15 Wonderful Chinese New Year Picture Books

15 Wonderful Chinese New Year Picture Books

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


Picture Books About Families Celebrating Chinese New Year

1. 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 Chinese New Year by cleaning their home, hoping for a change in luck for the new year. And 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]

2. 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 isn’t enough to buy the things that he wants. But when he accidentally runs into homeless man on the street, the stranger’s bare feet makes him realize what he really wants to do with his money. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Sam and the Lucky Money best chinese new years books for kids children Pragmatic Mom PragmaticMom

3. 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]

4. 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 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 a 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 my Chinatown in Boston:

5. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattangan, 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 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]

6. 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]

7. Too Many Noodles! by Sara Luna and Amy Eam

Lily and Peter visit their grandparents in China for Chinese New Year. It’s a trip filled with discovering new food from hand pulled noodles to chicken feet and durian. It’s through food that they discover their culture. It’s a wonderful and delicious way to learn, but not for the faint-hearted! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Picture Books About Chinese and Lunar New Year

8. D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yongsheng Xuan

Use this picture book for preschoolers and kindergardeners to teach them about Chinese New Year and the alphabet! There’s also a dumpling recipe in the back. Chinese calligraphy from different dynasties are also embedded in the illustrations like a secret message! [alphabet picture book, ages 2 and up]

9. Ten Mice for Tet by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Tô Ngoc Trang, embroidery 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. End notes give more background on Tet. Pair with D is for Dragon Dance for counting and the alphabet. [counting picture book, ages 2 and up]

10. The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin and Regine Abos 

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 with 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]

11. 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 spending celebrating new beginnings including the season for planting. It’s also a 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 Chinese New Year. [picture book, ages 5 and up]

Retold Fairy Tales with a Chinese New Year Twist

12. 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 are 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]

13. 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

14. 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 history 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! [non fiction, ages 4 and up]

15. 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 FestivalQing 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 4-8]

Newly Published Chinese New Year Picture Book

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]

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 long life. A whole chicken is for the family to stay together. A fish with the head and tail means a good beginning and ending. Everything, it seems, has special significance. Red keeps back 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 hardest of all, is to avoid bad thoughts. Chinese New Year with grandmother is really enlightening! [picture book, ages 6 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]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

15 Wonderful Chinese New Year Picture Books

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Thanks for sharing these, Mia! I’ve read several of them, but there are a few I am unfamiliar with.

    I mentioned this before, but I know you’re going to LOVE my friend and critique partner Andrea Wang’s picture book debut on just this topic. It’s called THE NIAN MONSTER and it’s releasing from Albert Whitman in December. It’s fun and clever. She used to live in Sudbury, but just recently moved to Denver, CO.

  2. Renee Alam

    Great selection of books although I’m really curious to read the Runaway Wok! Too adorable!

  3. Pia

    I love this roundup! Especially Sam and the Lucky Money and anything Grace Lin. My Filipino American family celebrated a hodgepodge of all of the Lunar New Year traditions growing up, and I love that these stories are available for all kids!

    • Thanks so much Pia! I have to say that I used to read a Chinese New Year book to my kids’ preschool class for Chinese New Year and then do an activity and my book was so boring! I had to research for myself for a good replacement but I’m thrilled that there are so many great ones out there! Happy Chinese New Year! It’s on Saturday!
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