This month I wanted to take the kids to China. Via reading. So I found every kids books about China I could find.
For the month of January, it made sense to focus on China. Why does it make sense? Because Lunar New Year typically lands in January.
You don’t have to be Asian to celebrate Lunar New Year. It’s such a fun and inclusive holiday. If you live in a major centre with a large Chinese community – I am sure you can find events around the two week celebration. Lion dances, parades or even large galas with incredible food and shows.
Here is a list of kids books about China:
Celebrating Chinese Festivals
by Sanmu Tang
No list of kids books about China is complete without this perfect introduction to Chinese festivals. We learn about about the origins, traditions and stories of Chinese festivals.
We follow Mei and her family as they celebrate throughout the year. The book includes fun recipes so you can create the festivities at home!
The Nian Monster
by Andrea Wang with pictures by Alina Chau
I loved this book! It’s all about the Nian Monster and his connection to CNY (Chinese New Year).
A little girl named Xingling (pronounced: Shingling) gets told the legend of Nian from her Po Po (grandmother).
Each New Year, Nian would descend from the mountains and eat whole villages. But every monster has a weakness and for Nian that means loud sounds, fire and the colour red. This is why at CNY you see loud drumming, fireworks and so much red.
But this year, Nian is back. These things no longer frighten him. So it’s Xingling’s job to outsmart him and protect her city of Shanghai.
I love that this girl is not afraid and so clever. I also love we see the sights of Shanghai. This is a perfect kids book about China if you plan on visiting Shanghai.
The Great Race
by Christopher Corr
This is such a wonderfully illustrated book about the legend of the Chinese Zodiac. I also enjoy that the text is simple enough for my three-year old to understand.
If you are familiar with the Chinese Zodiac you know it’s a 12-year cycle with each year assigned an animal. But how did those animals get chosen? This book tells the story well. My husband even enjoyed it.
D is For Dragon Dance
by Ying Chang Compestine with pictures by Yongsheng Xuan
This is another great kids book about China. It’s an alphabet book for all things Chinese New Year. I like that it explains certain New Year traditions such as getting a hair cut or children receiving red envelopes.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
by Natasha Yim with pictures by Grace Zong
As you can guess from the title, this is a twist on the classic fairytale with some Chinese New Year Themes.
Goldy Luck’s mom sends Goldy Luck to the Chan’s with a plate of turnip cakes to wish them a Kung Hei Fat Choi. I’m going to assume you know the story so it will come as no surprise that Goldy Luck finds some hot and not-so-hot congee (the Chinese version of porridge), some chairs to test out, and some beds to take a nap in.
The Chan’s turn out to be a family of pandas and when Goldy is discovered she races home. Feeling badly for what she’s done, she returns to their home with some fresh congee and helps them make turnip cakes (she may have dropped them on her hasty exit).
The Seven Chinese Sisters
by Kathy Tucker with illustrations by Grace Lin
This is a retelling of a classic Chinese folktale. My daughter especially loves the story of seven sisters. Six sisters each have a special talent while the seventh sister is a baby.
One day, the baby is snatched by a hungry dragon. The other sisters use their talents to save her. And baby sister discovers a talent of her own!
The Boy Who Painted Dragons
This is a such a stunningly illustrated book about all the elements of life in dragon form. A boy named Ping decorates his room in dragons – a declaration of his love and fear.
The Heavenly Dragon gives Ping’s pearls of wisdom to overcome his fear. It’s a very heavy story but my kids loved all the intricate details.
Dim Sum for Everyone!
by Grace Lin
Grace Lin has several books depicting Chinese traditions and this is one of our favourites. I’ve always loved dim sum – long before I married a Chinese man. I feel my love for dim sum really helped my in-laws like me.
It never occurred to me that non-Chinese people don’t eat dim sum regularly! WHAT?! It’s so good! But I can see how it can be intimidating. In this book, an American-Chinese family sits down for ‘little bites’ like dumplings, cakes and buns. Dim sum comes around on a little trolley – which sadly isn’t the case for most dim sum restaurants in Toronto. But maybe you have some in your town? If so, take this book and your kids for some good eating.
by Roseanne Greenfield Thong with pictures by Meilo So
This is another food one that made me hungry. It’s about a little girl Mei and her Grandpa Tu who is the noodle master. The Emperor’s birthday is coming up and Grandpa Tu is in charge of making the long life noodles. But Grandpa Tu is giving the task to Mei and teaching her the family craft. Mei doesn’t believe in herself until she discovers the noodle magic.
I love hand-pulled noodles so after reading this, I took the kids to see a noodle master in action. Just like in the book, his noodles went ‘SLAP’. And tasted delicious.
The illustrations are stunning as well creating a book that will make you drool!
Brush of the Gods
by Lenore Look with pictures by Meilo So
Another wonderfully illustrated book by Meilo So.
This is a biography on the calligrapher Wu Daozi. When an old monk attempts to teach a young Daozi the art of calligraphy, his brush doesn’t cooperate. Instead he draws peonies and dancing Buddhas. Soon his work is admired by many of the villages and his art comes to life.
It’s a beautiful book about an art form China is famous for. It got my kids to try their own hand at calligraphy.
If you want to continue reading more books about Lunar New Year, you can find my list HERE.
BOOKS ABOUT PANDAS
When looking for books about China – I just happened to find lots of cute books starring China’s favourite animal: the panda.
We LOVE pandas! I mean who doesn’t?
Find my post over here on all you can read pandas.
Firstly, we went for Chinese food. Well, we go eat Chinese a lot . If you are in a major city centre, I am sure there is no shortage of Chinese restaurants for you to try. And you can go out on a limb and try dim sum!
If you do go for dim sum here are some pretty standard delicious dishes: Siu Mai (a pork dumpling topped with a scallop and roe), Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings), and sticky rice in lotus leaf (really yummy rice stuffed with a pork mixture). Just these three dishes are a good start and my kids LOVE them! For a more comprehensive list refer to Dim Sum Central’s Guide
I also took the kids to a Chinese bakery and we got lots of treats. Our favourite is always always the pineapple bun. Which is not filled with pineapple. It’s got coconut in it but the top is decorated like a sugary pineapple and they are DELICIOUS. My husband prefers the egg tarts.
My kids love using chopsticks but as you may know – this is tricky! We have a few set of these training chopsticks!
MOVIES AND TELEVISION
Kung Fu Panda
Ni Hao, Kai Lan
This is a really cute cartoon we discovered last year. Kids learn Mandarin words and phrases from a little girl, Kai Lan, and her grandfather.
Travel Kids: China Pandas
I love this series by Nat Geo kids – they have a video for tons of countries all over the world.
We had a great month reading kids books about China! And eating all the great food we got to eat. If you can’t book a flight to China right now (which due to Coronavirus you definitely can’t do), the next best thing is ‘travelling’ from your couch.