20 Best Chinese New Year Books for Kids in Chinese and English!

Giant stack of Chinese New Year books for Kids - Lunar New books in Chinese, English, and bilingual
Chinese Lunar New Year books for Kids in Chinese and English

I’m excited to share our favorite Chinese Lunar New Year books with you! This year, Lunar New Year will fall on Sunday, January 22, 2023. To prepare for the most important Chinese holiday, my kids and I try to read Chinese New Year books, listen to audiobooks in Mandarin Chinese, and have fun with hands-on Chinese New Year activities!

When I first wrote this post 6 years ago, the options were pretty sparse, so I’m thrilled that more AAPI stories have been published each year. Some years we read more than others, and our collection has grown gradually over time!

Organizing Chinese Lunar New Year books into categories

But first, a confession: I have often felt overwhelmed by the growing number of options! Over the years, my children and I have read over 50 Chinese New Year books. But a few years ago, like many of you, I wasn’t sure where to start. So I’ve narrowed down this list to the top 20 favorites! I’ve also included the inside of each book so you can see if the text and illustrations are right for your family.

The books are organized as follows:

  • Book type / age range: picture books, board books, and middle grade books
  • Language type: English only, Chinese only, bilingual, Chinese with Pinyin.

Click on the “Jump to” button to skip to a certain section.

This post may have some affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I earn a small commission which supports our educational tips at no additional cost to you. Please see the disclosure policy for details.

Lunar New Year versus Chinese New Year books: What’s the difference?

Did you know that Lunar New Year is celebrated in many Asian countries? In addition to China and Taiwan, it’s also celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. As all types of people now live and travel around the world, Lunar New Year is also celebrated in many Western countries. Our family’s Lunar New Year activity book is the perfect way learn about diversity in food, dress, and decorations.

Lunar New Year Traditions Around the World Printable E-book and Activity Packet for Kids

Since the holiday is based on the lunisolar calendar, Lunar New Year is considered the more inclusive term. However, in this article, I’ll use the term ‘Chinese New Year’ or ‘Chinese Lunar New Year,’ because these books reflect specific Chinese cultural traditions.

Wondering how Lunar New Year is celebrated in Korean culture? Check out these 10 Great Korean Lunar New Year Books for Kids.

Wondering how Lunar New Year is celebrated in Vietnamese culture? Check out Tết Together and This is Tết: Rhyming story about Lunar New Year in Vietnam.

Chinese New Year picture books for kids in Chinese and English

A New Year’s Reunion / 团圆 / 團圓

A New Year's Reunion 团圆 / 團圓 - Chinese New Year picture book about family
A New Year’s Reunion (top) and 团圆 (bottom)

The touching story is about a little girl with a father who works far from home.  When the father returns home on the New Year, he makes 汤圆 / 團圓 with his child. Before the father returns to work, he puts coins in the 汤圆 / 團圓 for good luck so his son can treasure their memories. A New Year’s Reunion 团圆 / 團圓 (Tuányuán) is one of my children’s favorite Chinese New Year books!

Home for Chinese New Year 回家

The bilingual story, Home for Chinese New Year 回家 (Huí Jiā), is very similar to 团圆 / 團圓. If you’re debating between these books, the narrative about the father’s journey is longer, and the child is a boy. My daughter actually likes this lesser known version the best, and the narration on Ximalaya is captivating. Another benefit is the bilingual simplified Chinese/English text, so my husband can also read the book to our kids.

  • Where to buy
    • Bilingual English and Chinese / ISBN: 9781602209992
  • Mandarin narration

Sam and the Lucky Money / 小善的壓歲錢

In this heartwarming story, a little boy, Sam (小善) gets a red envelope with a few dollars from his grandparents. Excited to go shopping with his mother, sweets and toys catch his eye.

小善的壓歲錢 Sam and the Lucky Money - realistic watercolor illustrations - Montessori friendly picture book about Chinese culture for children
Sam’s and the Lucky Money (English version)

However, he remembers an elderly homeless man on the street with no shoes or socks on that wintry day. Ultimately, he offers the man his lucky red envelope.

