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Best Books for Kids About China: Chinese New Year Resources

Updated on May 11, 2017
Adele Jeunette profile image

Adele has been a youth services librarian for 20 years. She has been mother to a daughter from China for 17 years.

This site lists books for kids about China--lots of books to read about Chinese New Year here.
This site lists books for kids about China--lots of books to read about Chinese New Year here.

The Best Picture Books About China

Here are the best books for ages 2-6 about China and children with Chinese heritage. They range form re-tellings of folk tales to colorful books of facts about traditional New Year's celebrations in China and all over the world.

Whether you are a preschool or elementary teacher, a parent or adoptive parent, or someone who enjoys sharing the culture of China with children, these are the best books I've seen over the years for young children.

I've been a librarian for over 20 years, and picture books have always been close to my heart. I've read hundred of books about China and listed here the one that I believe have the best characters, most interesting stories and most beautiful artwork. I hope that you enjoy them.

New! The Nian Monster

When I've been looking up information about Chinese New Year, I've often come across brief references to a legend of a monster call nian, which means year in Chinese. According to the legend, this monster comes by at the beginning of the year, and the reason that Chinese people use firecrackers and other noisemakers is to scare off this monster.

In this book, The Nian Monster, Andrea Wang fleshes out the tale and adds a clever girl who tricks the monster and saves her city. The story begins in contemporary Shanghai where a girl named Xingling and her grandmother are hanging decorations for the new year celebration. Xingling asks why all the decorations are red, and grandmother tells a story. "Long ago," she says "the Nian Monster lived in the mountains. His jaws were as wide as caverns. His teeth were sharper than swords. And he was filled with a terrible hunger. Each new year, Nian ate whole villages!" It turns out that this monster had three weaknesses: loud sounds, fire, and the color red. On the accompanying page, we see red firecrackers, children banging a gong, and blowing a noisemaker. Grandmother explains that the traditions have kept the Nian Monster away ever since.

While her grandmother goes to buy more noodles, Xingling stirs the pork and cabbage soup. But, outside her window, we see that Nian has returned. "I have come to devour this city," he says, roaring so loud that all the buildings in Shanghai shake. Xingling strikes a defiant stance and points out the red banners, lanterns, and drums that should scare him away, but Nian has is no longer afraid of them after thousands of years. Xingling thinks fast and convinces him to have a bowl of noodle soup before he devours everyone. He agrees, and she goes to the best noodle shop to get him a giant bowl. When he is finished, he is too full to eat any more and decides to devour the city the next day.

The next day, Xingling convinces him to eat a fish, and she gets one specially caught from the Huangpu River. Again, Nian is too full to eat everyone up. On the third day, Xingling tricks him into eating a rice cake made from glutinous rice flour, the stickiest kind, which glues Nian's jaws together. Then she takes him to the fireworks show and seats him on a chair with a rocket. When the fireworks master lights the rocket, Nian is unable to blow it out and shoots through the sky. "Good-bye Old Year," Xingling waves.

Alina Chau's watercolor illustrations are wonderful, bursting with color and action. I love how the details show us life in contemporary Shanghai: the market, the park, the harbor, and--of course--the food. This would also be a great book to share with a class. You can first read the story, then talk about the details in the pictures. Wang includes an author's note that explains more about the holidays, the food, and other "Chinese tidbits" like why the number eight is lucky and the fact that sticky rice flour was used in the mortar for the Great Wall.

On her website, Wang includes quite a bit of supplementary material including a recipe for coconut sticky rice cake, a behind-the-scenes look at the illustration process, and a teacher's guide. http://andreaywang.com/


New! It's Chinese New Year

 It's Chinese New Year! by Richard Sebra
It's Chinese New Year! by Richard Sebra

It's Chinese New Year! would be a great book to share with a classroom of students because it has such big pictures and such simple text.

The publisher lists the age range as 8-12, but the reading level is really for first or second grade. So, if you have a child in those grades, and you want them to be able to read the book themselves, this is the perfect level.

Here’s the thing about sharing this book with a class: I think it would be really effective for preschool all the way up to fourth grade.

