This post contains affiliate links. Book Riot can earn a commission when you buy through these links.
Growing up, I was the only kid in my class who knew what the Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, was. When the vacation came in my fifth grade, my teacher asked me to teach the class about the Chinese New Year traditions! I told them all about cleaning the house and putting up oranges, receiving red envelopes full of money, and eating a piece of candy every day. I remember how jealous my classmates were … but I also remember feeling like I wasn’t explaining it properly. How could I get them to understand the meaning behind each tradition? How could I teach them my culture?
Fortunately, there are so many beautifully written and illustrated books these days that do just that. Some teach about the Chinese zodiac, others about mythical creatures, and still others about the origins of various traditions. While the New Year is celebrated in many cultures, this list focuses on books about the Chinese New Year and the festivities that come with it.
Today, February 12, 2021, we enter the year of the ox. Why not usher in the new year by sharing some of these amazing books with the kids in your life?
The kids are fine newsletter
Register for The children are alright Receive news and recommendations from the world of children’s and middle-class books.
Thanks for registering! Keep an eye on your inbox.
The Year of the Ox: Stories from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin
As we ring in the Year of the Ox, what better book than one that focuses on the Ox? This enchanting story is one of the 12 books with stories from the Chinese zodiac series. When Olivia the Ox’s girlfriend and ward are in trouble, Olivia steps forward to save the day. As she begins her adventures, Olivia demonstrates the traits typical of those born in the Year of the Ox. Coupled with Miah Alcorn’s crazy illustrations, the story is sure to delight young readers.
Books for prospective readers (0-3 years)
12 happy animals by Vickie Lee
Vickie Lee’s simple text and Joey Chou’s delightful illustrations make this book a must for toddlers. 12 Lucky Animals dedicates a page to each animal in the Chinese zodiac. You will see the Chinese character of each animal (with pronunciation) as well as a handful of words that describe the characteristics ascribed to the animal. It’s a fun book to share with young children!
Chinese New Year colors by Rich Lo
What little reader doesn’t love a book about colors? The Chinese New Year colors are bilingual. In the spirited illustrations, those little fingers reach for the pages as you discover various foods and items that are relevant to the Chinese New Year. Bonus: if you have an older reader there is a large format picture book with additional information on the back!
Bringing the New Year by Grace Lin
No list of Chinese New Year books would be complete without Grace Lin’s classic Bringing in the New Year. The clear prose and bright illustrations are ideal for early readers. Lin’s simple sentences make readers part of the experience as the young narrator prepares for and celebrates Chinese New Year with his family. The book touches on a wide range of traditions without overwhelming readers with too many details.
D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine
This adorable alphabet book is also a bilingual book. It conveys important traditions and characters through simple words and sentences. It is festive and lively read that follows two siblings as they and their families prepare and celebrate the Chinese New Year. At the end of the book you will find a zodiac calendar and some tips to ensure happiness in the New Year!
Early Readers (4-8 Years) Books
Chinese zodiac animals from Sanmu Tang
If your child is curious about their Chinese zodiac sign, this is the book for them! The vivid illustrations and funny text explain the astrological features associated with each animal in the Chinese zodiac. Not to mention it is a bilingual book too! Tang even has the dates of each lunar year so you can find out everyone’s zodiac sign.
Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon from Virginia Loh-Hagan
Virginia Loh-Hagan’s award-winning book presents a new twist on the classic legend of Nian, the mythological dragon. In this version of the story, young Mei dreams of a warrior who tells her that she is destined to defeat Nian. Of course, there is a catch: she only has fifteen days to do this! Timothy Banks’ dramatic illustrations accompany Loh-Hagan’s fast-paced prose to create an all-round enjoyable reading experience. The roots of some Chinese New Year traditions are also highlighted throughout the story.
Sam and the lucky money from Karen Chinn
It’s Chinese New Year and Sam and his mother are running some errands in Chinatown. Sam ponders where to spend the four dollars he got for the new year, and there are festivities all around him. This is a unique book because the Chinese New Year is a celebration that takes place around Sam as the real story unfolds – a story of generosity and kindness. Your little reader will move away from this story and contemplate the deeper meanings of happiness.
PoPos Happy Chinese New Year from Virginia Loh-Hagan
The young protagonist learns all about the traditions of the Chinese New Year when her Chinese grandmother comes to visit. Together they prepare the house for the coming festivities. I love this book because it shows a Sino-American girl learning about this holiday that is “bundled together like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.” Because of this, it is ideal for children celebrating the holidays in the United States and also for children who do not have a Chinese heritage but want to learn about the traditions of the Chinese New Year.
Celebrate the Chinese New Year with fireworks, dragons and lanterns by Carolyn Otto
This book is an educational reading experience for school-age children (grades 1 through 4). It’s part of the National Geographic Holidays Around the World series. The accessible text is accompanied by vivid color photos and helps curious readers understand the cultural traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year.
Would you like more recommendations for New Year’s books for children? Check out these posts:
10 Chinese New Year Books to Celebrate the Year of the Pig
Lunar New Year children’s books for every family