  • Where to buy
    • English / ISBN: 9781880000533
    • Traditional Chinese / ISBN: 9781584300847

Playing With Lanterns / 打灯笼

Betty holding 2 hardcover picture books: 打灯笼 and Playing with Lanterns Chinese New Year book for children
Playing with Lanterns / 灯笼

A little girl, 招娣(Zhāo dì), can’t wait for her new lantern this new year. Upholding tradition, Uncle brings her a beautiful lantern, and 招娣(Zhāo dì) carefully treks through the snow to meet her friends and their vibrant rainbow of lanterns. This time is all about playing and admiring the beautiful lanterns, but fifteen days pass quickly…

招娣(Zhāo dì) mourns the end of this Lunar New Year and reluctantly lets go of her beloved lantern. As the festivities wind down, the kids smash and burn their lanterns, a special tradition in Shaanxi province. When the lanterns incinerate, the family knows that they will have good luck for the brand new year.

Cultural note: In Chinese history, sons were generally preferred over daughters. Sometimes Chinese daughters were named “招娣 (Zhāo dì)” which translates to “beckoning a younger brother.” Unfortunately, the child’s name is realistic to the setting, but this can lead to a meaningful discussion with your family and class.

The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac bilingual Chinese New Year book / 动物渡河比赛 / 動物渡河比賽

The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac bilingual Lunar New Year book / 动物渡河比赛 / 動物渡河比賽

The Jade Emperor arranges a race to see who qualifies to be in the Zodiac calendar. Which animal will win? Will the rat help his friend, the cat? Or will the rat only care about winning? This rendition of the Chinese Zodiac story is accessible to bilingual families, including those who are not fluent.

  • Where to buy:
    • Simplified Chinese, English, Pinyin / ISBN: 9798575640349
    • Traditional Chinese, English, Pinyin / ISBN 979-8581649008
  • Mandarin Chinese narration

Tastes of Lunar New Year Bilingual Board Book 農曆新年的美味

農曆新年的美味 Tastes of Lunar New Year Bilingual Chinese English Board Book
農曆新年的美味 Tastes of Lunar New Year bilingual book; felt Asian play food; toy dumplings; children’s bamboo chopsticks

This anthropomorphic book features 12 signature dishes from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Korea! This refreshingly inclusive book gives kids a glimpse at the beautiful diversity of Lunar New Year around the world!

農曆新年的美味 Tastes of Lunar New Year Bilingual Chinese English Book
農曆新年的美味 Tastes of Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year picture books for kids in Chinese only

十二生肖的故事 Story of the Zodiac with CD

Taiwanese author 賴馬 ((Lài mǎ) has so many engaging books, and his rendition of 十二生肖的故事 (shí’èr shēngxiào de gùshì) is fun and dynamic! With all of the interesting details about each competing animal, this is hands-down our favorite version of the Chinese Zodiac story. The text is in traditional Chinese with Zhuyin.

賴馬系列-十二生肖的故事 the cat and the rat getting ready for the Chinese zodiac race
賴馬系列: 十二生肖的故事
  • Where to Buy
  • Mandarin Chinese narration:
    • Comes with audio CD
    • Compatible with Luka Reading Robot

欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 Chinese New Year pop-up book

欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 3D Chinese New Year Pop-up book - busy Chinese village decorated with red lanterns, Chinese banners, and firecrackers
欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 Chinese New Year Pop-up book

Reading to be impressed? This gorgeous pop-up book was gifted to us by a bookstore. It covers Chinese New Year traditions, such as cleaning the house, making food like rice cakes and tofu, the lion dance, and fireworks. There is some overlap with the 过年啦 book (reviewed below). Compared to 过年啦 3-D book, 欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 Chinese New Year Pop-up book is slightly wordier and more challenging to read. Also, this fancy book is a splurge compared to most books.

欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 Chinese New Year Pop-up book - lion dance
欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 Chinese New Year Pop-up book

With all that said, this book has been the biggest hit when I bring it to schools for Lunar New Year teaching!

过年啦 Celebrating Chinese New Year

过年啦 (Guònián la / Happy New Year!) interactive 3D pop-up Chinese book
过年啦

Here’s another inviting, interactive children’s book! Open red envelopes, dress a child in new clothes, celebrate the dragon dance, decorate doors, and hang lanterns! Available in simplified and traditional Chinese, the book is beautifully illustrated!

How does this book compare to 欢乐中国年 / 歡樂過新年 Chinese New Year Pop-up book reviewed above? The 过年啦 book has slightly simpler language and more flaps and pieces to touch. However, it’s also more “flat” (doesn’t have the impressive pop-ups as the other book) and more affordable at certain bookstores.

Chinese New Year picture books in Chinese with Pinyin

十二生肖 Chinese Zodiac

This Lunar New Year folktale is about the origin of the Chinese zodiac. This basic rendition focuses on the cat and the mouse, and the simplified Chinese, pinyin, and English makes it an excellent book for beginner Chinese learners. In fact, it was one of the first books that my daughter and I learned to read in Chinese a few years ago. The story concludes with short exercises and a passage for extended reading.

  • Where to buy:
    • Simplified Chinese/Pinyin/English / ISBN 9787561923399

Nian Monster with CD

This bilingual Chinese book is about the fictional Nian monster that visits at the New Year. The main character, Xinling, has to outsmart the monster to save Shanghai. The tactics result in the classic Chinese New Year traditions that have endured through the centuries.

This pre-intermediate (~900words) book is part of the Chinese Library Series, written in simplified Chinese with pinyin. The story concludes with short exercises and a passage for extended reading.

  • Where to buy:
    • Simplified Chinese/Pinyin/English / ISBN 9787561936054

Learn more: Review of the Chinese Library Series – Simplified Chinese Readers with Pinyin and English.

Chinese New Year picture books for kids in English

A Sweet New Year for Ren

Watching, waiting, wondering – this Lunar New Year story is just so heartwarming and relatable! Despite Ren’s eagerness to help, she’s constantly told that she’s too little. The family’s in a hurry, racing to get ready for Lunar New Year. Ren is persistent, and she really wants to join the fun, especially with making her favorite delicious pineapple cakes! Then, her big brother comes home, and he gives her a chance to shine. Follow Ren’s story as she learns how to prepare for the Lunar New Year along with her family. Then learn how to make pineapple cakes with the recipe in the back of the book!

Friends are Friends, Forever

The emotions are palpable in this book about a child, Dandan, who immigrates from China to the United States. The story open and closes with Lunar New Year, and in that year, Dandan says goodbye to her grandma (Nainai) and her dumplings and her best friend, Yueyue, and their hand cut snowflakes. Yueyue reminds her that she can share these traditions with new friends in her new country, but it takes a little while for Dandan to settle and learn how to speak a new language. Then Dandan meets a kind friend, Christina, who she invites to share her first Lunar New Year in her new home.

Where to buy: English / ISBN 9781250778185

Nian Monster

This fictional tale takes place in Shanghai where a little girl, Xingling, comes face-to-face with the legendary Nian Monster who threatens to devour everything in sight. What can she do to scare Nian away? As Xingling feeds Nian in attempt to placate his voracious appetite, we learn about the importance of traditional Chinese New Year dishes, like long noodles, whole fish, and sticky rice cakes. Eventually, she saves the city by convincing Nian to watch the beautiful fireworks shows.

Where to buy: English / ISBN 9780807556429

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas fictional picture book about Lunar New Year

Both of my kids went through phases of obsession with this fictional story! This is a Chinese American retelling of Goldy Locks and the 3 Bears with cultural elements like luck, congee, and panda bears. In contrast to the original Goldy Locks story, this version has a happy ending in that Goldy Luck apologizes to the Panda family with turnip cakes.

