Depending on where you live, you may not know as much about the background of the Chinese New Year as other cultural experiences we explore at school. For me, a bit of background is always helpful when considering books to share with children. Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Festival and the Lunar Festival because it is based on the lunar calendar and celebrates the coming of spring, not spring itself. The holiday lasts for seven days on the calendar but people often extend the holiday to two weeks! There are many traditions associated with the holiday like cleaning the house, giving gifts, the color red, and fireworks. Each year of the Chinese calendar is associated with a different animal. The year 2022 is the year of the Tiger.
These first two books for Chinese New Year are non-fiction text to help your students understand more about this holiday. The background will make the other stories more meaningful since context will be established.
Chinese New Year by Judith Jango-Cohen
Part of the ‘On My Own Holidays’ series, Chinese New Year is a colorful introduction to this important Chinese holiday. With expressive paintings and clear, informative text, the book explains traditions and festive activities, the Chinese zodiac, and traditional symbols of the new year.
Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto
This book is part of National Geographic’s popular Holidays Around the World series, Celebrate Chinese New Year is also an interesting introduction to the holiday. With colorful images and straightforward text has more information than the first one. This non-fiction book brings the historical and cultural aspects of the Chinese New Year into focus. I also LOVE the use of informational text features, all in all, this is a great book for Chinese New Year!
These remaining books for Chinese New Year, are fiction texts that provide examples and stories. They extend the meaning of the holiday through the stories that bring the facts to life through the eyes of children.
Mulan’s Lunar New Year by Natasha Yim
Lunar New Year is 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. She feels so grown up but then everything she does seems to turn out wrong. Mulan’s Lunar New Year the unique sense of magic, imagination, and possibility that surrounds the holiday!
The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, a poor family sends their son to trade their last eggs for rice. When Ming comes home with an old wok instead, his parents do not know what to do. But then to everyone’s surprise, the magical wok rolls out of the house singing “Skippity-hoppity-ho! / To the rich man’s wife, I go!” and returns with food, toys, and money. With repetitive text and colorful, detailed illustrations, The Runaway Wok teaches children about the importance of generosity, making it one of the greatest books for Chinese New Year!
This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong
A Chinese Korean boy looks forward to the “lunar new year, the day of the first new moon.” The book demonstrates that many countries celebrate this holiday even though it is known as the Chinese New Year. He describes how his family celebrates, and what his hopes for the new year are. With lyrical text and energetic and supportive pictures, This Next New Year show a child’s determination to face the new year with courage and optimism.
Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey
Thirteen creatures have come to the river to join in the emperor’s race to create a calendar with each year named for an animal but he isn’t sure how to do it so he decides to have a race. The winner will get the honor of naming the first year of the new calendar. The Great Race is a beautifully illustrated retelling of an ancient legend that introduces children to the concept of the Chinese Zodiac.
The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang
Thirteen animals are racing for only twelve places on the Zodiac. Who will be honest, and who devious? Who will help friends along the way? Who will come first, and who will miss out?
With gorgeous illustrations based on Chinese painting techniques, The Race for the Chinese Zodiac is a lively retelling of the legendary animals’ race and provides a wonderful opportunity to do text to text connections with The Great Race.
Sam and the Luck Money By Karen Chinn
Sam’s story starts when he receives four dollars of lucky New Year money in his red envelope. He and his mom make their way through the crowds in the streets, he sees a man in need. Should Sam give some of his money to this man or spend it on the treats being sold all around him? As kids follow along with Sam, they will enjoy a peek into a bustling American Chinatown during Lunar New Year.
Alex’s Good Fortune By Benson Shum
Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for Alex and her family, so it is even more special when she gets to share her favorite traditions with her best friend, Ethan. Together, they join the Chinese New Year parade and get to help make the dragon dance. Then they prepare for the festivities by tidying up, decorating, and making dumplings. After that, it is time to open red envelopes, eat a great big feast, and enjoy the lantern festival!
This list of books for Chinese New Year is primarily aimed at students in first, second, and third grade.
Thanks for reading teacher friends, happy teaching!