Happy Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year begins on Saturday. Happy Year of the Dragon! We wish all who are celebrating a new year full of joy and prosperity. Here is our Lunar New Year reading list with fiction and nonfiction books featuring the holiday for preschool, primary, and intermediate readers; and don't miss the recently published -- and Horn Book starred -- YA graphic novel Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham

All of the titles below were recommended by the Horn Book at the time of their publication; reviews reprinted from the Guide/Reviews Database. And support, join, and follow the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, APALA.  

Picture books

Bae, Hyun-Joo New  Clothes for New Year's Day
32 pp.     Kane/Miller     2007
Trade ISBN 978-1-933605-29-6

A young Korean girl dresses in her beautiful traditional New Year's clothing and enjoys every particular, from the embroidery on her socks to the white fur on her vest. The delicate jewel-tone illustrations are as detailed and formal as the new clothing. Endnotes give more information about Korean New Year's traditions. Although short on story, the book is attractive and useful.

Compestine, Ying Chang  Crouching Tiger
40 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-4642-4

Illustrated by Yan Nascimbene. Vinson is his American name, but his grandfather, visiting from China, calls him by his Chinese name, Ming Da. Grandpa teaches his impatient grandson the slow, careful exercises of tai chi, and eventually he and Ming Da play a pivotal role in the Chinese New Year parade. Realistic, luminous watercolor illustrations show the family’s balance of the traditional and the modern.

Compestine, Ying Chang  D Is for Dragon Dance
32 pp.     Holiday     2006
Trade ISBN 0-8234-1887-1

Illustrated by YongSheng Xuan. In this alphabet book, each letter is accompanied by one or two sentences very briefly introducing an aspect of the Chinese New Year celebration — I for incense, J for jade, K for kites. Chinese characters in various calligraphy styles make an eye-catching background for the attractive textured illustrations. An author's note offers a few more facts as well as a dumpling recipe.

Compestine, Ying Chang  The Runaway Wok
32 pp.     Dutton     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-525-42068-2

Illustrated by Sebastià Serra. Set in long-ago China, this story tells of Ming Zhang and his poor but deserving family. On New Year's Eve, Ming buys a magical wok, which promptly sets out to transfer riches from the greedy Li family to the Zhangs, who share it with others. The detailed, vigorous illustrations reflect the mischievous wok's energy. A recipe and Chinese New Year festival facts are appended.

Lee, Vickie  Ruby's Chinese New Year
40 pp.     Holt     2018
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-13338-0

Illustrated by Joey Chou. The Chinese Zodiac animals (plus Cat) join Ruby on her journey to spend Chinese New Year with her grandmother. Brightly colored digital illustrations include visual cultural markers and draw on Chinese aesthetics, elevating the festive (if somewhat predictable) narrative. The book includes directions for three related crafts and a brief description of the Chinese Zodiac legend. A welcome #OwnVoices addition to collections seeking Chinese New Year picture books. Holiday craft directions appended.

Lin, Grace  Bringing in the New Year
32 pp.     Knopf     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-375-83745-6
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-93745-3

A Chinese American girl describes her family's preparations for the Lunar New Year. Her impatience for the big moment moves the story along until the dragon dance, depicted on a long foldout page, finally ushers in the new year. Illustrations featuring Lin's signature clean, bright gouache patterns accompany the tale. An appended spread supplies additional information about the holiday.

Li-Qiong, Yu  A New Year's Reunion
40 pp.     Candlewick     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-5881-6

Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang. Little Maomao and her mother prepare both for Chinese New Year and for her father's annual return home (he works far away). The harmonious gouache paintings use lots of red and bright colors. This award-winning import is an excellent introduction to Chinese New Year in China and a poignant, thoughtful examination of the joys and sorrows of families living apart.

