and Celebrations by Sandra Lawrence and illustrated by Jane Newland -Little Tiger Press

Festivals and CelebrationsThis colourful read is filled with information about festivals and celebrations from around the world. This book highlights that many of us love to celebrate and as each month and season passes we are presented with different festivals.  The book includes some world religion celebrations as well as festivals that are beautiful and rather unique.  It also includes Chinese New Year.img_9311img_9310

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz – Square Fish

My First Chinese New Year

Karen Katz writes with simplicity making this an ideal picture book to share with preschoolers and up. Witness the little girl in the story preparing for the festival, observing different jobs she does with different members of her family. The significance of the colour red is explained, food which is symbolic in Chinese New Year bringing luck is talked about and you see the family enjoy a big parade in their town.  The language used is suited to its younger audience and the illustrations are just so lovely. Karen Katz captures special moments so sweetly,

Karen Katz

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin – Alfred A Knopf

Bringing in the New YearGrace Lin has written several picture books about the Chinese American family based on her own experiences. Bringing in the New Year is available in board book format (hooray) and is a simple, happy story embracing the festival to come in an appealing way using patterned artwork and striking illustrations. We adore the colourful front cover of the book and how Grace Lin has including Mandarin on the cover also, making children aware of a different language and highlighting how it is written down the page.

Each person in the family does their part to ensure that the celebration is well prepared for from hanging decorations to making dumplings.

Grace Lin All the characters included in the book have traditional Chinese names and Grace Lin introduces words such as “qi pao,” (a dress which the main character wears) and questions, making the book a fun interactive read.

Lanterns and Firecrackers: A Chinese New Year story by Jonny Zucker and illustrated by Jan Barger Cohen – Frances Lincoln

Lanterns and FirecrackersThis is a fantastic picture book embracing Chinese New Year for children 3 years and up. The book is part of a series of preschool reads introducing young children to different celebrations and how they are celebrated today. We think the series is super.

lanterns and firecrackersWritten simply with adorable illustrations, the book gives a concise description of Chinese New Year making it a brilliant book for younger children. The book explains how a family prepare for Chinese New Year and why particular customs are done including letting firecrackers off “to scare away any bad spirits.” The book also includes includes cultural and historical facts ideal for parents and teachers at the end of the book.

Chelsea’s Chinese New Year by Lisa Bullard and illustrated by Katie Saunders – Lerner books.

Chelsea's Chinese New Year

Cloverleaf books do a brilliant job at producing appealing reads about different festivals in a child friendly way.

ChelseaChelsea and her family are Chinese and live in the United States. The book follows her journey preparing for Chinese New Year and what she does to celebrate the festival. The illustrations are bright and inviting and reminded us of Lauren Child’s work. The book not only informs you about Chelsea and her family traditions but also shares facts and the book includes a glossary. This would be a brilliant book to share in the classroom for children aged 5 years and up and it allows children to see the festival through a young childs eyes.

Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift the flap book by Joan Holub and illustrated by Benrei Huang – Puffin books

Dragon DanceThis is a lovely book for preschoolers and up and it has lift the flaps, yay! The book is a celebration of everything that needs to be done in preparation for the important annual event, what happens on the days of festivities and the enjoyment the dragon dance brings. The simple text, gentle illustrations and of course lift the flaps makes this a very enjoyable read. It is a short, easy read opening young eyes to a different culture.

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Christopher Corr – Frances Lincoln

The Great Race

This fun, animated read is brilliant for young children to understand more about the Chinese zodiac. Children will find out who came first in this well known race and why certain animals had fallings out in this colourful picture book, brilliant for 5 year olds and up.

CorrChristopher Corr has produced a book that will introduce children to Chinese culture and folklore and will be a great book to share both at home and at school. I am sure the book will inspire colourful artwork and be sure to be the reason why children want to discover what animal their year of birth is in the Chinese zodiac.

Ruby’s Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee and illustrated by Joey Chou – Henry Holt and Co

img_9358Ruby’s grandmother is unable to join the family for Chinese New Year celebrations so Ruby completes a journey to bring a special gift to her much loved elder. Along the way Ruby makes new friends and together they work as team, each making a contribution to the dinner that is to happen with Ruby’s grandmother. The friends Ruby makes are all the animals from the Chinese zodiac.

rubyThis picture book is filled with a gorgeous pallete of colours and friendly looking animals which you just want to befriend. Different from other books included in the post, this is a wordier read appealing to children 5 and up. Vickie Lee has included information about the legend of the Chinese zodiac and instructions for crafts that could be completed for the festival. A delight.

The Chinese Emperors New Clothes by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by David Roberts – Abrams and Chronicle

The Chinese Emperor's New ClothesInspired by the classic story The Emperors New Clothes, Ying Chang Compestine has written a story about a young Chinese emperor, however, this version is far more precious.

img_8371The story emphasises the importance of new clothes, which are to be worn on the day of Chinese festivities. The young emperor is caring and wants to do what is best for his people. Different from other picture books included in this post this is a great book to share embracing Chinese culture and incorporating Chinese New Year within the story itself. This is a great picture book to share with school aged children. You can read a full review of this book on a previous blog post I have done.

Finally, the last book I wanted to share in this post is Round is a Mooncake.

Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Grace Lin.Round is a MooncakeThis book is not about Chinese New Year but  is a book about shapes however, it incorporates Chinese culture within the book in an interesting and informative way. This book would be perfect in a number area in classrooms and of course at bookshelves at home. It is such a lovely read and will be sure to encourage questions and observations about what is amongst the brilliant illustrations.

At the end of the book there is also a list of all the different shapes found with an explanation of what they are. With its bouncy, rhyming text, Roseanne Thong has made this a brilliant read aloud.

I intended for this blog post to inform and inspire you to celebrate Chinese New Year with the help of picture books. Whilst completing research on what books to include I’m sure you will agree that they are lacking in male main characters. However, I am so grateful for reads that I have mentioned that inform my girls about a different culture and do hope I have included some that you would like to read with your little ones also.

Thank you so much to publishers Little Tiger Press, Abrams and Chronicles and Lerner books for sending us their books.

9 thoughts

  1. What a great selection! We usually celebrate Chinese New Year as up until this year my brother had been living in China so it was a nice easy to remind my daughter of her faraway uncle, but now he’s moved I’m not sure we’ll keep up with the tradition. We do have a version of The Great Race to read though, and will probably eat Chinese food! It’s interesting that there aren’t many male characters in these books especially as that’s quite unusual for picture books, I wonder why that is? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ah lovely. We have family who live in Hong Kong so it’s always nice to think of them when reading about the Chinese New Year. I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog post. Hope you have a fun time over the Chinese New Year whatever you decide to do. I’m not sure why the lead characters tend to be female but I’m certainly going to look into it. Thank you for reading.

    1. Hello Claire, Ah I’m so pleased I’ve introduced to some new reads as I know you and your girls love to read too. One of the libraries local to us had nothing and when I asked the librarian she directed me to the non-fiction section. Thankfully the internet is a great resource. I’m so pleased that there are books about different festivals available especially for young ones who are celebrating.

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