The best picture books for kids about the lunar new year
Looking for Chinese New Year books to help introduce your child to the celebrations and traditions which surround the lunar new year?
I’ve put together a list of 11 fantastic Chinese New Year books to help you.
The Chinese New Year always falls some time between 21 January and 20 February and lasts for about 16 days. It falls at a slightly different time each year because it marks the start of the lunar new year, when the new moon starts.
In 2021, the Chinese New Year festival period begins on 11 February which is Chinese New Year’s Eve and ends with the Lantern Festival on 26 February.
The start of the Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and it’s the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. It’s celebrated by Chinese communities all over the world, with families coming together to eat lots of food, enjoy fireworks, wear special clothes and hang red lanterns to mark the occasion.
In China, schools and businesses often close for the first few days of the new year so that families can spend time together and there are parades and performances, with people dressed in traditional clothes.
I spent part of my childhood in Hong Kong and well remember the excitement of the New Year celebrations!
So if you’d like to introduce your little one to some of the traditions around this special time of year, here’s my pick of the best Chinese New Year books for small humans. As usual, I’ve limited the number of books on the list to make it easier for you to choose and I’ve only included the Chinese New Year books I think are really worthwhile hunting out.
My First Chinese New Year
My First Chinese New Year follows one little girl as she and her family prepare to welcome the new year and experience all the festivities surrounding it. This is a great introduction to the concept and traditions of Chinese New Year for little ones aged 1-5 years. If you’re looking for a book for 1-2-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year is a delightful book for 3-7-year olds which comes in both board book and paperback versions. The illustrations are gorgeous and the book includes a wealth of information about the important traditions and symbols of the festival, along with key themes such as luck and prosperity. This book was a new one for me and I learnt some things I hadn’t known about the Chinese New Year and the stories around it. A really lovely book. If you’re looking for a book for 3-7-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Baby’s First Chinese New Year
Baby’s First Chinese New Year is a lovely board book perfect for introducing the concept of Chinese New Year to our littlest bookworms. The simple text and bright, colourful images of things like lanterns, lucky red envelopes and children celebrating are great for little ones aged 0-2 years. If you’re looking for a book for 0-1-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Bringing In the New Year
Bringing in the New Year follows a Chinese-American family as they prepare for and celebrate the Chinese New Year. It comes in paperback and board book versions and is aimed at 3-5-year-olds but it’s a great book for older children too as an introduction to the celebrations and customs around the Chinese New Year. The illustrations are colourful and appealing and the fold-out dragon at the end fascinates children of all ages. If you’re looking for a book for 3-5-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Peppa’s Chinese New Year
I usually steer clear of books which are tied to TV shows but I like Peppa Pig and Peppa’s Chinese New Year is actually a nice little book for the 2-5-year-old set. Peppa and her friends celebrate Chinese New Year at their pre-school, hanging lanterns, eating fortune cookies and putting on a traditional dragon dance. If you’re looking for a book for 2-3-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Lanterns and Firecrackers
Lanterns and Firecrackers is a simple book about Chinese New Year suitable for 3-5-year-olds and perhaps for children up to the age of six. It follows a brother and sister as they help clean the house and put on new clothes, ready to welcome the new year. They eat special food with their family, watch the lion and dragon dances and hang their lanterns. If you’re looking for a book for 3-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Dragon Dance is a cute lift-the-flap book suitable for 2-5-year-olds and perhaps for children up to the age of six too. In a similar way to the other books, this book follows two children as they shop for special foods with mum, help clean the house and celebrate the Chinese New Year. The lift-the-flap feature is fun and adds interest, especially for younger children. If you’re looking for a book for 2-4-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!
Happy, Happy Chinese New Year is a more in-depth book than the first few on this list. It’s suitable for 3-8-year-olds and is also a great book for older children who are being introduced to the idea of the Chinese New Year for the first time. This is a non-fiction text which uses separate headings for each of the various aspects of the Chinese New Year celebrations: giving sweet gifts, the lion dance, the lantern festival, etc. The illustrations have a traditional look and feel to them which I really love. If you’re looking for a book for 5-8-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Ruby’s Chinese New Year
Ruby’s Chinese New Year introduces the animals from the Chinese zodiac in a lovely story suitable for 4-8-year-olds. Ruby’s grandmother usually visits for Chinese new Year but this year she can’t so Ruby sets off to visit her, taking with her a special card she has made for her. Along the way, Ruby meets the animals who accompany her on her journey and join in the celebrations at Grandma’s house. In the back of this book are instructions for making paper lanterns and other Chinese New Year craft activities. If you’re looking for a book for 4-5-year-olds, I suggest this one.
Home for Chinese New Year
Home for Chinese New Year is a wonderful book written in both Chinese and English explaining a father’s journey home to visit his family from the city where he works. Jia Jun’s Dad takes a train, bus, three-wheeled motorcycle and ferry-boat to get home and walks for part of the way until he finally makes it home. This story beautifully complements the other Chinese New Year books by going beyond the traditions and celebrations themselves to explore the love and gratitude in the relationship between Jia Jun and his father as they seek to be reunited for Chinese New Year. If you’re looking for a book for 4-6-year-olds, I suggest this one.
12 Lucky Animals is a lovely book to round off this list of Chinese New Year books for kids because it introduces children to the animals which feature in the Chinese zodiac and which are an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
The story of the 12 animals, their characteristics and how they ended up in the order they did is one that many Chinese children know and this gorgeous, bright board book does a lovely job of introducing it to young readers. The names of the animals are given in both English and Chinese, using Chinese characters alongside their pinyin (romanised spelling), and the characteristics of each animal are described. I love the illustrations in this book. They’re simple, bright and very appealing and there’s a Chinese zodiac wheel at the end so children can figure out which animal they are. If you’re looking for a book for 0-8-year-olds, I suggest this one (but I learnt a lot from it too!)
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Over to you
Does your family celebrate Chinese New Year?
Have I missed one of your favourite Chinese New Year books?
Do your children enjoy these books about Chinese New Year?
I’d love to hear what you think so drop me a line in the comments.
I’m Felicity. I write about children’s books and reading and about their potential for enriching the lives of young humans.
I review picture books, board books and sometimes books for older children.
As well as being a lover of all things to do with books and reading, I’m a mum of three young adults and a primary school teacher. I also create gift baskets filled with the very best books for children from newborns to four-year-olds.
Welcome. It’s nice to meet you.