The best children’s books about Chinese New Year

Who am I?

I’m the author of children’s books about Asian history and culture. My two kids are the main reason I started writing books. When they were little, I had to delve into my Chinese roots for a family reunion. That’s when I stumbled on the most amazing stories about the emperors, warriors, artists, and inventors that make up the long and colorful culture and history of China. I decided to bring these stories to life so that my kids could learn more about their heritage. No dates, no dry details – just interesting stories that they could enjoy and learn in the process. Luckily, they liked them so much that they encouraged me to share my stories with the world.

I wrote...

Chinese New Year Wishes: Chinese Spring and Lantern Festival Celebration

By Jillian Lin, Shi Meng (illustrator),

Book cover of Chinese New Year Wishes: Chinese Spring and Lantern Festival Celebration

What is my book about?

Chinese New Year Wishes is about a boy called Hong whose favorite time of year is the Chinese New Year festival. Children aged 2 to 6 will enjoy following him and his family as they prepare for the festivities and celebrate the most important festival in Chinese culture. They will also read the story behind the Chinese New Year traditions, which involves scaring away a monster known as Nian. If they want to know more, additional interesting facts and questions for discussion are included in the back of the book.

Written in both English and Chinese (simplified), Chinese New Year Wishes is great as an early reader or to be read aloud, and suits children who want to learn more about Chinese culture.

The books I picked & why

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The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale

By Ying Chang Compestine, Sebastia Serra (illustrator),

Book cover of The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale

Why this book?

This is a lovely story about a boy called Ming whose family is poor and is struggling to get a proper Chinese New Year dinner on the table. When Ming is sent out to the market to get some rice, he comes home with a magic wok instead, which steals food from a wealthy, but stingy family. Think Robin Hood in the form of a Chinese wok with a mind of its own! As far as I know, this is not a traditional Chinese story, but children (6-8 years) will definitely enjoy reading this book with its cute and colorful illustrations. They’ll even be able to sing along with the wok!

Bringing in the New Year

By Grace Lin,

Book cover of Bringing in the New Year

Why this book?

I love all of Grace Lin’s books – we share the same surname after all! Bringing in the New Year is another great one of hers. This board book is meant for the very young (0-3 years), but older kids will learn from it too. It describes how a Chinese family prepares for the Chinese New Year - decorating the house, making dumplings, and wearing new clothes. Celebrations follow with fireworks and lion dancers to scare away the previous year’s bad luck. The fun color illustrations will be a hit with the little ones, especially the fold-out dragon at the end of the book.

Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon

By Virginia Loh-Hagan, Timothy Banks (illustrator),

Book cover of Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon

Why this book?

This book is a modern retelling of the ancient Nian-monster legend, which explains the traditions of the Chinese New Year. One of the best features of this story is the brave and strong heroine, Mei – here’s to girl power! Each spring, the Nian dragon terrorizes the local village, but this year, Mei receives a magical staff in her dream to defeat him. As she figures out how to use it, she teaches the villagers ways to protect themselves, including wearing red clothes, setting off firecrackers, and making food offerings. This isn’t just an action-packed story, but it teaches children (6-8 years) to be brave and not give up, no matter how scared they are.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

By Natasha Yim, Grace Zong (illustrator),

Book cover of Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

Why this book?

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas is a clever Chinese twist on the classic story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Set in modern-day Chinatown, the book for 4 to 8-year olds tells the story of Goldy Luck, who takes a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors, with the three pandas looking on in the background. As in the original, Goldy leaves behind a mess, but what I like in this retelling is that she returns to the neighbors’ house with rice porridge and helps fix their broken furniture. Another great feature is that the back of the book includes more information about Chinese New Year traditions, decorations, and special foods. Word of warning: if you get this book for your little ones, they might want to try the recipe for turnip cakes!

The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac

By Ling Lee, Eric Lee, Rachel Foo (illustrator)

Book cover of The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Why this book?

The traditional origin story of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac is retold in this colorful book for children aged 3 to 6. Long ago, the Jade Emperor announced a swimming race and invited all the animals in the kingdom to participate. The first twelve across the river would have a year of the zodiac named after them. Apart from the lovely illustrations, what I really like about this book is the inclusion of not only the English text but also the Chinese translation and Pinyin to help children pronounce the Chinese characters (either simplified or traditional, depending on the edition). The authors even provide a free audio reading of the book in Mandarin on their website.

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