Chinese New Year is one of our favourite holidays of the year. My children have grown to love the loudness, the brightness, the vibrancy and the many unique customs and traditions that this festival brings. To be honest, we read Chinese New Year books all year round! Here are our absolute favourites.
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Picture books (For ages 3-8 years old)
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
Written by Dawn Casey, Illustrated by Anne Wilson
Available at Amazon.
If you ever wondered why there are 12 animals in the zodiac calendar and how the rat can possibly be first, you should read this book. My children and I read this every year for Chinese New Year. Even Xiaobao, my three year old can now state all the family member’s zodiac animals.
A super cute bilingual version with the same title but different author and illustrator is also available.
Written by by Natasha Yim, Illustrated by Grace Zong
Imagine if Goldilocks was Chinese and was named Goldy Luck. And she is in actual fact, a really clumsy girl who seems to make a mess in almost everything she does, not deliberately! This Chinese New Year, she has been tasked by her mother to deliver a gift to her three panda neighbours. But she is so hungry! So sleepy! And ever so clumsy…oh no, you know the rest of the story. Or do you? A nice little Chinese New Year moral tale about having the courage to own up to your mistakes, and taking the step to make things right.
Written and Illustrated by Adam Hargreaves
This one is for the Mr Men and Little Miss fan. Read how the various Mr Men and Little Miss celebrate Chinese New Year in their very typical manner while weaving in your standard Chinese traditions and superstitions.
Little Miss Neat is cleaning, Mr Greedy ate the entire reunion meal up but forgot to leave some fish. (Do you know why he should have left some??)
Written by Virginia Loh-Hagan, Illustrated by Timothy Banks
Ebook available on Amazon.
This is by far, our favourite picture book about the Nian Monster. The Nian monster is reinterpreted as a dragon, and the protagonist is a reluctant heroine, Mei, who must overcome her own fears as she protects her village from the ferocious Nian monster. Learn about the origins of the Chineses customs as she battles Nian in her thrilling journey.
(For a cuter alternative, consider The Nian monster by Andrea Wang, Alina Chau)
Written and illustrated by Li Jian
Li Jian is one of our favourite bilingual book illustrator/author. In this picture book, he cleverly tells the tale of three greedy little pigs who ate up all the sweet rice cakes that mother has painstakingly made, while also weaving in the Chinese custom of the kitchen god. He even provides a step by step pictorial recipe on how to make sweet rice cakes! The water colour illustrations are absolutely beautiful.
(Also consider his Stories of the Chinese Zodiac series which depicts a Chinese legend behind each Chinese Zodiac animal. My kids are really into the Chinese zodiac animals and love reading more about Chinese legends and myths.)
Written by Adam Wallace. Illustrated by Andy Elkerton.
Part of the “How to catch” book series, a bunch of kids try to catch a dragon during Chinese New Year. Peppered along the pages are Chinese words, and brightly engaging illustrations of the Chinese New Year celebration scenes.
Will they succeed in catching the dragon?
I liked that they included the Mandarin translation for the entire story.
Written and Illustrated by Benson Shum.
This is an adorably illustrated picture book on Chinese New Year. The story is simple, the sentences are easy to read and perfect for young readers to learn about the traditions of Chinese New Year.
Written by Vickee Lee, Illustrated by Joey Chou
Ruby loves her grandmother, and she loves Chinese New Year. Sadly, this year, grandmother is not able to join her for Chinese New Year. Not one to be daunted, Ruby decides to go visit grandmother instead. Along the way, she meets the 12 zodiac animals who use their unique strengths to help her in her journey.
Written by Karen China, Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Audio book available on Apple Books.
A heartwarming book about a little boy Sam, who received some lucky money for Chinese New Year. He goes to the bustling Chinatown with his mother, but realises that he wants too many things, and doesn’t have enough money to get the things he wants. So after careful contemplation, he decides to give it to the old homeless man in the street. I love that instead of simply focusing on the festivities of Chinese New Year (which are in fact beautifully illustrated in the Chinatown street scenes) like many books on this topic does. Readers are presented a simple message, to be compassionate and kind during this festive season.
Non Fiction Books
Written by Carolyn Otto
A colourful and educational book about the many different traditions of Chinese New Year, this non-fiction book by National Geographic Kids is perfect for young readers.
Ebook available on Apple Books.
A board book for the littler ones to learn about Chinese New Year. Pictures are realistic and sentences are short and sweet, just right for toddlers’ short attention span. For more board books, read on.
Board books (For ages 0-3 years old)
Written and illustrated by Rich Lo
I am a huge fan of Rich Lo’s vivid and gorgeous watercolour illustrations. This particular book has so much details in each Chinese item that it feels like I am looking at the real item itself. This is a very simple book that teaches colours with Chinese New Year items, which will be very attractive to babies/toddlers. Read our indepth review of the book here.
(Rich Lo also has another board book One Two Three Dim Sum for consideration too. Especially good if you are or have a mini dim sum fan!)
Written and illustrated by Karen Katz
In this brightly illustrated book by Karen Katz, we join a Chinese family as they ready their house for the new year, while learning about the various Chinese customs. Short and simple sentences, along with bold and bright illustrations, toddlers will enjoy this book .We love Karen Katz’s series of brightly illustrated lift the flap board books for little ones. If only she did one for Chinese New Year too!
*Note that this is a picture book and not a board book. I have included this book here, as it is more suited for 0-3 years old.
Written and illustrated by Grace Lin
Ebook version available on Apple Books.
Get this for the cool foldout dragon at the end of the book! Grace Lin is an American Chinese author who has published the award winning . In this book, we follow a Chinese family as they get ready for Chinese New Year. Daddy is hanging up the Chinese couplets, Little sister gets a haircut, Mummy is making dumplings. And it all ends with an awesome dragon dance!
Written by Hannah Eliot, Illustrated by Alina Chau
More like a non-fiction pictorial introduction to Chinese New Year, this is a cute illustrated book that introduces young readers to the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year. This is also the only Chinese New Year book we have read so far that mentions the “Sui” monster, who is the reason why little children get lucky money!
Written by Vickee Lee, Illustrated by Joey Chou
An adorably cute Chinese Zodiac book for babies, by the same team that brought us Ruby’s Chinese New Year. This is suitable for super young readers who will enjoy the cute animals and learning a little about each of them and their personality traits. (Despite the bilingual title, it really is 80% English.)
Which are your favourite Chinese New Year books to read to your children? Do drop me a line if I missed any of your favourites!
Here’s wishing you and your family a Happy Chinese New Year.
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