China: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about China?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to China. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about China.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about China, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Runaway Rice Cake to popular sellers like The Empty Pot to some of our favorite hidden gems like Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China.

We hope this list of kids books about China can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

The Nian Monster book
#1
The Nian Monster
Written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Alina Chau
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

A clever little girl outsmarts the Nian monster, who is no longer scared away by the loud noises, fire and color red that have kept him at bay for so long, with the help of her community and some very special New Years’ traditions. I love the critical thinking and problem solving it demonstrates, the traditional (almost folk-talesy) way it’s told, and of course, the beautiful illustrations.

Tong tong! The legendary Nian monster has returned at Chinese New Year. With horns, scales, and wide, wicked jaws, Nian is intent on devouring Shanghai, starting with Xingling! The old tricks to keep him away don’t work on Nian anymore, but Xingling is clever. Will her quick thinking be enough to save the city from the Nian Monster?

The Dancing Dragon book
#2
The Dancing Dragon
Written by Marcia K. Vaughan and illustrated by Stanley Wong Hoo Foon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

This is a great book. It seemed to go through all of the traditions of Chinese New Year’s celebrations. I didn’t know much about their celebrations or why they do what they do so this was a fun book that taught me some of these things. It has fun rhymes and nice illustrations.

A rhyming story that describes a typical Chinese New Year celebration.

Sam and the Lucky Money book
#3
Sam and the Lucky Money
Written by Karen Chin and illustrated by Ying-hwa Hu and Cornelius Van Wright
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This story about what a boy chooses to do with his lucky money he received from Chinese New Year is heartwarming. The overall message was great, with Sam realizing how lucky he is and wanting to help another. This book does have a little more text per page, so I’d recommend it for slightly older children who like to sit still for a little bit longer stories. :)

Sam must decide how to spend the lucky money he’s received for Chinese New Year.

Ruby's Chinese New Year book
#4
Ruby's Chinese New Year
Written by Vickie Lee and illustrated by Joey Chou
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

The illustrations in this one are amazing—cute, colorful and modern! It introduces you to the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac as Ruby goes on a journey to her grandmother’s house to celebrate Chinese New Year, as well as many of the elements that make up a traditional Chinese New Year celebration. I loved that it emphasized that the most important part isn’t the gifts, but the quality time spent together with family and friends.

In this picture book celebrating Chinese New Year, animals from the Chinese zodiac help a little girl deliver a gift to her grandmother. Ruby has a special card to give to her grandmother for Chinese New Year. But who will help her get to grandmother’s house to deliver it? Will it be clever Rat, strong Ox, or cautious Rabbit? Ruby meets each of the twelve zodiac animals on her journey. This picture book includes back matter with a focus on the animals of the Chinese zodiac. - GODWIN BOOKS -

The Runaway Rice Cake book
#5
The Runaway Rice Cake
Written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Tungwai Chau
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is a bit on the long side, but it’s a beautiful story about being generous, even when you have almost nothing left to give. While the rewards of generosity may not always come as swiftly as they did to the Chang family, the conclusion of the story with the young boys being rewarded from learning from their parents’ and neighbors’ generosity is delightful a

It’s the Chinese New Year, and the Chang Family has only enough rice flour to make one nián-gão, a special New Year’s rice cake, for the entire family to eat. But this delicious little nián-gão has other ideas. “Ai yo! I don’t think so!” it cries, coming to life and escaping. Ming, Cong, little Da and their parents chase the nián-gão all over the village until it runs into a hungry, old woman and sends her tumbling to the ground. Though Da is a small boy, his heart is big enough to share the treat with her, even though that leaves Da’s family with nothing to eat for their own celebration. But the Changs’ generosity doesn’t go unnoticed. When they return home, they find the Kitchen God has left a wonderful surprise for them. Ying Chang Compestine’s heartwarming story conveys an important and poignant message about sharing and compassion. Tungwai Chau’s soft and evocative illustrations complete this tender holiday story.

  1. My First Chinese New Year - The Book Snob Mom - A cute and simple introduction to Chinese New Year preparations and customs in a way that’s very accessible and straightforward!

