21 Children’s Books for Chinese New Year

In celebration of Chinese New Year, here are 21 books to introduce your child to China, its history, and its culture.

In celebration of Chinese New Year, here are 21 books to introduce your child to China, its history, and its culture.

Chinese New Year is January 28.

We have some book suggestions if you’re looking to celebrate or teach your kids about the lunar new year—or Chinese culture, in general!

1. Chinese New Year by Tricia Brown, photographs by Fran Ortiz

The library has several books that explain the customs and history of Chinese New Year. Brown’s is filled with splendid photos. Younger kids may prefer the simple text of Lola M. Schaefer’s Chinese New Year.

2. The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine

Compestine tells the story of a magic wok that helps a poor family prepare for the new year. Inspired by the Danish folk tale, The Talking Pot.

3. Happy New Year! : Kung-hsi fa-ts’ai! by Demi

This charming picture book offers a splendid introduction to Chinese New Year. It even teaches kids how to write and spell traditional sayings used on the holiday. (Spoiler warning: This won’t be the last time you see Demi on this list.)

4. The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang

A few picture books tell the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, but none tell it as prettily as Wang’s book. Children will also learn how cat and rat went from friends to mortal enemies.

5. What Did the Ancient Chinese Do for Me? by Patrick Catel

Kids can learn how Chinese innovations still impact agriculture, acupuncture, and astronomy. For example, the Chinese created the multistage rockets, which both gave us fireworks and they type of rockets that took us to the moon.

6. The Chinese Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations by Ting-xing Ye

Along the same lines as Catel’s book, read how the Chinese invented kites, umbrellas, and even inoculations and other medical treatments that wouldn’t travel farther west for centuries.

7. Kite Flying by Grace Lin

Speaking of kites, Lin tells a simple but pretty family about a family that makes and flies a kite.

8. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook by Paul Yee

This book is more than a wonderful compilation of Chinese fairy and folk tales. Each story concludes with a recipe—inspired by the tale, of course—that families can make together.

9. Lon Po Po by Ed Young

A hungry wolf, disguised as a grandmother, threatens three sisters. One of China’s best known folktales has shades of Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs.

10. Sons of the Dragon King by Ed Young

Not as well known as Lon Po Po, but just as engaging. The nine immortal sons of the Dragon King set out to make something of themselves and find roles that suit their individual strengths.

11. China’s Bravest Girl: The Legend of Hua Mu Lan by Wang Xing Chu

You know the story of Mulan, the woman who disguised herself as a man to defend her family and country. Read the story as the Chinese tell it. You can also check out Fa Mulan by Robert San Souci.

12. A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong

Maomao celebrates the new year and a reunion with a father who spends most of the year working away from home.

13. Ancient China by Natalie M. Rosinsky

It’s difficult to summarize 5,000 years of history, art, science, architecture, and philosophy into a children’s book, but Rosinsky does a good job of hitting the highest points.

14. Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho—a reticent 7-year-old—makes a fun and fearful tour guide when he visits China to meet his relatives.

15. The Dinner that Cooked Itself by J.C. Hsyu & Kenard Pak

A retelling of an ancient Chinese tale. A boy named Tuan receives a surprise when he helps an atypically large snail.

16. The Magic Pillow and The Girl Who Drew a Phoenix by Demi

We didn’t want to stuff this list with Demi, so we’ve compiled to of her tales into a single entry. In the first, a young boy learns to be careful what he asks for when a magic pillow grants his wishes. In the second, a girl practices drawing a Phoenix and inexplicably gains the legendary bird’s powers.

17. Where the Mountains Meet the Moon by Grace Lin

In addition to picture books, Lin has written award-winning chapter books that are inspired by Chinese folk tales. In Where the Mountains Meet the Moon, an adventurous girl goes on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon. She’s joined by a dragon who can’t fly. If your kid likes this, they’ll also enjoy Lin’s When the Sea Turned Silver.

18. Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louie

This story’s from China and more than 1,000 years old, but it will sound familiar. A young girl overcomes a wicked step-mother and step-sister to wed a prince.

19. Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-Li Jiang

A father and son use kites to communicate when China’s Cultural Revolution separates them.

20. The Year of the Fortune Cookie: An Anna Wang Novel by Andrea Cheng

A sequel to Cheng’s Year of the BabyEleven-year-old Anna takes a trip to China and learns more about herself and her Chinese heritage.

21. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Yang’s award-winning graphic novel grapples with what it means to be Chinese and American. Pretty much all of Yang’s graphic novels are amazing, but American Born Chinese is special. It uses myth, wit and racial stereotypes to tell the stories of monkey king Hanuman and of a second-generation Chinese immigrant trying to fit into America. And you’ll never guess how those parallel stories end up intersecting.

For more Chinese New Year fun, we’ll be making crafts at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, at our Headlands Branch.

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