Liu, Dane  Friends Are Friends, Forever
40 pp.    Holt/Godwin    2022
Trade ISBN 978-1-250-77818-5

Illustrated by Lynn Scurfield. Before moving to America, Dandan and her family celebrate Lunar New Year in China with her best friend Yueyue and her family. They eat egg-and-chive filled dumplings dipped in black vinegar and soy sauce; later, the girls make celebratory red paper snowflakes, and Yueyue gives Dandan paper supplies to bring to America. The move proves lonely and difficult for Dandan, until she makes a friend whose favorite color is also red. With bright, warm colors and curved shapes, Scurfield enhances the tender story's hopeful tone. An author's note provides more details about Chinese New Year; instructions for making cut-paper snowflakes are also appended.

Otto, Carolyn  Celebrate Chinese New Year
32 pp.     National Geographic    2008
Trade ISBN 978-1-4263-0381-4
Library binding ISBN 978-1-4263-0382-1

Holidays Around the World series. With colorful photographs and simple, informative text, Otto details the traditions and rituals of Chinese New Year, including travel, family, gifts, plentiful food, and decorations. The use of "we" throughout feels welcoming and inclusive. Appended are instructions for making a Chinese lantern, a recipe for fortune cookies, and information on the Chinese calendar.

Shea, Pegi Deitz and Weill, Cynthia  Ten Mice for Tet
32 pp.     Chronicle     2003
Trade ISBN 0-8118-3496-4

Illustrated by Tô Ngọc Trang and Phạm Viết Ðinh. This counting book offers a simple description of the activities surrounding the celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year ("1 mouse plans a party / 2 mice go to market"). A section at the back provides facts about the holiday and explains the importance of the details in the vibrantly colored embroidered art. This playful look at a cultural tradition can be used with a wide age range.

Wade, Mary Dodson  No Year of the Cat
32 pp.     Sleeping Bear     2012
Trade ISBN 978-1-58536-785-6

Illustrated by Nicole Wong. This humorous folktale adaptation explains why the Chinese calendar uses specific animal names for the twelve years. The emperor, bemoaning that "we cannot recall the years," devises a race — the first twelve animals to finish will have a year named after them. Both text and ornate illustrations give personalities to each of the animals, the emperor, and his devoted advisors.

Wang, Andrea  The Nian Monster
32 pp.     Whitman     2016
Trade ISBN 978-0-8075-5642-9

Illustrated by Alina Chau. In contemporary Shanghai, Xingling saves her city from the Nian Monster, traditionally scared away each Chinese New Year by "loud sounds, fire, and the color red." Xingling outsmarts the monster, staving him off with festive foods, then finally sending him skyward at the fireworks. Festive watercolors of city scenes add to the celebration in this humorous holiday read-aloud. Author's note included.

Wang, Gabrielle  The Race for the Chinese Zodiac
32 pp.     Candlewick     2013
Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6778-8

Illustrated by Sally Rippin. The ancient Jade Emperor tells thirteen animals that they will race; the "first twelve animals to cross the river" will have a year named after them. The animals line up and, each in its own unique fashion, cross the river. The Chinese-ink, linocut, and digital-media illustrations are exuberant and fluid, evoking mood and furthering the whimsical tone of this retelling.

Wong, Janet S.  This Next New Year
32 pp.     Farrar/Foster     2000
Trade ISBN 0-374-35503-7

Illustrated by Yangsook Choi. In a spare narrative enhanced by festive, richly colored illustrations, a Chinese-Korean boy reflects on what Chinese New Year means to him. By sweeping last year's mistakes and bad luck out of the house, he hopes to make room for "a fresh start, my second chance." Concepts of renewal, starting over, and luck will resonate with young readers in this imaginative appreciation of the emotional aspects of the holiday.

Yim, Natasha  Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
32 pp.     Charlesbridge     2014
Trade ISBN 978-1-58089-625-8

Illustrated by Grace Zong. This entertaining Goldilocks takeoff is set during the Chinese New Year celebration, when Goldy Luck takes a gift to her panda neighbors. Familiar incidents follow — featuring (rice) porridge, a broken chair, and a nap — all portrayed with zest in the illustrations. In an ending that suits the setting, Goldy has second thoughts and returns to apologize. New Year facts and a turnip cake recipe are included.