  2. 12 Lucky Animals: A Bilingual Baby Book - Vickie Lee and Joey Chou’s illustrated 12 Lucky Animals is a young, dual-language animal concept book introducing Chinese characters and the animals of the Chinese zodiac…

  3. This Next New Year - A young boy looks forward to the Lunar New Year, often called the Chinese New Year, a time of hope—and you don’t have to be Chinese to celebrate it! Janet S. Wong’s spare, lyrical couplets voice a child’s determination to face the new year with courage and optimism. Yangsook Choi captures the spirit of celebration in her vibrant, energetic pictures.

  4. Dragon Dance - It’s Chinese New Year and there are so many fun things to do! Shopping at the outdoor market for fresh flowers, eating New Year’s dinner with the whole family, receiving red envelopes from Grandma and Grandpa, and best of all-watching the spectacular Chinese New Year’s parade! Introduce the customs of Chinese New Year to even the youngest readers with this festive new lift-the-flap book.

Lucky New Year! book
#10
Lucky New Year!
Written by Mary Man-Kong and illustrated by Chi Chung
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Come celebrate the Chinese New Year with its magical traditions— from giving gifts to watching parades! Children will love to scratch and sniff the sweet oranges, turn the wheel to find their Chinese animal year, lift the flap to find the lucky money, and watch the big dragon pop up to wish them a year filled with wisdom, wealth, and happiness. Happy Chinese New Year!

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas book
#11
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
Written by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Grace Zong
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In this Chinese American retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a careless Goldy Luck wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears. She eats up the littlest panda’s rice porridge, breaks his rocking chair, and rumples all the blankets on his futon. When Goldy takes responsibility for her actions, she makes a new friend (and a whole plate of turnip cakes!) just in time for Chinese New Year.

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China book
#12
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Written and illustrated by Ai-Ling Louie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“…A worthwhile addition to picture book collections.” — Booklist.”Executed with chromatic splendor—a unique combination of brilliance and restraint.” — The Horn Book”Every library will be enriched by it.” — School Library Journal.

Grandpa Grumps book
#13
Grandpa Grumps
Written by Katrina Moore and illustrated by Xindi Yan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Daisy’s Yeh-Yeh is visiting from China, and try as she might, Daisy can’t get her grumpy grandpa to smile!

Daisy’s Yeh-Yeh is visiting for the first time from China, and Daisy is so excited to meet him! She has big plans for all the fun they’ll have together, like tea parties and snow angels, but when Yeh-Yeh arrives, Daisy finds him less jolly than she imagined. Throughout the week, she tries all sorts of things to get him past his grumpiness. Will she be able to make him smile before he goes home?

Kids will love this funny and heartwarming story about overcoming cultural differences and connecting across generations!

The Empty Pot book
#14
The Empty Pot
Written and illustrated by Demi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The Empty Pot is Demi’s beloved picture book about an honest schoolboy

A long time ago in China there was a boy named Ping who loved flowers. Anything he planted burst into bloom.

The Emperor loved flowers too. When it was time to choose an heir, he gave a flower seed to each child in the kingdom. “Whoever can show me their best in a year’s time,” he proclaimed, “shall succeed me to the throne!”

Ping plants his seed and tends it every day. But month after month passes, and nothing grows. When spring comes, Ping must go to the Emperor with nothing but an empty pot.

Demi’s exquisite art and beautifully simple text show how Ping’s embarrassing failure is turned triumphant in this satisfying tale of honesty rewarded.

An IRA-CBC Children’s Choice. An American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists.”

  1. The Great Race - Discover how 12 animals competed in a madcap swimming race to help create the lunar calendar! Includes facts about Chinese festivals, the lunar calendar and the animals that rule each year.

  2. Lunar New Year - Learn all about the traditions of Lunar New Year—also known as Chinese New Year—with this fourth board book in the Celebrate the World series, which highlights special occasions and holidays across the globe. After the winter solstice each year, it’s time for a celebration with many names: Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, and Lunar New Year! With beautiful artwork by Chinese illustrator Alina Chau, this festive board book teaches readers that Lunar New Year invites us to spend time with family and friends, to light lanterns, and set off fireworks, dance with dragons, and to live the new year in harmony and happiness.

  3. Bringing in the New Year - A Chinese American family prepares for and celebrates the Lunar New Year, in a book that includes endnotes discussing the customs and traditions of the Chinese New Year.

  4. Popo's Lucky Chinese New Year - When her Chinese grandmother comes to visit, a young Chinese-American girl learns of and participates in the customs and beliefs celebrating an authentic Chinese New Year.