Like I said, the pictures are big, and they are also colorful, contemporary and high quality. Here is a list of all the photos:

  • A crowd on the sidewalk with dozens of red lanterns strewn overhead
  • A circular zodiac calendar with pictures of the 12 animals
  • A young girl and her grandfather smiling in front of a flowering bush
  • A photo of people lighting red candles
  • A young boy wearing a red jacket and holding two oranges
  • A pagoda roofline with lighted red lanterns
  • Young men doing a dragon dance
  • A girl receiving a red envelope from a grandfather
  • A family dressed up and posing for a picture
  • Another zodiac calendar that labels all the animals in English as well as Chinese

The text is very basic and brief, which makes it great for sharing with a class. For instance, the page on New Year’s feasts says “Families have big feasts. People eat a lot of food. Many people eat oranges too.” That’s probably enough for preschoolers or kindergarteners. For older children, you will probably want to be able to tell them what kinds of dishes people eat at these feasts, and the symbolism behind certain foods, eg. oranges or tangerines symbolize the eternal because of their round shape.

The book includes a few “critical thinking” questions that you might also want to research a little if you’re going to read them to a group. Examples of these questions include, “Why do you think the years have animal names?” or “Why do you think dragons are lucky?”

All in all, if you get a paperback copy of this book, it’s an inexpensive way to introduce children to some of the customs of Chinese New Year.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

A Re-Telling of the Three Bears

In this delightful picture story book Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, the author Natasha Yim takes the familiar “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” story and adds a Chinese twist--New Year style. A little girl who goes by the name of Goldy Luck is asked by her mother to take a New Year’s dish—fried turnip cakes—to their neighbor panda’s house. When she arrives, the bears are out of course, and she decides to try out the things in their house--their congee (rice porridge), their chairs, and also their beds. One of the differences in this story is that Goldy starts to feel a little remorse once she returns home, and she goes to the pandas’ house to help clean up the mess she made. All ends happily as they work on making a new plate of turnip cakes.

This would be a lovely book to read to a preschool or elementary school class and introduce the children to Chinese New Year celebrations. Yim weaves in all kinds details about customs regarding luck, gifts of red envelopes, and traditional foods. The illustrator’s adorable pictures include wonderful little details that embellish the furnishings and the clothing. My favorite is a Chinese zodiac rug we see on the floor in one of the scenes. In the back of the book, Yim includes quite a few interesting notes about New Year’s traditions.


My First Chinese New Year

My First Chinese New Year

My First Chinese New Year is a good short book to introduce the very youngest children to the customs and food associated with Chinese new year. The illustrations are bright and colorful.

Bringing in the New Year

Lin's book Bringing in the New Year is a wonderful introduction to the traditions of Chinese New Year and would work well to read to school groups. The story follows a family as they prepare for the new year, cleaning house and sweeping out the old year, making dumplings, and finally going to the New Year's parade. Lin's illustrations are bright and vibrant.

Red is a Dragon

Red is a Dragon introduces children to colors by using objects common to Asian American families. In simple couplets Thong introduces us to red dragons and firecrackers, yellow incense sticks, green jade, but also red watermelon, yellow taxis, and green toads. Grace Lin's illustrations light up the book with bright colors and curlicue backgrounds. The two teamed up on to other books which are wonderful ways to introduce children to Asian cultures: Round Is a Mooncake, and One Is a Drummer.

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns

Great Photos of Contemporary China

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns would be perfect to use with an elementary school class. Since it’s published by National Geographic, it of course has wonderful big and colorful photos.

If you are working with first graders or younger, you can read the simple sentences that are on each two-page spread. “We travel to be with our families. We decorate with bright colors. There is plenty to eat.” And etc. You can point out what’s happening in each of the pictures: the lotuses placed in a pond, children dressed as mice and eating mouse-shaped treats, the dragon winding through the streets during the parade, and my personal favorite—the parade of lights with thousands of fantastic lanterns lining the streets. Every photo is gorgeous and brings the holiday alive.


If you are working with second grade and up, you can read more of the explanatory text, about 3 or four paragraphs per page. The text is written in simple sentences at an AR reading level of 3.6 which roughly corresponds to the middle of 3rd grade. Here, you find a little more detail o share with older children. For example, you can tell them that the parade dragons used to be made of paper or bamboo, but these days they might be made of plastic. Ten or more dancers practice together, usually for several months, to learn the dragon dance and make it slither over the crowd.

The photos are contemporary, and give a good feel for how the holiday is celebrated, not only in China, but in other parts of the world, such as San Francisco, Japan, and London.

The Pandas and Their Chopsticks

The Pandas and Their Chopsticks by Demi
The Pandas and Their Chopsticks by Demi

A Collection of Chinese Animal Fables

In The Pandas and Their Chopsticks, the pandas have a tricky problem. They each have a pair of chopsticks, but they can’t get the food into their mouths since each of the sticks is three feet long. How are they going to eat? Children will love the solution that one group of generous pandas discovers. Each of these fables is one-to-two pages long, perfect to read if you only have a little bit of time. Children love to see some of their favorite animals represented in these tales with a message: kitties, hummingbirds, turtles, and hedgehogs among them.