Cheng, Andrea  The Year of the Book
148 pp.     Houghton    2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-547-68463-5

Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Nine-year-old Anna, who always has her head stuck in a book, sometimes uses reading as a shield against social exclusion (of the specialized fourth-grade-girl kind) and her own lack of confidence. Cheng's telling is as straightforward yet sympathetic as her self-contained main character; Halpin's often lighthearted pencil-and-wash sketches both decorate and enrich this perceptive novel. Look for sequels The Year of the Baby, The Year of the Fortune Cookie, The Year of Three Sisters, and The Year of the Garden.



Jeffrey, Laura S.  Celebrate Tet
104 pp.     Enslow     2007
Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-2775-6

Celebrate Holidays series. Captioned photographs, maps, drawings, and sidebars combine with an accessible text to present a thorough discussion of the Vietnamese New Year celebration. Jeffrey discusses the holiday's legendary origins and ancient traditions along with people's modern-day observances. This book is a solid resource for classroom or library holiday-books collections. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind

Lin, Grace  The Year of the Rat
182 pp.     Little     2008
Trade ISBN 978-0-316-11426-4

The Year of the Rat brings major change for Pacy (The Year of the Dog), as her best friend moves away. Pacy also starts doubting her resolution to become a writer/illustrator. Lin deftly handles Pacy's dilemmas and internal struggles with sensitivity and tenderness, keeping a hopeful and childlike tone that will inspire empathy. Appealing line drawings appear throughout. Look for the sequel Dumpling Days.

Peacock, Carol Antoinette  Red Thread Sisters
236 pp.     Viking     2012
Trade ISBN 978-0-670-01386-9

When eleven-year-old Wen is adopted from a Chinese orphanage by an American family, she vows to find a family for her beloved friend Shu Ling, who is about to age out of the adoption system. This perceptive novel by a psychologist and adoptive mother vividly portrays Wen's evolving feelings about her new family and her desperate need to help her friend.

Simonds, Nina and Swartz, Leslie  Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes
74 pp.     Harcourt/Gulliver     2002
Trade ISBN 0-15-201983-9

Illustrated by Meilo So. A suitable addition to any multicultural holiday collection, this volume includes folktales, recipes, and activities for celebrating Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Accompanying the stories and activities are So's stylized watercolors, some of which evoke the brushwork of Chinese calligraphy.

Yep, Laurence  The Star Maker
101 pp.     HarperCollins/Harper     2011
Trade ISBN 978-0-06-025315-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-025316-5

Artie brags to his tough cousin Petey about providing all the fireworks for Chinese New Year. With time running out before the celebration, Artie's uncle Chester makes a gracious sacrifice to help his nephew save face. The easy-to-follow story introduces readers to Chinese New Year traditions. Yep's preface explains that the 1950s-set tale is based on his own childhood memories.

Young Adult

Yang, Gene Luen  Lunar New Year Love Story
352 pp.    First Second    2024  
Trade ISBN  9781626728103
Paper ed.  9781250908261

Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. In this unique and engaging graphic novel, Vietnamese American high schooler Valentina Tran has always loved giving handmade cards to her widower father and classmates on her namesake holiday. She is assisted by her “best imaginary friend,” Saint V (for Valentine), initially shown in the illustrations as a classic winged baby surrounded by cartoon hearts. This year her spirits are crushed when her dad storms off, and a classmate, Jae, trashes her card. Worse, Grandma reveals that Valentina’s father lied about her mother’s supposed death and, later, that their entire family is romantically cursed. Valentina despairs until she meets two cute lion dancers at a Tết (Lunar New Year) celebration and dates one of them (who happens to be Jae’s cousin). Is the relationship real? Or will Valentina give her heart to Saint Valentine to be safe from the pain of love? Yang (Dragon Hoops, rev. 5/20) and Pham (Friends Forever, rev. 9/21) do a wonderful job of weaving fractured families and romantic yearning with fantasy elements that show emotional states and growth as well as plenty of humor throughout. Pham’s digital illustrations adeptly mix realistic scenes with celestial animals and ghosts. Her gorgeous, kinetic depictions of Chinese and Korean lion dancers are joyful, and the section in which Valentina first learns about Tết and meets her love interest is especially vibrant.

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