Clockwork Dragon book
#19
Clockwork Dragon
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Jack discovers new abilities, travels to exciting lands, and thwarts a conspiracy brewing deep within the ministries in this epic conclusion to the action-packed Section 13 series.

Jack Buckles is on trial for his life.

The Ministries of Secrets and Guilds, led by Ignatius Gall, are conspiring to put the Ministry of Trackers down for good—starting with Jack’s very existence as a Section 13. His only hope is to prove that Gall is the real danger, not him, and it leads Jack and Gwen from the back streets of London, through the Austrian Alps, to the great reaches of central China.

Joined by their new friend Liu Fai, Jack and Gwen set out to stop Gall before he can uncover ancient Chinese artifacts, said to grant immortality. But a clockwork monster threatens them at every turn, and its turning gears only serve as a reminder that Jack’s judgment day is fast approaching—and that he’s running out of time.

The Dragon Warrior book
#20
The Dragon Warrior
Written by Katie Zhao
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

Inspired by Chinese mythology, this high-action middle-grade fantasy follows an outcast as she embarks on a quest to prove herself—perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret. As a member of the Jade Society, twelve-year-old Faryn Liu dreams of honoring her family and the gods by becoming a warrior. But the Society has shunned Faryn and her brother Alex ever since their father disappeared years ago, forcing them to train in secret. Then, during an errand into San Francisco, Faryn stumbles into a battle with a demon—and helps defeat it. She just might be the fabled Heaven Breaker, a powerful warrior meant to work for the all-mighty deity, the Jade Emperor, by commanding an army of dragons to defeat the demons. That is, if she can prove her worth and find the island of the immortals before the Lunar New Year. With Alex and other unlikely allies at her side, Faryn sets off on a daring quest across Chinatowns. But becoming the Heaven Breaker will require more sacrifices than she first realized . . . What will Faryn be willing to give up to claim her destiny? This richly woven contemporary middle-grade fantasy, full of humor, magic, and heart, will appeal to readers who love Roshani Chokshi and Sayantani DasGupta.

Mountain Chef book
#21
Mountain Chef
Written by Annette Bay Pimentel and illustrated by Rich Lo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

The true story of a Chinese American mountain man who fed thirty people for ten days in the wilderness—and helped inspire the creation of the National Park Service. Tie Sing was born in the mountains. The mountains were in his blood. But because he was of Chinese descent at a time in America when to be Chinese meant working in restaurants or laundries, Tie Sing’s prospects were limited. But he had bigger plans. He began cooking for mapmakers and soon built a reputation as the best trail cook in California. When millionaire Stephen Mather began his quest to create a national park service in 1915, he invited a group of influential men—writers, tycoons, members of Congress, and even a movie star—to go camping in the Sierras. Tie Sing was hired to cook. Tie Sing planned diligently. He understood the importance of this trip. But when disaster struck—twice!—and Tie Sing’s supplies were lost, it was his creative spirit and quick mind that saved the day. His sumptuous menus had to be struck and Tie Sing had to start over in order to feed the thirty people in the group for ten whole days. His skills were tested and Tie Sing rose to the challenge. On the last night, he fed not just the campers’ bodies, but also their minds, reminding them to remember and protect the mountains. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, created by Congress on August 25, 1916. Today, you can hike to Sing Peak, named for Tie Sing, in Yosemite National Park.

Indestructibles: Humpty, Dumpty book
#22
Indestructibles: Humpty, Dumpty
Written by Amy Pixton and illustrated by Jonas Sickler
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-2

Here is a book babies can really sink their gums into. Built for the way babies read, Indestructibles are printed on an amazing paperlike material that can’t be ripped, torn, or punctured. Indestructibles are 100 percent safe and nontoxic, and if they get too funky, just throw them in the washing machine or dishwasher. They’re made for baby to hold, grab, chew, pull, and bend, and are designed to create an even more special bond between reader and baby. Printed without words, the parent gets to make up the story, or just cuddle with baby while they explore together.

Humpty Dumpty introduces the work of Jonas Sickler, a children’s illustrator whose paintings, full of detail and personality, have a fresh, whimsical sensibility, a pleasure for both baby and parents. The book gives a new spin on a traditional nursery rhyme, so parents can really have fun with the subject—Humpty Dumpty is about an egg named Humpty who’s perched on the Great Wall of China. The text for the nursery rhyme is printed on the back cover.

