Inside: Read about the wonderful traditions, history, and fun stories with these Chinese New Year books for kids! Perfect for children to celebrate and learn.
Chinese New Year may be what most of us think of when we think of Asian New Year celebrations marked by dumplings, lion dances, new clothes, and feasts. I’ve included other Asian Lunar New Year picture books as well for those who want to explore further.
My list includes:
- Picture Books About Families Celebrating Chinese (and Lunar) New Year
- Picture Books About Chinese and Lunar New Year
- Retold Fairy Tales with a Chinese New Year Twist
- Chinese New Year Craft and Activity Books
Lunar New Year Books for Kids About Families Celebrating
This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Yangsook Choi
I love how the boy in this book is half Korean and half Chinese. This Next New Year is a multicultural, inclusive celebration with kids from different ethnicities celebrating Chinese New Year, each in their own way.
In this story, the boy and his family get ready for the Chinese New Year by cleaning their home, hoping for a change in luck for the new year. It’s so perfect that author Janet Wong is Chinese American, and Yangsook Choi, who did the illustrations, grew up in Korea. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Friends Are Friends, Forever by Dane Liu, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield
Dandan celebrates her last Lunar New Year in China with her best friend, Yueyue, and her family in Northeastern China. Soon, she and her family will be moving far away to the United States. It’s a difficult adjustment to immigrate to a new country and learn a new language. Dandan makes a new American friend, but she never forgets her best friend, Yueyue. She shows her friend how to make frozen snowflake cut-out ornaments using Yueyue’s parting gift to her. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Alex’s Good Fortune by Benson Shum
Alex shares her family’s Chinese New Year celebration with her best friend, Ethan. They watch the Chinese New Year and the dragon dance. They help clean up and decorate the house and make dumplings. Celebrating is great fun! They open red envelopes, eat an array of delicious food, and join the lantern festival! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Playing with Lanterns by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, translated by Helen Wang
Review from Randomly Reading:
“Playing with Lanterns is such a delightful look at one child’s experience of this important holiday. The author has really captured Zhao Di’s anticipation at the coming New Year, her excitement at being a part of it and playing with lanterns with her friends despite the cold and snow, and her sadness at the end of the 15 days and the loss of her lantern mixed in with good memories of the time, and her happiness as she remembers that there will be another New Year next year.”
Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
Vinson’s grandfather visits from China and practices tai chi in the garden. He calls Vinson by his Chinese name, Ma Ding. Vinson tries tai chi but it’s not like the kung fu that he’s used to. When his grandfather takes him to school, he realizes that his grandfather has serious martial arts skills. He practices tai chi with his grandfather but it’s very exhausting. On Chinese New Year, his grandfather takes him to Chinatown. At first, Vinson is embarrassed to wear the red Chinese jacket, but soon he gets caught up in the celebration. He gets to be part of the lion dance as the cabbage boy. This story will especially resonate with mixed-race Chinese American kids who may struggle to straddle two cultures and identities. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Sam isn’t sure how he wants to spend the lucky Chinese New Year money that he received. Shopping in Chinatown makes him realize that four dollars aren’t enough to buy the things that he wants.
But when he accidentally runs into a homeless man on the street, the stranger’s bare feet make him realize what he really wants to do with his money. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
Grace Lin introduces the rituals of Chinese New Year to the youngest of readers. Join a Chinese American family as they get ready.
This celebration is marked by cleaning the house, putting up decorations on the walls, making dumplings, wearing new clothes, setting off fireworks, carrying lanterns in a parade, and watching dragon dancers. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low, photographs by Martha Cooper
Ernie and his family live in New York City’s Chinatown and he’s been practicing his Lion Dance for Chinese New Year. First, his family eats a huge feast to celebrate and soon, past midnight, it’s time to perform the dance.
The next morning is busy too. The lion dancers visit restaurants and stores to bring good luck and blessings. They get red envelopes and sometimes even the dragon has to find it hidden in a bowl.
This is an excellent picture book for kids who might not have access to Chinatown to learn what life here is like for a contemporary boy and his family. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Here’s footage of a lion dance in Boston’s Chinatown:
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders
For Marisa’s family in Hawaii, celebrating New Year’s means her grandmother’s Korean dumplings! Now that she’s seven, she’s allowed to help make them. The entire Yang family arrives — aunties, uncles, and lots and lots of cousins. They play games all night waiting for the New Year.
When morning comes, it’s time for dumpling soup. Marisa’s dumplings may not look perfect, but they taste delicious. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Hyun-Joo Bae
Koreans also celebrate the Lunar New Year. In this gorgeously illustrated picture book, a little girl gets dressed in new traditional clothes that her mother made her for the new year. Each piece has special significance with details including delicate embroidery.
Hyun-Joo Bae takes the reader through the dressing process of her crimson silk skirt, rainbow-striped jacket, furry vest, lucky charm, and bag. Now she’s ready to make New Year’s calls and wish everyone good luck in the New Year. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Too Many Noodles! by Sara Luna and Amy Eam
Lily and Peter visit their grandparents in China for the Chinese New Year. It’s a trip filled with discovering new food from hand-pulled noodles to chicken feet and durian. Through food, they discover their culture. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year by Virginia Loh-Hagan, illustrated by Renné Benoit
Chinese New Year is a month-long affair with fifteen days spent cleaning and preparing and fifteen more days celebrating. A young Chinese-American girl helps her grandmother, PoPo, with this process. There is much to do!
First, they clean and prepare special foods. Noodles are for a long life. A whole chicken is for the family to stay together. A fish with a head and tail means a good beginning and ending. Everything, it seems, has special significance.
