9 brilliant books to help you celebrate Chinese New Year

Published on: 11 February 2021 Author: Joanna Ho

Author Joanna Ho shares some of her favourite children's books featuring Chinese characters and traditions.

An illustration from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

An illustration from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

Joanna Ho's new book Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, illustrated by Dung Ho, is a stunning story following a young girl as she realises her eyes look different from her friends' - but, inspired by the women in her family, learns to recognise her own beauty and feel empowered.

Here, Joanna chooses some of her other favourite children's books that you'll love sharing...

1. Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao is the adorable tale of a young girl who tries and fails and tries and fails to make the perfect baozi. She is determined to figure it out, but just can't quite get it right... until she comes up with a brilliant idea.

Accompanied by bright, hilarious illustrations (they make my kids laugh out loud and have inspired my 3-year-old to tie her hair in three ponytails like Amy), this book shows determination and grit in a way all kids will understand and love.

Illustrations from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

Illustrations from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

2. I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne, illustrated by Julia Kuo

When a young girl emigrates from Taiwan to the United States, she leaves her beloved Popo behind. They stay in touch through phone calls and yearly visits, and though their relationship begins to change, their connection and love endure.

Simple yet evocative text and beautiful illustrations are sure to wet your eyes (they did mine!), especially if you have immigrant roots.

3. The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Alina Chau

When the Nian monster comes to Shanghai and threatens to eat the city, XingLing must save the day. She uses traditional New Year's foods to trick him in clever new ways. ⁣I love how Chinese food and traditions are woven through this whimsical tale.

4. A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

This is the whimsical story of a little girl who tries very, very hard not to eat the mooncake she has baked with her mama. Spoiler alert: she is not successful. She is a girl after my own heart!

The illustrations are gorgeous and the sweet relationship between mother and daughter is heartwarming. It also nods subtly toward the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a delightful and culturally affirming way to represent Chinese culture.

An illustration from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

An illustration from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

5. The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion

When childcare falls through, Daniel must go with his parents to their midnight office cleaning job. They tell him fantastical stories of the king, queen and dragons who live in the office to help him pass the time. He goes back to sleep that night determined to become king so he can make sure the dragons clean up after themselves... so his parents don't have to. ⁠⁠

This book pulls at your heartstrings and gets readers thinking harder about the messes we make - and the often unrecognised people who clean them up.

6. Ruby's Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee, illustrated by Joey Chou

Ruby's Chinese New Year is the story of a young girl who wants to deliver a gift to her grandmother's house for the New Year. Along the way, she meets all the animals of the Chinese zodiac... but her gift gets ruined. How will they celebrate the New Year?⁣

This is a sweet story with adorable, vibrant illustrations. I love that we are introduced to all the zodiac animals with detailed information about the symbolism of each at the end.

7. Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

This is the story of a boy and his grandfather who don't have words to communicate, but find a common language through their art. The illustrations are stunning and the sparse text is brilliant. ⁣

This book is perfect for immigrants, kids of immigrants, and people who feel language, cultural, ethnic, racial or identity divisions of any kind. And it's ideal for anyone who has ever needed to find new ways to connect with others.⁣

An illustration from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

iAn illustration from Eyes That Kiss in the Corners

8. It Began with a Page by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad

In 1963, Gyo Fujikawa wrote and illustrated a book featuring an 'international set of babies - little Black babies, Asian babies, all kinds of babies'. Although she was warned the racial mixing would hurt sales, she did not care. Her book was published a year before the Civil Rights Act passed, and sold nearly 2 million copies just in the United States.⁠

This is a story of a determined artist with an activist heart. If that doesn't sell you, maybe the pages of chubby, round babies at the end will!

9. Mixed by Aree Chung

In the beginning, the Reds, Blues and Yellows live together happily. Then one day, a Red declares that Reds are best. Soon, the colours divide into separate neighborhoods. But what happens when Yellow and Blue hit it off... and create a new colour no one has ever seen before?⁣⁣

My interpretation of this story is influenced by my biracial children and my work for racial equity. I use this story as a way to talk to my kids about being biracial and loved. It could also be used to discuss topics including similarities and differences, empathy, segregation, and acceptance. Bonus: it teaches kids about mixing colours too!

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