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, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.
When it comes to children’s stories about China, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The House of Sixty Fathers to popular sellers like Tikki Tikki Tembo to some of our favorite hidden gems like Lon Po Po.
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.
First Words - Mandarin - Perfect for introducing very young children to the Mandarin language, this colourful board book features 12 words to learn – from ‘sun’ and ‘shoes’ to ‘beach’ and ‘bed’. Each word is accompanied by an illustration and pronunciation guide that make the vocabulary easy to learn. From Lonely Planet Kids, First Words Mandarin is a great learning resource for families planning a trip or practicing a new language at home. Our dedicated First Words website features a free audio pronunciation guide where you can hear each word spoken out loud.
The House of Sixty Fathers - Meindert DeJong is the winner of the 1954 Newbery Award for The Wheel on the School. The New York Herald Tribune praised this book for “its insight that stimulates the imagination and its clear beauty, like that of a Vermeer painting.” The scene of this latest book by Mr. DeJong is China, during the Japanese occupation. Young Tien Pao is alone on his family’s sampan when the boat breaks loose from its moorings and is caught by the rushing waters of the river. When the sampan finally lands, Tien Pao is in Japanese territory. With only his pig for company, he starts on the long and difficult journey back to Hengyang and his parents. The House of Sixty fathers could be the story of any child in any war.In his expressive pictures Maurice Sendak has caught the essence of TienPao and his faith, courage, and unwillingness to surrender his belief in the impossible. The House of Sixty Fathers isbased on Meindert DeJong’s actual experience, During World War 11 Mr. DeJong was official historian for the Chinese-American Composite Wing, which was part of Cbennault’s famous Fourteenth Air Force. A young Chinese war orphan, the Tien Pao of this story, was adopted by DeJong’s outfit. The boy chose DeJong as his special “father,” and the two were devoted to one another. Mr. DeJong wanted to bring the boy back to the United States with him, but because of legal complications he was unable to do so. However, the men in the outfit left the youngster well provided for when they returned to America. The Communists then took over that section of China, and DeJong has never heard what happened to the boy.
Dumpling Dreams - “The story of how Joyce Chen, a girl born in Communist China, immigrated to the United States and popularized Chinese cooking.”—
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China - “…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.
The Seven Chinese Brothers - Seven Chinese brothers elude execution by virtue of their extraordinary individual qualities.
Want to see books about fairy tales?
How to Catch a Dragon - Do you have what it takes to catch a dragon? The How to Catch kids are off again, this time trying to catch a dragon as they chase him through Chinese New Year celebrations! Set in China during the Spring Festival, otherwise known as Chinese New Year, the wily dragon will have to avoid trap after trap as the kids run through paper lanterns, red envelopes, fireworks, and more! Bonus Mandarin translation included in the back! Dragons are a clever bunch, They’re difficult to catch. You’ll have to set the ultimate trap— But have you met your match?
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!
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.
The Shadow in the Moon - Join two sisters as they listen to their grandmother tell the tale of the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Hou Yi, a brave archer, saves the world from drought and is given a magic potion for his deeds. Chang’e, his wife, courageously protects the potion from a thief and is transformed into the Lady in the Moon. This is a tale of sweethearts, mooncakes, and how the Mid-Autumn Festival came to be.
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.
Lucky New Year! - 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!
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.
Shanté Keys and the New Year's Peas - When Shante´ is sent to find black-eyed peas for her family’s New Year’s celebration, she learns about each of her neighbor’s New Year’s traditions in their home countries.
Little Panda - Little Panda goes on an adventure in the jungle, but mama is always close by her cub. Short rhyming lines in this illustrated board book tell a sweet story of youthful adventure and motherly love.
Dim Sum for Everyone! - 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.
A New Year's Reunion - Maomao s dad works many miles away, but he is coming home for New Year!Little Maomao s father works in faraway places and comes home just once a year, for Chinese New Year. At first Maomao barely recognizes him, but before long the family is happily making sticky rice balls, listening to firecrackers, and watching the dragon dance in the streets below. Papa gets a haircut, makes repairs to the house, and hides a lucky coin for Maomao to find. Which she does! But all too soon it is time for Papa to go away again. This poignant, vibrantly illustrated tale, which won the prestigious Feng Zikai Chinese Children s Picture Book Award in 2009, is sure to resonate with every child who misses relatives when they are away and shows how a family s love is strong enough to endure over time and distance.
The Noodle Shop - Yi is a hardworking boy just like his busy parents, who work hard to run their noodle shop. The morning commute to the shop requires them to wake up early, and they only return home late at night. On the weekends, Yi accompanies his parents to the shop. Although a typical young child who dislikes homework and wants to play with friends, Yi is also a devoted child who tries to help his parents out. This is a simple story of a day in the life of Yi.
Want to see books about family?
Sparrow Girl - Ming-Li looked up and tried to imagine the sky silent, empty of birds. It was a terrible thought. Her country’s leader had called sparrows the enemy of the farmers—they were eating too much grain, he said. He announced a great “Sparrow War” to banish them from China, but Ming-Li did not want to chase the birds away.
As the people of her village gathered with firecrackers and gongs to scatter the sparrows, Ming-Li held her ears and watched in dismay. The birds were falling from the trees, frightened to death! Ming-Li knew she had to do something—even if she couldn’t stop the noise. Quietly, she vowed to save as many sparrows as she could, one by one…
The Discovery of Fireworks and Gunpowder - Accompany kids back in time to learn how fireworks and gunpowder were created; sequel in a series on cool inventions from Asia.
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.
Cixi, The Dragon Empress - 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.
Want to see books about history?
Rabbit's Gift - Snow is coming, coming soon, so Rabbit needs to find food fast. Just in time, a turnip turns up, and a second one, too. Who in the woods wouldn’t want to tuck away an extra turnip for the long winter? Not Rabbit. He chooses a different path—and starts a wave of generosity that spreads among all his forest friends.
The Great Race - 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.’
Want to see books about animals?
Mountain Chef - 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.
Day of the Dragon King - Who would burn books? Jack and Annie find out when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient China. There, a powerful emperor called the Dragon King has ordered that all books be burned. Will Jack and Annie be able to save at least one book? Or will they be captured by the emperor’s soldiers?
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.
Always Come Home to Me - A moving and uplifting tale of two children and their parents, and the beloved pet doves that help them to understand one another. “Fei, fei — fly, fly, little birds, but always come home to me!” Mei-Mei and Di-Di are head-over-heels in love with their new doves. Like devoted parents, the siblings tenderly nurture Butterfly and Squeaky as they grow from chicks to fledglings to birds. But when Mei-Mei and Di-Di arrive home to find that the doves have disappeared, their young hearts break into a thousand pieces — and they run away, determined to reclaim their beloved birds. Will Mei-Mei and Di-Di return home with the doves before they break their own parents’ hearts?.
Want to see books about action and adventure?
Waiting for May - A young boy looks forward to the day when a new sister, who will be adopted from China, joins his family.
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”…
The Story of Kites - 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!