When I was growing up, I was the only kid in my class who knew what Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, was. In fact, when the holiday came around during my fifth-grade year, my teacher asked me to teach the class about Chinese New Year traditions! I told them all about cleaning the house and setting out oranges, about receiving red envelopes full of money and eating a piece of candy each day. I remember how envious my classmates were…but I also remember that I felt like I wasn’t explaining it right. How could I get them to understand the meaning behind each tradition? How could I teach them my culture?
Luckily, nowadays there are so many beautifully written and illustrated books out there that do just that. Some teach about the Chinese zodiac, others about mythological creatures, and still others about the origins of various traditions. While the Lunar New Year is celebrated in many cultures, this list focuses on books about Chinese New Year and its attendant festivities.
Today, February 12, 2021, will see us enter the Year of the Ox. Why not ring in the new year by sharing some of these amazing books with the children in your life?
The Year of the Ox: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin
As we ring in the year of the Ox, what better book to read than one focusing on the Ox? This charming tale is one book in the 12-book Tales from the Chinese Zodiac series. When Olivia the Ox’s friend and community are in trouble, Olivia steps up to save the day. As she embarks on her adventures, Olivia demonstrates the qualities typically associated with those born in the year of the Ox. Paired with Miah Alcorn’s zany illustrations, the tale is sure to delight young readers.
Books for Aspiring Readers (ages 0-3)
12 Lucky Animals by Vickie Lee
Vickie Lee’s simple text and Joey Chou’s adorable illustrations make this a must-have board book for toddlers. 12 Lucky Animals dedicates one page to each animal of the Chinese zodiac. You’ll see each animal’s Chinese character (with pronunciation) plus a handful of words describing the traits ascribed to the animal. It’s a fun book to share with young children!
Chinese New Year Colors by Rich Lo
What tiny reader doesn’t love a book about colors? Chinese New Year Colors is a bilingual one, at that. The spirited illustrations will have those little fingers reaching for the pages as you discover various foods and objects significant to Chinese New Year. Bonus: if you have an older reader, there’s a large-format picture book with additional information in the back!
Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
No list of Chinese New Year books would be complete without Grace Lin’s classic Bringing in the New Year. The clear prose and bright illustrations are great for early readers. Lin’s simple sentences make readers part of the experience as the young narrator prepares for and celebrates Chinese New Year with their family. The book touches on a broad range of traditions without overwhelming readers with too much detail.
D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine
This delightful alphabet book is also a bilingual book. It teaches about key traditions and figures through simple words and phrases. It’s a festive and lively read that follows two siblings and they prepare for and celebrate the Chinese New Year with their family. At the back of the book you’ll find a zodiac calendar and some tips for ensuring good fortune in the new year!
Books for Early Readers (ages 4-8)
Chinese Zodiac Animals by Sanmu Tang
If your youngster is curious about their Chinese zodiac sign, this is the book for them! The lively illustrations and fun text explain the astrological traits associated with each animal of the Chinese zodiac. Not to mention, it’s also a bilingual book! Tang even includes the dates of each lunar year so you can figure out everyone’s zodiac sign.
Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon by Virginia Loh-Hagan
Virginia Loh-Hagan’s award-winning book presents a new twist on the classic legend of Nian, the mythological dragon. In this version of the tale, young Mei dreams of a warrior who tells her she is destined to defeat Nian. Of course, there’s a catch: she has only fifteen days to do this! Timothy Banks’ dramatic illustrations accompany Loh-Hagan’s fast-paced prose to create a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. Plus, as the story progresses it also sheds light on the roots of some Chinese New Year traditions.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn
It’s Chinese New Year and Sam and his mother are running some errands in Chinatown. Sam contemplates where to spend the four dollars he got for the New Year, and as he does so festivities take place all around him. This is a unique book because Chinese New Year is a celebration taking place all around Sam while the true story unfolds–a story of generosity and kindness. Your little reader will walk away from this story thinking about the deeper meanings of good fortune.
PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year by Virginia Loh-Hagan
The young protagonist learns all about Chinese New Year traditions when her Chinese grandmother comes for a visit. Together, they prepare the house for the coming festivities. I love this book because it features a Chinese American girl who learns about this holiday that is “like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day all bundled together.” Because of this, it’s great for kids celebrating the holiday in the U.S. and also for children who don’t have Chinese heritage but want to learn about Chinese New Year traditions.
This book is an educational reading experience designed for school-aged children (grades 1-4). It’s part of National Geographic’s Holidays Around the World series. The accessible text is accompanied by vibrant color photos and will help inquisitive readers understand the cultural traditions surrounding Chinese New Year.
Want more recommendations of Lunar New Year books for children? Check out these posts: