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Chinese New Year: Picture Books For Kids

Whether or not you culturally celebrate Chinese New Year, reading children's books about Chinese New Year can open your children's eyes (and yours!) to the amazing culture and traditions that are a part of this holiday that is so special to so many. In fact, as you learn more, you may just feel inspired to celebrate (even a little) in your own home this year, whether that be with the food (dumplings, noodles and rice cakes! oh my!), red envelopes filled with money, or giving everything a good new year's cleaning. In preparation for Chinese New Year this year, we've been reading a lot of books about Chinese New Year, and these are some of our favorites—we hope you enjoy the stories as well as the education!

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas book
#1
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
Written by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Grace Zong
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is an adorable parody of Goldilocks and the three bears for the Chinese New Year. I especially loved all the subtle references to Chinese New Year's traditions strewn throughout and that Goldi comes back to rectify her mistakes and make a few friends as well.

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.

The Nian Monster book
#2
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
#3
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.

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 -

Sam and the Lucky Money book
#5
Sam and the Lucky Money
Written by Karen Chin and illustrated by Ying-hwa Hu, 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.

  1. The Great Race - B is for Bookworm - This book tells a great story about why the Chinese calendar year is named after certain animals, and the reason for the order it's in. I thought it was fun, creative, and it's full of colorful illustrations. There's also an explanation at the back of some of the main holidays on the calendar.

  2. The Runaway Rice Cake - 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

  3. 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!

  4. Popo's Lucky Chinese New Year - B is for Bookworm - This book has some fun humor in it and shows the Chinese New Year through the eyes of a young child. It does a good job of introducing some of the traditions and meanings behind the holiday.

This Next New Year book
#10
This Next New Year
Written by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Yangsook Choi
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

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.

Dragon Dance book
#11
Dragon Dance
Written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Benrei Huang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

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
#12
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!

The Runaway Wok book
#13
The Runaway Wok
Written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Sebastià Serra
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

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.

Chinese New Year Colors book
#14
Chinese New Year Colors
Written and illustrated by Richard Lo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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.

  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. 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.'

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