Chinese New Year (also commonly known as Lunar New Year) is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. The festival traditionally lasts for 15 days, though many modern families only celebrate for a few days. The lunar calendar determines when the holiday will occur each year, typically sometime between late January and early February. In honor of the holiday I have assembled a list of 15 of my favorite picture books about Chinese New Year!
Looking for more great reads for Chinese New Year? Blogger and book list guru Erica from What Do We Do All Day? has put together this awesome list of Chinese folktales for kids. Be sure to hop over and check it out!
Bringing In the New Year by Grace Lin
Lively, saturated illustrations and simple text (1-2 sentences per page) tell the story of one family’s preparation for the New Year. Cleaning the house, making dumplings, and getting new haircuts and outfits are among the traditional activities that the parents and children participate in together. Once everything is ready, they celebrate with a feast, fireworks, and a parade.
Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap by Joan Holub
This exuberant lift-the-flap book is a perfect way to introduce the youngest book lovers to all there is to love about Chinese New Year. The rhyming text and engaging illustrations make this book fun to read all year long.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn
Sam is excited to visit Chinatown with his mother for New Year’s. He can hardly wait to spend his “lucky money” – dollar bills tucked into small red envelopes that children receive at Lunar New Year. Sam eyes all of the treats the market has to offer, from sweet pastries to new toys, but when he encounters a stranger in need he has a change of heart. This touching story deserves a place on the shelf year round.
A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong and Zhu Cheng-Liang
Maomao’s father works far away building houses, and is only able to come home once a year for Chinese New Year. Maomao loves having her father home, and the family excitedly prepares for the New Year holiday. This heartwarming family tale is gorgeously illustrated with detailed gouache paintings.
Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto
This non-fiction book – published by the National Geographic Society – is perfect for bigger kids (ages 6+) who want to learn more about Chinese New Year. With vibrant photographs and fascinating details, this book gives kids an intriguing look at a holiday celebrated by millions.
The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine
When a poor family sends their son to the market to trade their last few eggs for a bag of rice, he instead brings back a rusty old wok. To everyone’s surprise, the wok springs to life, singing and hopping out the door! It returns full of goodies, enough for the family to share with all of their friends and neighbors. This whimsical story is laugh-out-loud funny. The book includes an information section about Chinese New Year and the significance of the wok, plus a recipe for stir-fried rice!
My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz
This colorful book is perfect for introducing toddlers and preschoolers to Chinese New Year. The story follows one little girl as she and her family take part in all of the traditional preparations for the holiday.
D Is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine
F is for firecrackers, H is for haircut, L is for lanterns, and Z is for zodiac! This entertaining book uses every letter of the alphabet to introduce young readers to the many customs of Chinese New Year. This book features stunningly textured full-page paintings and a New Year’s dumpling recipe!
Emma’s American Chinese New Year by Amy Meadows
Emma is Chinese-born and adopted into an American family. Every year Emma and her family celebrate her Chinese heritage at Chinese New Year. Emma cheerily narrates as she and her parents make paper lanterns, bake moon cakes, and gather with friends and family at the local cultural center. The rhyming text flows easily and makes this story fun to read again and again!
This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong
An optimistic young boy shares his hopes for Chinese New Year. The best thing about this book is that it depicts the ways in which people of different ethnic backgrounds celebrate the holiday. The main character is half Chinese and half Korean. His best friend, who is French and German, celebrates Chinese New Year with Thai food takeout. His other friend, who is part Mexican, enjoys celebrating the holiday with her neighbor who came from Singapore. This inviting story makes Chinese New Year accessible to everyone.
Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! by Demi
This is another great pick for elementary school aged children. Paired with dynamic illustrations, this book explains the origins and significance of each Chinese New Year tradition, including the symbolism behind the food, firecrackers, and more.
Chinese New Year by Nancy Dickmann
Colorful photographs with simple captions give younger kids a basic introduction to what Chinese New Year is all about.
Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine
Vinson, a young Chinese American boy, eagerly anticipates a visit from his grandfather. When Vinson sees his grandfather practicing tai chi in the garden he asks to join in. But Vinson quickly loses interest; tai chi is slow and boring, and his grandfather insists on calling him by his Chinese name, Ming Da. As the Chinese New Year parade approaches however, Vinson begins to see his grandfather – and tai chi – in a new light. This poignant story gives readers a glimpse at Chinese American culture and will appeal to children interested in martial arts.
Chelsea’s Chinese New Year by Lisa Bullard
It’s the night before Chinese New Year, and Chelsea’s family have all gathered to talk, laugh, feast, and play games. Even the kids get to stay up late! Using simple text and bold, color-saturated illustrations, this book is an engaging read-aloud that all ages can enjoy.
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats
by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and The Children’s Museum, Boston
This fantastic non-fiction book is packed with fun facts, traditional stories, recipes, crafts, and other entertaining activities. Perfect for home or classroom use, it is a great choice for older kids (ages 8+) who want to further explore Chinese New Year.