We’ve been discussing the Chinese new year in our home since January 1st. Tết (Lunar New Year) is the biggest Vietnamese holiday of the year. Celebrations last days or even a week! Whether your family celebrates the Chinese New Year or not, share the year of the horse with your kids by reading some lunar new year children’s books together.
While the Year of the Horse doesn’t officially begin until January 31, 2014, there’s no reason why you can’t start now. Here are some of my favorites (contains affiliate links):
Ten Mice for Tet! by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill is one of our favorite Lunar New Year books. Beautifully illustrated with needlework illustrations, this counting book also shares Vietnamese traditions and foods you typically see during this holiday. There’s even a guide in the back that further explains the illustrations on each page. Unfortunately this book is out of print. You can purchase it used or borrow it from your library (that’s what we do.) Great for preschoolers.
The Dancing Dragon by Marcia K. Vaughn focuses on the most exciting part of the Chinese New Year: the parade! Learn all about the lion dancers, firecrackers and special foods. Washington, DC holds a parade every year and we try to go if the weather isn’t too cold.
Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey (Barefoot Books) retells the Chinese folk tale of how each animal made it on the zodiac. The Chinese (and Vietnamese) zodiac is different from Western zodiac in that there is an animal for each year. Those born in each animal year will usually have the qualities associated with that animal. For example, those born in the year of the snake are “calm, wise, and elegant.” After you find out why the cat isn’t in the zodiac, you can look up your sign and read about your animal’s qualities. As I read this book to my kids, they kept pointing to their animals excitedly saying, “That’s me!” Great for preschoolers.
The TET Pole: The Story of TET Festival by Quoc Tran retells a Vietnamese folk tale of how some villages, with the help of Buddha, manage to overthrow the devils occupying the land. The humans cleverly outsmart the hungry devils and celebrate their victory during the Lunar New Year. When I discovered this gem at my library last year, it was new to me. My mom never told me this folk tale, but of course when I brought it up to her, she was all, Yes I know that story. Bonus: This is a bilingual book, written in English and Vietnamese. Sophia loved it so much, we finally bought our own copy.
Our family loves books by Grace Lin and Bringing In the New Year is no exception. Follow the Chinese American family as they go through all of their lunar year traditions: from making dumplings to cleaning the home to lion dancers. Lin’s color illustrations will keep your kids enthralled in the story. Great for preschoolers.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn (Lee and Low) is a story about compassion and generosity. Sam’s receives is red packet of lucky money is burning a hole in his pocket as he walks through Chinatown trying to find the perfect thing to purchase. Instead the perfect thing wasn’t something you could buy. I love Lee and Low books because their stories aren’t just about the culture itself, but about the people, or in this case, the child.
If you need idea for lunar new year activities and crafts, pick up a copy of Celebrating Chinese New Year: An Activity Book. You can have your own dragon parade, make paper lanterns and even lucky red envelopes! There’s also information about the different Chinese zodiac signs.
Which of these lunar new year children’s books have you read with your family?
Here’s a tip: With the Lunar New Year just around the corner, head to your library to pick these books up. If you’d like to own them for yourself, consider signing up for a free trial Prime membership at Amazon to have them delivered for free in 2 days. Many books are also available for loan in the Kindle library with the Prime membership.