I have loved Demi’s colorful and detailed drawings ever since I read her book The Empty Pot, about a boy who becomes emperor by being honest when the other children are not. In The Pandas and Their Chopsticks she brings together a nice collection of Chinese fables that bring to life such virtues as sharing, humility, intelligence, and perseverance. Her illustrations are seem almost like Chinese embroidery, and her delightful little borders add a whimsical touch.


Inside Pages of The Pandas and Their Chopsticks

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Salzberg
Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Salzberg

Panda Bedtime Book

I’ve long been a fan of this author/illustrator, and this super-short little panda book, Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep, would make a perfect bedtime gift for a toddler or preschooler. The little panda, named Chengdu (presumable after the panda reserve in China), has trouble getting comfortable at night and tries all sorts of positions to get to sleep. He finally finds out (spoiler alert!) that his brother makes a good pillow and is finally able to nod off. The little twist at the end will delight a little one, but the main reason to get this is for the illustrations, wonderfully expressive and tinged with an aura of night. With any luck, it will make your child drowsy and ready to pull up the covers.

The Squiggle

The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer
The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer

Imagination, Chinese Images, and a Preschool Class

The Squiggle is perfect to read at your child’s school to encourage young imaginations. In the story, a little girl is walking with her school group when she notices a piece of red ribbon on the ground and picks it up. As she twirls it in her hand, she imagines it as a dragon, the Great Wall of China, a thundercloud, fireworks, and the moon, among others.

The illustrations echo Chinese brush painting with its swoops and bright colors on a rustic speckled brown background which gives it a look of brown paper.

The words are fun to say and introduce the children to onomatopoeia: “slither, slish” for the dragon; “push-a-pat” for the Great Wall.

When we read this book at preschool storytime at the library, we give every child a length of red yarn so that they can play along.

The Squiggle is such a good book that it’s been in print for 15 years--a rare thing for a children’s picture book.

Dragon Dancing

Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer

A Book About Crafting a Chinese Dragon

Here is another beautifully-illustrated book about a Chinese-American girl from the team of Carole Lexa Schaefer and Pierr Morgan. After hearing a story about dragons, the girl (Mei Lin) works in the art room with her class to make a “birthday dragon.” One child makes “boink-boink” eyes, another “ricky-rack backs”.” They add feathers and spangles and scales until they have a Chinese-style dragon that they take dancing through imaginary mountaintops, seas, bamboo forests (with adorable pandas, of course) marshes, and meadows. When they hear their teacher calling, they “Stomp. Tromp. Ker-bomp.” back for a birthday dragon’s snack. Once again illustrator Pierr Morgan captures Chinese brush painting aesthetics and Chinese scenery—whether the mountains near Guilin, or the marshes with iris and mandarin ducks. This is a fun read-aloud with Schaefer's trademark onomatopoeia and Morgan's lovely drawings.

This would be a great book to read and then have a follow-up craft in which the children can draw and decorate their own dragons.

This book seems to be out of print, but it would certainly be worth getting through the used market.



Look What Came From China

Look What Came From China by Miles Harvey
Look What Came From China by Miles Harvey

Great Photos for Inventions from China

Look What Came From China is my go-to book for introducing young children to the culture of China. With an attractive layout and lots of big, colorful, clear photos, this book introduces readers to inventions and items which originated in China. We see familiar things like tea and rice, but we also learn that things like compasses, wheelbarrows, printing, and sunglasses also had their genesis in China. And, of course, kids will like learning about the animals, such as the Shar Pei dog (those adorable ones with all the wrinkles), and the Giant Pandas. This book also includes such categories as “Fashion,” and “Music.”

The text is nice and short, not too overwhelming, just giving the reader a little bit of interesting information about each item. And the pictures are nice and big and colorful. The book also includes a recipe, some Mandarin words along with a pronunciation guide, and a list for further reading, in case a child wants to find out more about a given topic.

