Lunar New Year Children’s Books

Lunar New Year celebrations mark the beginning of the new year on the Lunar calendar, beginning with the new moon which occurs between the end of January and the end of February, lasting about 15 days until the moon is full.  In many East Asian countries it is commonly referred to as the Spring Festival and the celebrations involve family, festivals, and preparation of food.  Each year brings a new Zodiac animal associated with the upcoming year (2022 is the Year of the Tiger) and it reminds me of the year we brought in our favourite Zodiac book to read to our daughter’s preschool class.  Those kids were spellbound as they listened to the story of the reliable pig, the fortunate rabbit, the vain monkey, etc. and their famed race to determine the order of the Zodiac signs. The book we owned was informative but unfortunately written in an older style with illustrations made of oil paintings ready for a gallery wall.  Fortunately, books for kids have changed so much with dynamic stories and captivating artwork – our library catalogue is filled with great picks if you want to learn more about the Lunar New Year or add to your own celebration.  Here are just a few top picks you might want to take home:        

For younger readers you can start with Richard Lo’s beautiful bilingual picture book Chinese New Year Colors, which explores the world of colours using monochromatic watercolour paintings of items used to celebrate the new year.  You will find an orange tangerine, a golden coin, and a red firecracker along with a beautiful teapot, dragon, lucky money, and paper fan, but all illustrated in a single colour.  Each illustration follows a page where the word is displayed in English and Mandarin.  He employs a simple concept perfectly so that families can enjoy the book many ways – to expand vocabulary, play with colour, encourage celebration, or just return to favourite pages over and over.

Virgina Loh-Hagan’s book PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year will become one you’ll want to read at any time of the year because of the light way she tells the story of a grandmother’s visit with a little girl and her baby brother as they ready their home for the new year celebration.  Told from the perspective of a young school-aged girl with words of guidance like “do not wash your hair on New Year’s Eve” or “do cook and eat lucky foods,” this is an opportunity to see these traditions translated through the eyes of a little girl.  For example, as she washes her hair three times to ensure good luck she only washes her brother’s hair once because he doesn’t need as much luck.  It’s tough to be an older sister.  On each page the grandmother is serene and helpful and the girl is a busy little assistant but the toddler brother is into mischief whenever possible.  It’s a comforting and cozy book, inviting the reader to come back and read again, checking for details, as when we see the little toddler reaching to pull down one of the carefully created dragon decorations while his older sister isn’t watching.  There is a lot to love in this lucky story about a grandmother teaching her grandchildren about tradition.

A grandmother features in another sensational picture book about the Lunar New Year, this one written by Vickie Lee and illustrated by Joey Chou, with all of the animals of the Zodiac helping a girl named Ruby on a special journey. In Ruby’s Chinese New Year the author has removed the idea of the race in the legend of the Zodiac entirely from this story, instead having the animals use their unique characteristics to provide Ruby with support in taking a New Year’s gift to her grandmother.  When Ruby runs into difficulty the clever rat is there to help, as is the monkey at the shining pond, the very strong ox, the ever-cautious rabbit, and the dragon.  The colours in this book are spectacular and the language is exactly what you would expect of a picture book featuring so many animals – they leap, bound, perch, dive, and zoom into action throughout the whole book – and they save the day!  Ruby’s story ends with a feast of fish, rice cakes, and sweets.  Readers of this picture book will find several pages at the end which explain the legend of the Zodiac, the characteristics assigned to each animal, and three festive crafts.  It’s a can’t miss pick for crafters and animal fans.

Although the illustrations in Lyla Lee’s chapter book Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade aren’t in colour, the experiences of 8-year old Mindy Kim more than make up for this.  To be perfectly accurate, Mindy doesn’t consider herself to be eight years old, as her father explains to her that Korean families calculate age by considering someone one year old when from when they are born (she instantly calculates that she must be old enough for a puppy).  Mindy and her father are new to Orlando, having moved there after the death of her mother, and they are experiencing some of the bumps of living in a new city but are hoping that a celebration like the New Year’s parade will help them to feel more at home.  She shares Korean rice cakes with her class, invites her new best friend to join them at the parade, wears a traditional hanbok that her mother chose for her, gets lost at the New Year’s celebration, and battles a crowd of hungry shoppers to help find all of the ingredients for their feast.  Mindy and her father work together to make their New Year celebration as special as it can be and there is a lot to love about this series.

Visitors to our children’s departments will know the name Grace Lin well as she has written or illustrated so many incredible picture books.  If you would like something to read aloud to an older audience or have a reader who would prefer to read alone, Lin’s series featuring Taiwanese-American Pacy Lin is exactly the thing.  She begins the New Year – in The Year of the Dog – by learning that she might ‘find herself’ because dogs are honest and authentic.  In this first book in a three-book series about Pacy, we watch her celebrate the New Year with her family, spend time with school friends, enter a writing contest, learn about her family’s immigration experience, and consider what she might choose for a career.  In the series’ second book, The Year of the Rat, she explores her dream of being an author-illustrator (the books are semi-autobiographical) and then in the series’ third book, Dumpling Days, she visits Taiwan to celebrate her grandmother’s 60th birthday and explores her identity further.  All three books are warm and humorous and include illustrations which are perfect additions to the stories (Lin also includes instructions for trying drawings that Pacy enjoys).  Fantastic books!

These books are just a taste of the material that we have in the library to celebrate the Lunar New Year.  To find more inspiration you can browse the catalogue from home, contact our helpful staff or add a note about Lunar New Year titles in your Book Bundle request.