Today, let's welcome Sharlene from Olduvai Reads. She is here to tell us about the Lunar Year and some books to go along with it!
Celebrating the Lunar New Year while living in the United States isn’t easy. First of all, it isn’t a holiday so it’s just a regular day for going to school and to work. In Singapore, where I’m from, the first and second days of the Lunar New Year are usually designated as public holidays so all the celebrating, feasting and visiting of family and friends take place. Lunar New Year is traditionally celebrated for fifteen days.
The ‘new’ part of the Lunar New Year is a big thing. Some people go to the extent of making new curtains, getting new plants to spruce up the house. But at our house, we keep it simple and just stick to new pajamas to wear on New Year’s Eve and some new clothes for the first day. This coming Lunar New Year, which begins February 8, I hope to include some new books too.
So here in the United States, far from our families and friends, I attempt to teach my two boys, aged two and four, about celebrating the Lunar New Year. And one of the best ways to do this is through books!
Bringing in the New Year – Grace Lin
A simple and colourful book that will please any toddler. Lin introduces some of the traditions of welcoming the New Year, such as sweeping the bad luck out of the house before the New Year begins, getting new clothes and a haircut, and preparing for the New Year’s feast. My kids love the fold-out dragon at the end.
D is for Dragon Dance - Ying Chang Compestine
An alphabet of the symbols associated with the Lunar New Year, and is great for introducing some new words for preschoolers like C is for Calligraphy and Z is for Zodiac.
A New Year’s Reunion – Yu Li-Qiong ; illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
This story set in China is a bittersweet one. Mao-Mao and her family are celebrating, not just because it’s the Lunar New Year but also because it’s the only time of the year that she gets to see her father, who works far from home. It was interesting for my children to see that traditions can be different across the world, even if you’re celebrating the same holiday. For instance, in the book, coins are hidden in sticky rice balls, which was something new even for me.
My first Chinese New Year – Karen Katz
Karen Katz writes and illustrates wonderful board books for babies, but this one can be enjoyed by toddlers and preschoolers too. My First Chinese New Year showcases the traditions associated with the Lunar New Year, such as the colour red symbolizing good luck.
Happy New Year, Kai-lan!
My kids love the TV series Ni Hao, Kai-lan. I like that it teaches them good values and introduces some basic Mandarin words. This book has the characters working together to carry the dragon in a parade. But the one in the middle, Rintoo, is unhappy as he feels like it’s not an important part of the dragon. He soon learns that each place in the dragon is equally important, and without him, the dragon dance cannot continue.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas - Natasha Yim ; illustrated by Grace Zong
As you can guess from the title, this is a Lunar New Year version of the Goldilocks fairytale. Goldy Luck is sent to her neighbour’s house with some turnip cakes for the New Year. The panda family isn’t at home so Goldy, being hungry and sleepy, eats congee, breaks a chair, and falls asleep on a futon. But she does return to make amends. This book is great fun for both kids and adults. A recipe for turnip cake is provided at the back of the book, in case you feel like making your own.
Chin Chiang and the Dragon’s Dance – Ian Wallace
Some of the Lunar New Year festivities can be rather loud and a little bit frightening for young children. I remember my older son being scared the first time he saw the lion dance when he was about a year old. The loud drumming and the big crowd didn’t help either. In this book, Chin Chiang is to take the tail position of the dragon at a parade – but he is afraid. With the help of his family and friends, he learns to find the courage to perform. This book is more suitable for children who can sit through a longer story. The illustrations are more muted and not as bright as the other books, but my kids were impressed by the smoky dragon.
Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, these books are great to share with children.