Dim Sum for Everyone! book
#23
Dim Sum for Everyone!
Written and illustrated by Grace Lin
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A Chinese American family sits down to enjoy a traditional dim sum meal. Dumplings, cakes, buns, and tarts are wheeled out in little dishes on trolleys, and each family member gets to choose a favorite treat! Lin’s bold and gloriously patterned artwork is a feast for the eyes. Her story is simple and tailor-made for reading aloud to young children, and she includes an informative author’s note for parents, teachers, and children who want to learn more about the origins and practice of dim sum.

  1. The Runaway Wok - On Chinese New Year’s Eve, a poor man who works for the richest businessman in Beijing sends his son to market to trade their last few eggs for a bag of rice, but instead he brings home an empty -but magic- wok that changes their fortunes forever.

  2. The Animals of Chinese New Year - Drawing on the myth of the Chinese zodiac, The Animals of Chinese New Year follows twelve animals as they speed across a river, competing to represent the imminent new year in a race held by the Jade Emperor,the most powerful Chinese god. Each animal competes in its own unique way.The ox works hard, the tiger is brave, the dog smiles kindly, but who will win? Bright photographs of babies demonstrating the same traits as the animals in the text, complemented by traditional Chinese graphic elements, accompany Sookfong Lee’s lively text. Orca Book Publishers is pleased to offer this book as a dual-language (English/Simplified Chinese) edition.

  3. Chinese New Year Colors - This bilingual color concept book celebrates a rainbow of traditional objects seen during the Chinese New Year. Hóng is the color of explosive firecrackers! Jīn is the hue of lucky coins. Zŏng is the shade of sweet peanut puffs. Welcome to the festivities of the Chinese New Year, where symbolic gifts, foods, and objects come together in a celebration of beautiful colors. This vibrant, simple, and highly graphic bilingual book is the perfect introduction to Chinese and English words for colors as it honors one of the biggest holidays around the world. Includes informative back matter.

  4. The Chinese Emperor's New Clothes - Ming Da is only nine years old when he becomes the emperor of China, and his three advisors take advantage of him by stealing his stores of rice, gold, and precious stones. But Ming Da has a plan. With the help of his tailors, he comes up with a clever idea to outsmart his devious advisors: He asks his tailors to make “magical” new clothes for him. Anyone who is honest, the young emperor explains, will see the clothes’ true splendor, but anyone who is dishonest will see only burlap sacks. The emperor dons a burlap sack, and the ministers can’t help but fall for his cunning trick.

Cixi, The Dragon Empress book
#28
Cixi, The Dragon Empress
Written by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Peter Malone
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

The last empress of China, Cixi fought ruthlessly to isolate her country from the West, while cloistered inside her lavish Forbidden City, ignoring the needs of her people. But was the Dragon Empress evil or just out-of-touch?

Gorgeous illustrations and an intelligent, evocative story bring to life a real dastardly dame whose ignorance brought a centuries-old dynasty crashing down, ending the imperial system that had ruled China for millennia.

Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me book
#29
Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me
Written by David Gutnick and illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

Not long after arriving in North America from China, a young girl and her father bump into a kind old man at their local park. They have no idea that he has been teaching young people music for over fifty years. Mr. Mergler can hear music in a way that most of us can’t, and he knows this little girl has a talent that, with encouragement, will grow into something magical. He gives her a gift that will tie them together forever

The Story of Chopsticks: Amazing Chinese Inventions book
#30
The Story of Chopsticks: Amazing Chinese Inventions
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

Enjoy the first adventure in this colorful series of how the Kang brothers discovered some of China’s most amazing inventions!

Poor Kùai! The youngest boy in the Kang family never gets enough to eat. One day he comes up with a brilliant plan: he will use sticks to grab the food when it’s too hot to touch. What will his family think?

Then comes a big wedding the entire village will attend… with a delicious feast to mark the occasion. Along with presents, Kùai sneaks in his sticks. Now will Kùai be in the biggest trouble of his life?