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year with Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns

This National Geographic book has real photographs about Chinese New Year celebrations! The vibrant images accompany details about how families celebrate their ancestors, gift red envelopes, have fun at the Festival of Lanterns, and enjoy the annual Dragon Dance.

Chinese New Year board books for toddlers in English

Bringing in the New Year

Written and illustrated by Grace Lin, Bringing in the New Year was one of the first published American books about Lunar New Year. Geared toward younger children, the book gives a straightforward overview of Chinese New Year traditions. Each page has a simple line of text – the right length for short attention spans. The sturdy board book is durable for little hands, too.

It’s Chinese New Year, Curious George!

It's Chinese New Year, Curious George! Board book for kids
It’s Chinese New Year, Curious George!

This is such a cute addition to the popular Curious George series! Each page has 4 short lines of text with rhyme, great for little kids to listen and read along. Chinese customs, like red envelopes, and lantern festival are explain in a kid-friendly way. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and the board book pages are durable, perfect for busy toddler hands.

Picture of Curious George, the Man in the Yellow Hat, and a family welcoming guests. Text above reads: Family Reunion Dinner: Families are together, and elders are so pleased. Folks come visit from afar for Chinese New Year's Eve! Banquet on the table, with lots of special food. Everyone is thankful and filled with gratitude.

As a Chinese American mom, I appreciate seeing my culture celebrated by a popular, timeless children’s book character! If your child is a fan of Curious George, this would be a fun way to introduce Chinese traditions for Lunar New Year!

Chinese New Year middle grade books for tweens in English

You may have noticed that Lunar New Year books for big kids are pretty limited at the moment. But given the trend of more AAPI books being published, I’m feeling optimistic that we’ll have more stories to look forward to in the future.

Celebrating Chinese New Year History, Traditions, and Activities – A Holiday Book for Kids

For kids who are ready for more depth and details, this book gives an excellent overview about the plethora of Chinese New Year decorations, legends, foods, and festivities. The large font and colorful pictures make this book approachable for budding and fluent readers alike. Plus, important words are translated into Chinese characters and pinyin, so readers are gently introduced to the language.

Last but not least, I appreciate that the book makes a distinction between Lunar New Year celebrated in many other countries versus specific Chinese traditions.

Where to buy: English ISBN 9798886504491

Year of the Dog book series

Based on the true story of the author, Pacy Lin is the heroine of The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, and Dumpling Days. In each novel, Pacy is on a mission to understand herself. Is she Chinese American? Taiwanese American? Or just American? Her family’s culture is different than her classmates, yet she can’t speak Chinese or Taiwanese. Through her adventures, she discovers true friendship, but also experiences loss when her best friend moves away. And she learns to follow her dreams of becoming a writer and illustrator.

Where to buy:

Best Chinese Lunar New Year Books for Kids - picture books, board books, and middle grade books for children

What are your favorite Chinese New Year books for kids?

We’d love to know which books your kids loved the most! Please leave a comment with your review and recommendations so we can learn from you, too.

Chinese New Year crafts and activities for kids at home or school

More Chinese New Year resources for children

Happy Lunar New Year, friends!

45 Comments

  1. Hi Betty!! Love this list of Lunar New Year Books. We checked out “Home for Chinese New Year” from our library and liked it so much. I like that you included a few Korean books too, I’ll refer them to my Korean friends. =)
    And this is random but the image you have above the book link for “Maggie’s Chopsticks” is actually an image from a different book, “Dim Sum For Everyone!” by Grace Lin (we own that book so I recognized the image instantly… because my daughter loves cha siu bao so we read that book constantly.^_^)

    1. Hi Kimberly! Please check the description under each book. I list the audio narration (Ximalaya versus Luka) for each book if available.

