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Chinese New Year: Children's Books with Chinese Representation

By Holly Allwright, Emma Rogers, Rosie Pinder

Saturday 10 February marks the Chinese New Year, one of the biggest festivals in Chinese culture. 2024 is the year of the dragon, a mythical creature that symbolises strength, power, wisdom, good fortune and success. Literature is a fantastic way for children to learn about and celebrate other cultures and translated stories in particular ensure authentic Chinese tales are represented in the UK, so here are a few of our top picks to celebrate the Chinese New Year!

Ruby’s Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee

With a focus on the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, this beautiful picture book follows a young girl called Ruby as she delivers a Chinese New Year’s card to her Grandma and is aided by each of the twelve zodiac animals. As a tool for education, this picture book teaches children all about the traditions and history of Chinese New Year through beautifully colourful illustrations. A must have for any young children this year.

Lin Yi’s Lantern: A Moon Festival Tale by Brenda Williams

This picture book is the perfect way to learn about the Chinese Moon Festival through the story of a young boy who is desperate to buy a lantern for the festival. Lin Yi is given money by his mother to buy the items on her list for the upcoming Moon Festival, but what he really wants is to buy himself a red rabbit lantern. He faces a moral dilemma which shows the reader the rewards of putting other people first. The book also includes notes about life in rural China as well as the Moon Festival, the perfect combination of moral and factual education for your little one. 

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This graphic novel was first published in 2006 and won many prizes, including the Michael L Pintz Award. Split into three distinct and seemingly unrelated timelines, Yang’s novel follows The Monkey King, a character from a classic sixteenth century Chinese novel, unhappy with his form; Jin Wang, the child of immigrants who struggles to accept his identity, and finally an ‘All-American’ teenager, Danny, and his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee. All of the strands of this story discuss issues of identity, acceptance and stereotypes, making it a truly profound graphic novel. Recently, the story was adapted into a TV Series by Disney with many positive reviews. 

Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom by Shiho S. Nunes

Perfect for middle grade readers, Chinese Fables explores Chinese culture and myth with nineteen tales, many of which date back to the third century, such as Kwan-Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and What’s in a Name? The stories include themes of honesty, respect, courage and self-reliance (perfect lessons for the year of the dragon!) told with humour and affection. This book was published in 2013 and was the winner of the 2014 Aesop Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. 

First Festivals: Lunar New Year, a Ladybird book illustrated by Debby Rahmalia 

Whilst not specific to Chinese tradition, the celebration of the Lunar New Year is a big part of the Chinese New Year holiday. This lovely lift-the-flap board book, aimed at young readers aged 2 and over, is a fantastic introduction to this special time of year for so many people. Gorgeous illustrations depict firework displays, lanterns floating up into the sky, gifts being exchanged and a colourful dragon dance. The overall effect is bright and interactive, encouraging children to learn about and celebrate the Lunar New Year tradition. This book is part of the fantastic First Festivals series, which focuses on teaching the youngest readers about different cultures and traditions around the world. Other books in the series focus on Diwali, Chanukah, Christmas and Ramadan.

Chloe’s Lunar New Year by Lily LaMotte

This gorgeously illustrated debut picture book from graphic novel author Lily LaMotte focuses on Chloe and her multiracial family as they celebrate Lunar New Year with a holiday feast. This is a lovely, uplifting story which teaches children about Lunar New Year traditions, as well as the universal joy of spending special time with family. The book also includes interesting facts about the celebrations and a recipe for fortune cake in the backmatter.

Playing with Lanterns by Wang Yage

First published in China and translated into English by Helen Wang, this lovely picture book follows Zhao Dinand and her friends as they celebrate Chinese New Year with their paper lanterns. The book invites readers to join Zhao in the celebrations and includes educational details about the paper lantern tradition in the author’s note at the end. Charming and colourful, this is a lovely book to introduce Chinese New Year to young readers.


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