A collage of three books from the list: New Year, Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas and Bringing in the New Year

Tech & Media

6 Beautiful Kids Books to Celebrate Lunar New Year

Feb 13, 2018

Lunar New Year is kind of like Christmas for a lot of families. No, it’s actually more like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Spring cleaning rolled into one, because of the combination of family gathering, gifting and lots and lots of special seasonal food. Growing up in San Francisco, where I was surrounded by family and classmates who also observed Lunar New Year, the celebrations were ubiquitous. But after moving to Toronto over 10 years ago and raising a two-year-old and a four-year-old, I found I’ve had to figure out how to communicate and uphold New Year traditions without the help of my extended family.

Books are so useful in teaching my kids about Lunar New Year and their mixed Chinese and Korean Canadian heritage. Most of these books have sections that give context to the book’s content so they’re a great way for us to learn about various cultural customs. By no means an exhaustive list, here are some books we’re reading in our house to get ready for Lunar New Year. And the new year is celebrated for two weeks so there’s plenty of time for searching these books down and repeat readings.

Bringing In The New Year (Written and Illustrated by Grace Lin)

Cover of Bringing in the New Year

A warm and concise board book for toddlers showing a girl’s anticipation for the coming New Year. Cleaning the house, getting a haircut, watching lion dancing and celebrating with family and community are part of this excellent introduction to New Year customs. The author Lin grew up in upstate New York and she starts off the book with a scene familiar to Canadians when we see the girl’s family getting ready from their snow covered house. (Recommended for ages 2–6.)

Ten Mice for Tet (Written by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill, Illustrated by To Ngoc Trang, Embroidery by Pham Viet Dinh)

Cover of Ten Mice for Tet

Presented as a counting book, there are two things I really enjoy about this book. First, I appreciate the way it shows distinctive Vietnamese Tet (New Year) celebrations and secondly, I admire its unique artwork. Artist Pham Viet Dinh uses vibrant and finely detailed silk embroidery to show a village of mice coming together for a Tet celebration. (Recommended for ages 2–6.)

You'll Also Love: Printable Dragon Craft for Lunar New Year

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Written by Natasha Yim, Illustrated by Grace Zong)

Cover of Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

My kids love the familiarity and repetition (as well as trespassing and breaking stuff) of this Lunar New Year take on the Goldilocks story. But Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas adds an addendum to the story where Goldy returns to the bears house to set things right. And by doing so imparts New Year values of sharing and starting the year on a good foot. (Recommended for ages 2–6.)

New Clothes for New Year's Day (Written and Illustrated by Hyun-Joo Bae)

Cover of New Clothes for New Year's Day

Bae’s exquisite and lively illustrations show a young Korean girl excitedly putting on her new hanbok to prepare for a day of Lunar New Year celebrations. My kids are delighted seeing the little girl adorably struggle to dress herself in clothes that they also wear for special occasions. Lunar New Year books mostly focus on Chinese celebrations so it’s great to see New Year customs from other cultures. (Recommended for ages 2–7.)

This Next New Year (Written by Janet Wong, Illustrated by Yangsook Choi)

Cover of This Next New year

A lovable underdog boy can’t seem to get anything right and sees the New Year as a chance for a fresh start to make up for his mistakes. Repeat readings have given me an extra appreciation of the book’s subtle details like the boy’s mixed Chinese and Korean family (we don’t see mixed children in many books), his family not having money to buy new clothes, and the Marc Chagall-like reference of illustrator Yangsook Choi’s final image. (Recommended for ages 3–7.)

New Year (Written and Illustrated by Rich Lo)

Cover and art of New Year

A recent arrival from Hong Kong has a difficult time adjusting to his new school and country. Not knowing English he struggles to understand his teacher and classmates, and even the other Chinese girl in the class resents helping him. Luckily, the class is learning about Lunar New Year and his Mexican American teacher encourages the boy to be proud of his culture and share with the class. New Year provides a great message of cultural pride for kids living in a culture not their own. (Recommended for ages 4–8.)

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