  2. 鬥年獸 is a classic lunar Chinese new year book!! Used to hate the 鞭炮 firecrackers at all the businesses during Chinese new year but after reading the story, definitely appreciate it more hahha

  3. I love this list! For me, it’s a toss-up between Home for Chinese New Year and A New Year Reunion. I love both. My kids prefer The Nian Monster. I love the illustrations, but no legend can beat a story that encapsulates the absolute joy and love of a family reunited for New Year. 💗

  4. Hi, Betty, thank you so much for this list of books for Lunar New Year! This year my son and I made Lion Head and Chinese Firecracker. He loves it. I also bought him a set of Traditional Chinese outfit. He learns to sing and dance to a Chinese song to celebrate the Lunar New Year too. Happy Lunar New Year to your beautiful family too!

    1. Hi Viv! Happy Lunar New Year! It’s so awesome to hear about how you celebrated with your son and learned a new song! Thank you so much for taking the time to share!

  5. Bilingual book: We like the great race by Ling Lee.
    English book: We like Nian the CNY Dragon by Virginia Loh-Hagan, Pope’s Lucky Chinese New Year by Virginia Loh-Hagan.
    Chinese: We just got spring festival one you mentioned and we love it.

  6. My current favourite Lunar New Year book is called Noodle Magic. It can also be read as part of the Moon Festival. Noodles represent longevity and this book encourages us to believe in ourselves and our potential.

  7. My favorite book is 歡樂過新年 (beautiful interactive, pop-up book with its new edition in 2021). There are other good books, but this one is just so special!!!!! While it is almost impossible for us to visit an Asian region to feel an authentic Lunar New Year, this book provides interesting interactive activities for children to experience Lunar New Year on paper. Just learned that they have an English version too!

  8. Our favourite is Lucky Red Mittens by Samantha Chan. I’m still learning to read Chinese myself so the simple sentence structure and Jyutping come in handy. My son likes to read the English and it’s helping us both learn about our heritage and culture.

  9. We have have BUSY Chinese New Year the toddler on but we would also love to have a copy of this to add to our collection. I love these suggestions…. how many books is too many!?!

  10. I’ve only just started teaching my little one Chinese so we don’t have any new year books just yet so this is a great post for me to find suggestions!
    Love the stuff you’ve done too!

    1. My favorite lunar Chinese new year book would be 回家 Home for Chinese New Year cos of the heartwarming message that at the end of the day, it’s really about being together with your loved ones!!!

  11. As a pregnant mom-to-be, I’m just starting out my bilingual children’s book collection to celebrate our heritage and pass on our culture to my future happa baby. Love the suggestions you have! I recently bought Chinese New Year Colors for my nephew, and looking to really kickstart our collection. Would be so grateful to win this contest!

  12. We haven’t started learning Chinese yet but love The Great Race and the Mr Men’s Chinese New Year book. Some great recommendations here ❤️

  13. My child loves the bright and vibrant colours of the 过年啦 book, and I was so glad I got it for him. I was worried initially he would not be able to fully appreciate the interactive elements of the book (which seemed difficult, because it allowed the child to “decorate” the doors with loose paper 春联 and dress up the character with new clothes; of course as parents the first thing I wondered was how quickly we would lose these items…), but he loves it so much we are reading parts of it every day! Love the realistic depictions and beautiful illustrations. Personally I like this other book titled 好忙的除夕, which has rhyming texts (rare in Chinese books I have seen!), which also depicts the festive mood in a very realistic manner that allows the child to have the language to describe what they are actually seeing at home and on the streets!

  14. Hi Betty! I wish we had a favorite Lunar New Year books! I haven’t come across any so far, but would love to start introducing them to my son! Happy Year of the Ox!!

  15. First of all, thank you so much for publishing such an exhaustive list! Truly appreciate it. While there are sooo many titles I’d personally like to purchase from your list, the bilingual Chinese-English version of 農曆新年的美味 Tastes of Lunar New Year is my favorite. Main reason is because even though my husband and I are both of Chinese descent, he much prefers reading in English, while I still wish to instill the love for our mother tongue into our child, plus the illustrations are eye catching! Too cute to resist!