The Rock Maiden book
#31
The Rock Maiden
Written by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Pirkko Vainio
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

When her fisherman husband fails to come home after a storm at sea, the beautiful maiden Ling Yee is heartbroken. Every morning, she puts her baby on her back and clambers to the top of a cliff looking for any signs of his return. But day after day, she is disappointed. The villagers try to convince her to give up her vigil. “No,” she would say, “He will come home soon.” Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Heavens, takes pity on her grief and turns Ling Yee and her child into stone so that they would mourn no more. The fisherman eventually finds his way home―only to discover that his wife has been transformed into the Rock Maiden. Will the family forever be kept apart? Or will devotion and faithfulness ultimately be rewarded? Find out in this re-envisioning of an old Hong Kong legend by award-winning author Natasha Yim, featuring stunning illustrations by renowned Finnish artist Pirkko Vainio.

Dumpling Dreams book
#32
Dumpling Dreams
Written by Carrie Clickard and illustrated by Katy Wu
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“The story of how Joyce Chen, a girl born in Communist China, immigrated to the United States and popularized Chinese cooking.”—

  1. Mulan's Lunar New Year - It’s the Lunar New Year, and it happens to be Mulan’s favorite festival! There is a lot to do to prepare for this important celebration, and for the first time, Mulan is old enough to help out. But everything Mulan does seems to turn out wrong. . . . Follow along with Mulan in this special Lunar New Year story that captures the unique sense of magic, imagination, and possibility that surrounds the holiday!

  2. D is for Dragon Dance - A bilingual introduction to the Chinese New Year in English and Chinese. From the dazzling dragon dance to the scrumptious steamed dumplings to the firecrackers that frighten away evil spirits, this alphabet book celebrates the traditions of the lunar new year. First published in 2006, this new rendition presents the English text alongside the Chinese.

  3. Boy Dumplings: A Tasty Chinese Tale - Enjoy this hilarious and fun-filled tale, now with extra illustrations! In long ago China, a ghost can’t wait to sink his teeth into his next meal. Luckily he finds a plump boy! But can the child think fast enough to avoid becoming a midnight snack? Maybe so, if the ghost tries cooking the tricky recipe for “boy dumplings”…

  4. The Emperor's Riddle - During a family trip to China, eleven-year-old Mia Chen and her older brother Jake follow clues and solve riddles in hopes of finding their missing Aunt Lin and, perhaps, a legendary treasure.

The Shadow in the Moon book
#37
The Shadow in the Moon
Written by Christina Matula and illustrated by Pearl Lee
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Two sisters and their grandma celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, a popular Chinese holiday. Their favorite part? Mooncakes, of course—along with Ah-ma’s story of the ancient Chinese tale of Hou Yi, a brave young archer, and his wife, Chang’E. A long time ago, Hou Yi rescued the earth from the heat of ten suns. The Immortals rewarded him with a magic potion that could let him live in the sky with them forever. But when a thief tries to steal the potion, what will Chang’E do to keep it out of dangerous hands? The sisters are mesmerized by Ah-ma’s retelling and the fact that the very mooncakes they enjoy each holiday are a symbol of this legend’s bravest soul. A unique blend of traditional folklore and contemporary customs brings the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival to life. A recipe for mooncakes is included!

The Story of Kites book
#38
The Story of Kites
Written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Yongsheng Xuan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

Ting, Pan, and Kùai are tired of working in the rice fields, protecting the harvest from the birds. They try everything — they bang pots, blow whistles, and wave their arms. If only they could fly, they’d drive those birds away forever! Then the boys get an idea: if they made wings, they could fly! Using paper, straw, and feathers, the boys try to launch themselves into the sky from the hilltop above the rice fields. Kersplash! What else can the Kang boys come up with to keep those naughty birds away from their rice? Enjoy the third adventure of the Kang brothers who discovered some of China’s most amazing inventions — now with a new bilingual Chinese translation!

The Great Race book
#39
The Great Race
Written and illustrated by Christopher Corr
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Celebrate Chinese New Year and learn how every animal earned its place in the Chinese zodiac by taking part in the Great Race! Discover who will come first to win the ultimate prize, and find out why Cat will never forgive his friend Rat in this ancient folk tale that has been passed from generation to generation. Praise for Deep in the Woods, the previous title from Christopher Corr: ‘… the book looks like a delectable candy box… There is a lesson here — about friendship, and sharing — but the book never feels plodding or pedantic… Which may be why the lesson just goes down like the truth.’

    Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!