Two of Everything

Two of Everything by Lily toy Hong
Two of Everything by Lily toy Hong

Charming Chinese Folk Tale

In Two of Everything, Mr. and Mrs. Haktak are poor farmers living hand to mouth—until they unearth a pot that doubles everything they put into it.
They start small at first, until the missus figures out that they can put their coins into the pot and keep doubling them until they are rich. Mr. Haktak runs out to go shopping, but when he comes back laden with packages, he accidentally knocks his wife in the pot. Now there are two of them!
If you were reading a European folk tale, you would know by now that the story couldn’t end well. But this is China, and more practical heads prevail. The Haktaks come up with a workable solution and find a way to live their life in moderation—albeit more comfortably than they did before.
I go out and do oral storytelling in the schools, and this is one of my favorite stories to tell. It’s fun and dramatic and clever. The kids get a real kick out of it.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang
The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang

An Animal Zodiac Tale

Children are always interested in the Chinese zodiac, and The Race for the Chinese Zodiac makes a nice introduction to the story which tells how each animal got its place in the zodiac.

The Emperor of Heaven decided that he would host a race across a river. All the animals would compete, and their place in the race would determine where their year appeared in the zodiac calendar. The rat cleverly hitches a ride on the ox, and jumps off to run across the finish line once they cross the river. Rat gets to be first because he’s clever and smart. The ox, a hard and steady worker is next. After that comes the powerful tiger. All of the 12 animals are accounted for, depending on how they approached the race. The dragon, whom you might suspect could fly ahead of all the animals, has a later place in the zodiac, since he stopped to help some villagers. Dog comes in towards the end because he stopped along the way to play. Cat doesn’t make it into the zodiac—and therein lies a tale of the animosity between cats and rats.

Since the text is short and clear, it’s easy to share with a wiggly group of children. The ink paintings are lovely and large enough for everyone to see. Each page has an illustration of the Chinese character for that animal. At the end, you can find a listing of the animals that go with different years, and the characteristics of a person born that year.

The Runaway Wok

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine
The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine

A Tale of Chinese New Year and Generosity

Many folktales illustrate the importance of sharing and the drawbacks to being greedy. Compestine wrote The Runaway Wok as a Chinese take on a tale about generosity after reading the Danish folktale "The Talking Pot."

The story is about a boy named Ming who is given the last of the family’s eggs on Chinese New Year’s Eve to trade for a bag of rice so that they can make some stir-fried rice to share with the neighbors. The family is poor, even though the father works for the richest man in Beijing, Mr. Li. The Li family has no desire to share their wealth with their neighbors.

Ming dutifully goes to the market for the rice, but when a vendor shows him a wok that actually sings, he decides to trade for it instead, reasoning that a singing wok must be able to do some other amazing things.

At first it seems like a foolish trade, but the wok has a mind of its own and skip-hops about town cleverly collecting goodies from the greedy Li family. Compestine notes that the wok is a symbol of sharing in the Chinese culture. The stir-fried rice which is cooked at new year represents happiness and harmony, since the varied ingredients combine to form a harmonious whole.

The Magic Brush by Kat Yeh
The Magic Brush by Kat Yeh

A Book to Help Learn Chinese Characters

A grandfather teaches his granddaughter Chinese characters by telling her a fanciful story of mountains, monkeys, horses and a dragon in The Magic Brush. Chinese characters appear in the corners of the illustrations, corresponding to figures in the main part of the picture. The endpapers include a pronunciation key, a brief history of Chinese art, and pictures and descriptions of Chinese treats

The Empty Pot by Demi
The Empty Pot by Demi

A Folk Tale About Integrity and Honesty

In The Empty Pot, the Emperor needs a successor and has announced that whichever child can grow the most wonderful flower from the seeds he distributes will be next in line to his title. Little Ping loves to grow plants, but no matter how much he nurtures and tends the little seed, it doesn't grow for him. On the big day that they are to show their plants to the Emperor, all the other children take in big glorious flowers. Ping only has his empty pot. But it turns out that the Emperor boiled all the seeds, and Ping was the only one honest enough to admit that his seed would not grow. Ping is chosen as the new emperor.

Demi’s trademark illustrations, delicate with circular borders, are reminiscent of Chinese embroidery.

The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker
The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker

Talented Girls Deal with a Dragon

Here’s another good “girl power” tale. Inspired by the traditional folktale of the Seven Chinese Brothers, Tucker has flipped genders and written a story of the The Seven Chinese Sisters. In this tall tale each sister has a special talent. The oldest can ride a scooter fast as the wind; the second-oldest can do karate; the third can count very high; the fourth knows dog language; the fifth can catch any ball thrown; the sixth can cook a wonderful soup; and the seventh—the baby—well no one is sure what she can do yet.

