Celebrate East Asian holiday traditions by sharing these Lunar New Year picture books with your children!
The fifteen day holiday celebrates the arrival of the new year based on a lunisolar calendar. These children's books about Chinese New Year tell readers about customs like the Chinese zodiac (2023 is the Year of the Rabbit!), dancing dragons, giving red envelopes full of money, paper lanterns, yummy traditional foods and more.
Although, frequently referred to as Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year is celebrated not just in China. Falling in late January or early February, Lunar New Year is widely celebrated in other countries, including Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, and others, as well as by populations of East Asian descent elsewhere in the world.
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Wonderful Chinese New Year Books
THE ANIMALS OF CHINESE NEW YEAR / 中国农历新年动物生肖 by Jen Sookfong Lee
This is by far the most adorable Chinese New Year book on this list! This bilingual board book is full of sweet photos of babies and toddlers. Each page highlights one of the Chinese zodiac animals, outlining a trait of that animal. The rat wants to win, the tiger is brave and so forth. A companion photo of depicts a child reflecting that same trait. You will be grinning from ear to ear. Ages 0 and up.
WELCOME TO CHINATOWN by William Low
Welcome to Chinatown is a bilingual board book version of Low's earlier book, Chinatown, and you should feel free to pick up either book at your library! William Low's gorgeous saturated illustrations share the vivid experience that is NYC's Chinatown. Spare text takes us on an intergenerational tour of the lively neighborhood. The narrator imparts the wisdom of his grandmother as he describes Chinatown from a variety of perspectives, such as shop windows, dense apartments, crowded sidewalks, subway entrances, and of course, the New Year celebration. Ages 0-3 (board book) / 4 and up (original)
POPO'S LUCKY CHINESE NEW YEAR by Virginia Loh-Hagen, illustrated by Renné Benoit
This was one of my favorite Lunar New Year picture books! PoPo (grandmother) is arriving from China to spend the New Year festivities. PoPo explains to her granddaughter the reasons behind many of the traditions, such as why they clean the home at this time, what foods they cook, and why children receive red envelopes. Light humor enlivens the text and illustrations, and those unfamiliar with Chinese New Year customs will be both informed and entertained. Delightful. Ages 4 and up.
BRINGING IN THE NEW YEAR by Grace Lin
This is a wonderfully vibrant and joyful book to read to your kids for the Lunar New Year. We watch a family prepare for the celebrations and learn about activities and food traditions. I particularly love the fold out dragon! Ages 3 and up.
PLAYING WITH LANTERNS by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang
This is a fun tale, originally published in China, about a group of children who enjoy the outdoors at night during Chinese New Year with their colorful paper lanterns. I love the illustrations of the snowy landscapes as the children play over the two week long New Year period. Ages 4 and up.
FRIENDS ARE FRIENDS, FOREVER by Dane Liu, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield
The night before the Lunar New Year, Dandan tells her friend, Yueyue, that her family is moving to America. After a delicious New Year meal, the friends engage in their favorite tradition of cutting red paper snowflakes and hanging them outside on the snowy trees as fireworks light up the sky. In America, Dandan experiences the loneliness that accompanies being somewhere unfamiliar. However, by the time the next Lunar New Year rolls around, she has a new friend to help her make the red paper cuttings. A sweet story that many children will relate to. Ages 4 and up.
A NEW YEAR'S REUNION by Yu Li-Qiong, illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
Little Maomao's father is a migrant worker in China, but he is coming home for the Lunar New Year. She loves spending time with him, fixing things around the house, watching the dragon dancers, enjoying sticky rice balls. But when the New Year celebrations are over, her father must return to his work far away. This is a touching story, lovingly capturing the joy of reunions, as well as the emotional tug when they end. Age 4 and up.
THE GREAT RACE: THE STORY OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Anne Wilson
Have your kids ever asked why there is no "year of the cat?" This is the folktale that tells how each animal was chosen and given an order placement in the Chinese calendar. The Jade Emperor holds a swimming race across a wide river. The rat who is a poor swimmer but quite wily, concocts a plan to travel on the back of an ox but when he sees that the cat may beat him to the finish, he pushes him into the water. The rat does win in the end and is rewarded with the first year of the calendar. Ages 4 and up.
CHINESE NEW YEAR COLORS by Richard Lo
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This bilingual book introduces children to tradtions of the Chinese New Year by pairing them with a color. For example, lü (green) is the color of lucky bamboo, given to others during the celebration. Hóng (red) is the color of firecrackers. Each color is written three ways–in English, Chinese characters and a romanized rendition of the Chinese. After each color, the double page spread displays a large illustration of the object alongside a brief accounting of how it relates to Chinese New Year festivities. Ages 2 and up.
SAM AND THE LUCKY MONEY by Karen Chinn, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Sam is excited to be able to spend his lucky Lunar New Year money. He has four dollars and his mom has told him he can buy anything he wants. On their trip through the neighborhood Sam notices a homeless man with bare feet. As he contemplates how to spend his money he gets frustrated that the four dollars is never enough to buy what he wants. His mother reminds him to appreciate what he has. During a second encounter with the homeless man, Sam understands how he can best spend his money. Ages 5 and up.