Children's books about Chinese New Year / Lunar New Year bring the symbols and activities of the holidays to life. These picture books about the New Year's celebration provide a fascinating look at the holiday as it is celebrated in the United States, Korea, and China.
1. A New Year's Reunion
Note: Keep scrolling down the page to see the complete list of 10 recommended books.
2. Celebrating Chinese New Year
What's it like to celebrate Chinese New Year in the United States? This delightful 32-page book by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith documents the celebration of fourth grader Ryan Leong and his family, who lives in San Francisco. The crisp, colorful photographs by Lawrence Migdale show Ryan and his family as they prepare for the holiday and the text explains the reasons for the various activities.
The book includes both a glossary and an index. I recommend this book for ages 6-12. It's one families can enjoy together as a read aloud and independent readers can enjoy on their own. (Holiday House, 1998. ISBN: 9780823413935)
3. Crouching Tiger
The focus of this story is not so much on the Chinese New Year as it is on the relationship between a Chinese-American boy and his Chinese grandfather who has come to visit for the New Year. While Vinson is uncomfortable when his grandfather calls him by his Chinese name, he is excited to learn his grandfather practices a martial art and asks if he'll teach it to him. However, Vinson finds tai chi both difficult and boring, not at all like kung fu.
His feelings change when his grandfather uses a tai chi move to save a woman from injury and Vinson begins to practice tai chi faithfully. All his work is rewarded when his grandfather, who has been helping the lion dancers get ready for the New Year's parade, invites Vinson to participate.
Vinson gains further appreciation for his grandfather when he sees how much respect everyone in the parade has for him. Yan Nascimbene's full page ink and watercolor illustrations, as well as his spot illustrations of tai chi positions, add interest to the story by Ying Chang Compestine. I recommend Crouching Tiger for ages 5 to 11. (Candlewick Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780763646424)
4. Paper Crafts for Chinese New Year
Paper Crafts for Chinese New Year, by paper artist Randel McGee, includes directions for 8 paper crafts. Each set of directions is illustrated with color photographs of the steps in creating the craft, as well as a photo of the finished craft. The book begins with a two-page history and description of Chinese New Year.
The directions for each craft include information about its place in the Chinese New Year celebration. Patterns are included. A two-page section at the end of the 48-page book provides a bibliography of books and Web sites related to Chinese New Year.
There is also an index and an illustrated article about the author and his work as a paper artist and performer. I recommend the book for ages 8-12. (Enslow Elementary, An Imprint of Enslow Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 9780766029507)
5. New Clothes for New Year's Day
This charming picture book from South Korea is the story of a little girl who is getting ready to celebrate Solnal, the first day of the Lunar New Year, by putting on her special new holiday clothing. In words and artwork author and illustrator Hyun-Joo Bae portrays the little girl's joy in her new clothes as she carefully dresses herself in the colorful clothing, including a long crimson skirt, embroidered socks, rainbow-striped jacket, flowered shoes, furry vest, winter hat, and lucky bag.
At book's end, there is more information about the Lunar New Year in Korea. This book will appeal to a wide range of ages, starting with preschoolers on up to 10-12 year-olds interested in learning more about the Lunar New Year. (Kane/Miller, 2007. ISBN: 9781933605296)
6. D is for Dragon Dance
In his picture book D is for Dragon Dance, author Ying Chang Compestine uses the alphabet to introduce symbols and activities associated with Chinese New Year. Each letter is embedded in a full page illustration or, in the case of "D is for Dragon," a double-page spread, all created by artist Yongsheng Xuan in watercolor, acrylic and latex.
In addition to the bits of information that are sprinkled throughout the book, the Author's Note at the book's end provides intriguing information. It includes a section on Tips to Ensure Good Fortune in the New Year, information about the different calligraphic styles used for the Chinese characters that appear in the background of the book's illustrations and a recipe for New Year's Dumpling Delight.
I think this book will appeal to a wide range of children, from young children who will enjoy seeing the illustrations for each letter of the alphabet to children ages 7-12, who will enjoy learning more about Chinese New Year. (Holiday House, 2006. ISBN: 9780823418879)
7. Sam and the Lucky Money
This picture book by Karen Chinn stresses the joy that comes from giving to others. Sam and his mother celebrate Chinese New Year's day with a visit to Chinatown where Sam plans to buy himself something special with his "lucky money," a New Year's gift. The watercolor illustrations by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu capture all of the excitement of the celebration in the bustling streets of Chinatown.
Despite the temptation of sweets from the bakery and the frustration of not having enough money for a basketball, Sam ultimately decides to give his money to a poor old man. I recommend the book for ages 7-12. (Lee & Low Books, 1995. ISBN:9781880000533)
8. Bringing in the New Year
Bringing in the New Year, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, is a colorful picture book about a little girl and her family's celebration of the Chinese/Lunar New Year. From the endpapers decorated with symbols of the New Year to the foldout of the Dragon on parade, there is a lot of color and life in this children's book.
A two-page essay at the end of the book provides information about symbols and traditions related the New Year, including the importance of the lucky dragon. I recommend the book for ages 4-8. (Alfred A. Knopf, An Imprint of Random House Children's Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780375837456)
9. Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!
10. Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year is an infromational book, done in picture book format, about the first Lion Dance of a young boy who lives in Chinatown in New York City. While the focus is on Ernie Wan's preparations for, and enjoyment of, the Lion Dance, authors Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low include a lot of other information about how Ernie and his family celebrate Chinese New Year. The color photographs by Martha Cooper illustrate many of the holiday activities. I recommend the book for ages 6 to 10. (Scholastic, 1991 (PB), 1990. ISBN: 9780590430470)