  16. Oh! And I forgot to mention, we bought the 过年啦 Celebrating Chinese New Year in traditional format with zhuyin. My daughter has so much fun with it, super interactive! Even my in laws are impressed! Whilst I can read it out loud with the help of the zhuyin, my Chinese vocabulary isn’t too deep yet so I couldn’t really fully explain what was written and just rely on the pictures to tell the story. 😅

  17. Thank you so much for this! I just found your account and amazing resources when my friend tagged me in your giveaway. I’m excited to get into all of your resources! My favourite Chinese New Year book so far is bringing in the new year!
    @dariasanchez

  18. Love all your recommendations! It’s always great ❤️👍🏻 No favorite lunar books yet, would try to check out some of your suggestions! Thank you so much! God bless you and your family!

  19. We love reading 团圆 too! My daughter loves it so much she had insisted I make some and I must put in a lucky coin in one of them!
    Thanks for sharing these books with us. 🙂

  20. I wish I could win this.
    Me and my husband are Chinese Indonesian. My family are speaking Mandarin and Hokkien at home. My children learn Mandarin as their second language at school, so I wish I could win this book to encourage my 3 children to learn more. Please let us be the winner. Thank you!! Xoxo

  21. Hi, Betty, thank you for the book recommendation. Your posts and blogs always keep me inspired and learn a lot. I am Selvy from Indonesia. I feel like I have a lot in common with you, because at first I didn’t speak Chinese at all, but decided to learn so that my daughter could learn too. hope we can win this giveaway 😆

  22. Thank you for sharing your bilingual journey! I think my favorite from the list would be Maggie’s Chopsticks! Since it’s my first born’s nickname, she’ll be thrilled to read about it! Hopefully I’ll be able to source one here in the Philippines 🙂

  23. Ni hao! Hello, Better. Thank you for the wealth of information and resources you provide parents, teachers, and parents! I would love the pop-up book. It would be a great book to teach my ESL students while learning to read. I also love your blog! Thank you!

  24. Hi Betty, thanks so much for your list of Chinese New Year books! I will check them out and show them to my son. I love looking at your ideas for teaching bilingual and thank you sharing!

  25. We would love to win the pop up book. It looks so cool and my little bookworm will definitely enjoy it. We love Gordon and Lili Chinese New Year book. My 2.5yo wants me to read him every day. The book introduces new year vocabularies and things that we need to do for new year. It is such a great book. We love “Bring in the New Year” book as well.

  26. Ni hao 😊
    Hello Betty 😊 Nice to meet you. I’m Hande. I’m an industrial engineer and a mom of 6-year-old bilingual daughter from Turkey. We love your Instagram posts, your blog posts. They are so useful for us. Thank you for sharing all these resources and ideas. We would love to win the “Lunar New Year pop-up book” to encourage my bilingual daughter 💕🎉 Thank you for sharing these books with us and thank you for sharing your homeschooling and multilingual journey 💕
    My best compliments 🌸

  27. Hi Betty, thank you so much for sharing your list of favourites. These Chinese New Year books are amazing, I’m checkingthem out already!
    The one about Sam and the money is the most beautiful, as for me.. 😍

  28. Love this list of recommended Chinese New Year Books! Definitely want my kids to read more about it. Our favorite book this year is written by a dear friend Maria Wen Adcock – It’s Chinese New Year, Curious George! It’s such a great addition to the series and fun to read! Wish everyone a happy Chinese new year!!

  29. Hey, Betty! Great reading list! Thanks for sharing! Did a quick search, and our library had almost everything. Yay! (I realize I’m late to this party, but we’re celebrating for a couple of weeks, so…) 😁 One of our favorite lunar new year stories is Runaway Wok. We get it from the library for LNY every year. 😁🧧🥳 Looking forward to seeing you next weekend if not sooner! ❤️ (And sorry we missed your book reading! We had our mother-daughter book group!)

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