It turns out that she does have a very specific talent, and all of the sisters are able to use their talents together in order to foil a dragon who has his sights set on eating the younger sister. In gentle fashion, they don’t destroy the dragon, but instead learn what it troubling him and help him solve his problem. Grace Lin's brightly patterned and colorful illustrations are a lively addition to the story.

Celebrating Chinese Festivals
Celebrating Chinese Festivals

A Book with Festival Tales and Recipes

You can find lots of books with recipes for Chinese food, but this book also tells the folktales associated with many of the major Chinese holidays. We learn about how people set off firecrackers to scare away a monster at the new year and how a star-crossed couple, the Weaving Fairy and her cowherd husband, is allowed to meet only once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Chinese equivalent to Valentine's Day.

The stories are quite brief and simply told, usually only 3 or 4 pages long, with lots of illustrations which are charming, colorful and lively.

Many of the tales include recipes associated with the holiday. This is a book that was translated for an English-speaking audience. Presumable, it was first written in Chinese for a Chinese audience, which means that it scores points for authenticity. It also means that it would be a bit tricky to find some of the ingredients. One recipe calls for mugwort juice, and another calls for bamboo leaves in which to steam rice packets. The measurements are given in grams rather than English measures.

The real value of this book is in the stories and illustrations which delicately capture the childlike wonder of the holidays and the tales.

Here are the holidays included in this book as laid out in the table of contents: Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, Qingming Festival: Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese Valentine's Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, and Double Ninth Festival.


Noodle Magic
Noodle Magic

A Tale of Noodles, Grandpas, The Moon Goddess, and Magic

My daughter is enamored with noodle dishes, and when I saw that Roseanne Thong and Meilo So had teamed up to do a book called Noodle Magic, I had to take a look. Thong, who wrote some of my favorite books including Round is a Mooncake and Red Is a Dragon takes a little different tack here and writes a tale in folk-tale style. Every evening, a little girl called Mei watches her Grandpa Tu make fantastical things from noodle dough. One year, it’s Mei’s turn to make the noodle magic, but she has some trouble. She sends a ball of noodles to the Moon Goddess who is happy to receive the gift, but knows that the magic must come from inside Mei. Mei comes up with a tug-of-war with the goddess, and with a snap, all shapes of noodles come raining down.

If this sounds a little confusing, it’s because I found the story a little confusing. While it may seem nit-picking to want to know more about the nature of Mei’s magic, I found it a little too easy of a resolution that she just pulls on the noodles and magic happens.

Still, this plot critique is a small thing when compared to the wonderful language and especially the exquisite watercolors of Meilo So. And with its tie-in to the Moon Goddess, it would make a great book to read at Moon Festival time.

Making Crafts with Kids for Chinese New Year

Crafts are a natural accompaniment to reading books at any Chinese New Year celebration. Below are a couple of sites with easy, kid-friendly crafts you can make with children.

Oldies But Goodies

The following books have been around for some time. Many of them are not available new, but are well worth getting on the used market.

Thanking the Moon
Thanking the Moon

A Tale of the Moon Festival

The mid autumn Moon Festival, scheduled to take place on an autumn day when the moon is full, is an Asian Festival of thanks. This simple, short book follows a family's tradition on Moon Festival night as they take a picnic lunch out so that they can eat while admiring the full moon. Lin's bold illustrations nicely capture the round foods, the lanterns, and the whole night time aura.

Ruby's Wish
Ruby's Wish

A Chinese Girl and Her Dream to Get an Education

This charming book features a cover illustration of Ruby peeking out at us through enormous red doors. Bridges based this story on her own grandmother who lived in China in a time when it wasn’t customary to educate girls. Ruby, a young girl born long ago in China, lives in the house of a rich man with 100 grandchildren who employs a tutor to teach any children who wish to learn. Ruby is the only girl who wants to keep learning and can keep up with her domestic work as well as her learning. One day the tutor finds a poem she has written about how it is bad luck to be a girl in a house where only boys are valued and shows it to her grandfather. Her grandfather calls her in, and she tells him that it is her wish to go on with her studies. He listens in benign amusement, but later in life, he grants her wish.

Sam and the Lucky Money
Sam and the Lucky Money

A Boy's Compassion at New Year

Preschool-grade 2 Young Sam has 4 dollars of New Year's money to spend in Chinatown. As he peruses possible purchases, he notices an unfortunate man in the street and decides on a use for his lucky money. Rich, colorful illustrations introduce readers to the sights of Chinatown during the holiday.