Red keeps bad luck away, but writing in red ink means that you want that person to go away! It’s so confusing! The lucky red envelopes are her favorite part of Chinese New Year. Getting them in pairs doubles the luck but the number four is to be avoided at all costs. And the hardest of all is to avoid bad thoughts. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Nian, The Chinese New Year Dragon by Virginia Loh-Hagan, illustrated by Timothy Banks
The Chinese New Year traditions come from the folk stories of the Nian monster who wakes at Lunar New Year and attacks villages. In this version, Virginia Loh-Hagan chose to make the Nian monster an evil dragon (though Chinese dragons, unlike Western ones, are auspicious).
Mei, a young girl, born in the year of the Golden Dragon, is chosen to defeat the Nian monster. With the help of a magical warrior, she uses her wits to keep her village safe from the Nian monster. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Alina Chau
The ancient legend of the Nian monster gives background to why Chinese New Year is celebrated with the color red, loud noises, and fire.
XingLing knows about the Nian Monster but is shocked to see it appear in Shanghai, ready to devour her and her city. She uses her wits to outsmart the Nian monster. The special foods used to celebrate Chinese New Year also have a role to play in defeating the Nian monster. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Dragon Dancer by Joyce Chng, illustrated by Jeremy Pailler
For those readers who like a touch of fantasy with a Lunar New Year dragon dancer story, fits the bill. Yao, a dragon dancer boy, awakens an ancient dragon, Shen Long, and together they remove the bad luck from a shopping mall through an inspired dragon dance celebration. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yongsheng Xuan
Use this picture book for preschoolers and kindergarteners to teach them about Chinese New Year and the alphabet! There’s also a dumpling recipe in the back. Chinese calligraphy from different dynasties is also embedded in the illustrations like a secret message! [alphabet picture book, ages 2 and up]
Ten Mice for Tet by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Tô Ngoc Trang, embroidered by Phan Viet-Dinh
Tet is the Vietnamese New Year celebration which is also a lunar New Year holiday. This picture book is also a counting book, covering the preparations and celebration of Tet from planning a party to feasting and dancing. Endnotes give more background on Tet.
Pair with D is for Dragon Dance for counting and the alphabet. [counting picture book, ages 2 and up]
How did the twelve animals come to be selected for the Chinese Zodiac? Thirteen animals race for one of twelve spots and how each animal performs determines their place in the Zodiac. Did you know that each person born under a particular animal is attributed to certain personality aspects?
It’s based on the character of each animal as evidenced by how they behaved during the race. This picture book also explains why cats hate rats! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Traditional Fables in Chinese and English by Vivian Ling and Wang Peng, illustrated by Yang Xi
How did the animals of the Chinese Zodiac get their place in the lunar calendar? These stories and more are included in this folk tale compendium in both Chinese and English. [bilingual Mandarin picture book, for ages 7 and up]
Chinese Zodiac Animals by Sanmu Tang
Did you know that the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac are ascribed with certain personality traits just like Astrological signs? This picture book describes the traits, professions, and financial skills of each of these twelve signs. [picture book, ages 9 and up]
Happy New Year! by Demi
Did you know that Chinese New Year is a thirty-day celebration? The last fifteen days of the old year are spent preparing for the holiday. It includes cleaning, cooking, and making decorations. The first fifteen days of the new year are spent celebrating new beginnings including the season for planting.
It’s also time to get a new haircut and new clothes. Visiting family and friends and bringing gifts is also a big part of the holiday. Use this picture book in conjunction with one about how families celebrate the Chinese New Year. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
New Year by Mei Zihan, illustrated by Qin Leng
Although my daughter isn’t on the other side of the world and not coming home for important family holidays, I can relate to this story of missing your children after they grow up. In this case, a father misses his married daughter who now is married and living in Paris. It is especially hard at Chinese New Year to think of her and wish that she could be home in China, enjoying the multi-course feast. It’s not that the father hasn’t visited his daughter in Paris — he has and knows the arduous journey there and back. This is a picture book for families who are separated during the holidays and the bittersweet feeling for parents as their children grow up a little too fast. [picture book, ages 9 and up]
Retold Fairy Tales with a Chinese New Year Twist
The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Sebastià Serra
There are shades of Jack and the Beanstalk and the Gingerbread Man in this fun fractured fairy tale that is actually based on a Danish folktale.
The Li family is the richest family in Beijing, cheating everyone of their money. When Ming trades eggs for a rusty wok, fortunes change hands due to this magical runaway wok. It even cleans up corruption! [fractured fairy tale picture book, ages 4 and up]
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Lim, illustrated by Grace Zong
In this riff on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldy Luck is a Chinese American girl who upsets her panda family neighbors.
She eats their congee, sits in their chairs, and messes up their beds. Her conscience gets to her and she returns to make amends, just in time to help the pandas celebrate Chinese New Year. This is a fun picture book for kids to compare with the original fairy tale. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Chinese New Year Craft and Activity Books
Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts by Jennifer DeCristoforo
With over 100 projects and ideas celebrating Chinese culture, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts is perfect for celebrating Chinese New Year with the kids, and all year as well.
Use the narratives to introduce a unit on China in the classroom. It’s also great for introducing kids to Mandarin Chinese. This is a treasure trove of craft projects celebrating Chinese culture! [nonfiction, ages 4 and up]
Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and The Children’s Museum, Boston
This brightly illustrated, large-format book introduces Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.
Each section explains the holiday, tells stories related to it, and offers at least one activity and one recipe. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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