Ma Jiang and the Orange Ants
Ma Jiang and the Orange Ants

A Clever Girl Saves the Family Business

I love books from any culture that show girls who use their smarts to solve problems. This intriguing book introduces us to a novel agricultural practice in ancient China: people would use a type of ant called an "orange ant" to control other pests in the orange orchards. Ma Jiang’s father and brother run a business collecting the ants and selling them to orchard owners, but when they are all conscripted and sent off to war, it looks like the family business might fail, since women are prohibited from climbing trees. However Ma Jiang notices that the ants are drawn to drops of honey, and she creates traps for them, cleverly saving the family business, and earning the approval of her father and brothers.

The subtle watercolor illustrations capture the time and mood perfectly.

The book is out of print now, but well worth getting from the used market.

In the Snow by Huy Voun Lee
In the Snow by Huy Voun Lee

A Way to Learn Chinese Characters

Lee uses beautiful paper cuts to illustrate stories in which a mother demonstrates for her son how to write the characters for different words in Mandarin. She shows her boy how certain characters are like little drawings of the word they represent. For example, we can see the roots and branches of the characters she draws for "tree," and when we put several of these trees together, they form the word forest. The books are wonderful introductions to Chinese characters made all the more memorable by these simple stories. The other books in the series include In the Park, At the Beach, In the Leaves, and 123 Go.

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes

Lovely Watercolor Illustrations

Author Rose Lewis tells a sweet story of adopting a little girl from China, but it’s Jane Dyer’s watercolors that will melt your heart. She captures the vulnerability and tenderness between mother and daughter.

This has become THE book for families with children from China. It tells the story of adoption with a gentle honesty and delight. Lewis, who based this book on her own experience adopting a girl from China, tells the story of a single mom from the time she starts the adoption process, through traveling to China , meeting, and then traveling home to the US.

She keeps the story short, and poetic, not giving too much detail about a particular experience, so that other families can relate the book to their own particular stories. She tells of writing a letter to China to ask if she could adopt one of the babies that lives “in a big room with lots of other babies.” She describes their meeting, and how her daughter tried on different hats and had her picture taken. And, she talks of rocking her baby at home and how she wonders about the girl’s biological mother.

The book has done so well for the publisher that it’s been released as a board book and a DVD as well.

Best books to read to kids for Chinese New Year
Best books to read to kids for Chinese New Year

Customs at Chinese New Year

What we call Chinese New Year is usually referred to in Asia as “Spring Festival,” since many other countries besides Chinese celebrate this new year festival. It can also be called “Lunar New Year.” Many of the customs that precede the festival are symbolic of cleaning out everything from the old year so that better things can come in the new year. Most families begin preparing at least a month in advance because there is lots to do.

House Cleaning Everything in the family’s house and on the family’s grounds need to be swept, trimmed, tidied, scrubbed, and dusted thoroughly to get rid of any bad luck clinging to it and make room for new (hopefully good) luck to take its place. Many words sound very similar in the Chinese language, and the culture uses quite a few symbols that are homophones to represent different concepts in their celebrations. Since the word “dust” sounds a lot like “old,” cleaning will take old things out of the house so that everyone can get ready for a new start. (And, one suspects, provide a time for everyone to get motivated to do “spring cleaning.”

Haircut It is considered bad luck to cut anything during the new year celebration (you might be cutting off that new luck), so you need to schedule a hair appointment well before.

Sharpening Knives Again, because knives sever your good luck, you want to get them sharpened before the festivities start.

Throw Out Old Broken Things If you have any dishes that are broken or chipped, out they go. (On imagines this was only a custom with those that were relatively well off.) They same goes for houseplants: any that aren’t doing too well need to be replaced with new and vigorous plants.

New Clothing People get new clothing for festivals all over the world. In Asia, it symbolizes that people are welcoming some new things and getting ready for a fresh start.

Settling Debts This would be a tough thing to do in a credit economy. However, it is thought to be a good thing to sweep away all the old debt you can so that you don’t have it hanging over you in the new year.

Now, the family does some things to decorate the house for the Spring Festival. One thing that they traditionally do is to post a banner at either side of the door. On them are written a line of a couplet so that the two together make a small poem to express people's good wishes.

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    • Kara Skinner profile image

      Kara Skinner 10 days ago from Maine

      I loved "Two of Everything" when I was growing up! It was one of my favorite stories in first grade! "The Seven Chinese Sisters" sounds familiar as well but I'm not sure if I read it when I was younger, or just saw it somewhere. What a great list of books! Thank you!

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