Celebrating Chinese New Year with Children’s Books

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We have a good friend called Maya, whose family does a great job celebrating Chinese New Year and I’ve asked her to contribute some ideas to my ‘celebrating Chinese New Year’ list below.  Technically, Maya is one of Dan’s much loved childhood friends, but I claim her as my own as she is a fabulous cook and slightly left of normal; a most excellent trait in my opinion.

There are many children’s book about Chinese New Year floating around in libraries and bookstores but I have two standout favourites: ‘The Race for the Chinese Zodiac’ and ‘Fang-Fangs Chinese New Year’.

Click on title links or cover image to purchase.


Title: ‘The Race for the Chinese Zodiac’
Author: Gabrielle Wang
Illustrator: Sally Rippin
and Regine Abos
Publisher: Black Dog Books
Age Range: lower primary – upper primary
Themes:  Chinese New Year, animals, zodiac, mythology, legends, China, friendship, betrayal, determination.
Awards: Shortlisted for the 2011 West Australian Young ReadersBook Award; Shortlisted for the YABBA Children’s Choice Book Award; Shortlisted for the KOALA children’s choice award; Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards 2011.

One of my all-time favourite authors, together with one of my favourite illustrators, have created a book that is visually stunning, informative and destined to become a much loved tale. Wang has skilfully woven Chinese legends regarding the animals of zodiac into a wondrous tale of friendship, betrayal and determination as 13 animals race for their spot in the Chinese Zodiac.

The book ends with information about the Chinese years and the animals of the zodiac and personality traits.

Finishing this book was one of those lightbulb moments for me. Our friend Maya, who I mentioned above, constantly gives relationship, parenting, food and life advice based on the Chinese animal that you are and the year you are born; and I have always just smiled a blank smile. Now that I am so wised up on the Chinese zodiac, I am going to attempt to keep up with Maya’s zodiac chat. Trouble is we are both dragons, and both talk fast and loud without drawing a breath.

The book is much extended by looking at Gabrielle Wang’s notes on the book here.

Race for the Chinese Zodiac

Title: ‘Fang-Fang’s Chinese New Year’
Author/Illustrator: Sally Rippin
Publisher: Omnibus Books
Age Range: early childhood – middle primary
Themes:  Chinese New Year, frienship, celebrations, culture, mulitcultralism
Awards: Winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Crichton Award 1997

Main character Fang Fang was born in China, but moved to Australia as a baby and now is Australian. Her mother suggests she invite her blonde haired, blue eyed friend Lisa to celebrate Chinese New Year with them. Fang Fang is convinced she will be completely bored and not eat or understand a thing…you can guess what happens from here.

I love this book for so many reasons! Obviously it’s great for talking about and explaining Chinese New Year and perfect for units on multiculturalism. But it is also a great lesson in celebrating similarities and differences in people, and in food.

Click on title links or cover image to purchase.

Follow these books up in the home, classroom or library:

  • Find China on a map or globe. Discuss and/or write a list of all the things you know about China. Now use a selection of non fiction books and the Internet to find out five additional facts about China.
  • Your class or group will have many different cultural backgrounds represented. Brainstorm a list of all the significant cultural celebrations you can think of including Chinese New Year.
  • How do we celebrate New Years in Australia (or country you are reading this in!)? How do the Chinese celebrate Chinese New Year? Highlight differences and similarities. Try this activity as a venn diagram.
  • Turn home corner into a restaurant celebrating Chinese New Year. Create visual and written lists of all the things you will need and all the roles that will need to be played. Provide chopsticks!
  • ‘Child friendly’ chopsticks are great for fine motor skill development, and eating fun!
  • Give small groups or individuals the task of researching a different animal from the Chinese Zodiac
  • Read the story behind ‘Race for the Chinese Zodiac’ on Gabrielle Wang’s website.
  • Find other books written and/or illustrated by Gabrielle Wang and Sally Rippin. These woman are among my favourite creators of books for children so do follow up on their other books!
  • Visit your local Chinatown. Find out about events they may be holding to celebrate Chinse New Year.
  • These are some great Chinese New Year craft ideas at Red Ted Craft.
  • Well it wouldn’t be a proper Chinese celebration without some food! We are all massive fans of pot sticker dumplings and this Donna Hay recipe is a great one.
  • Finally…I rather like chef Kylie Kwong’s thoughts on Chinese New Year: “The most important thing about Chinese New Year is being with your friends and family in heart and spirit.”

PudStar the Chinese Rat  below. Personality traits of people born in the year of the rat:  they may be difficult to work with as they are born perfectionists. Loyal and loving, but their quick wit and restlessness can sometimes lead to chattiness. Well that is all surprisingly spot on. Sigh.


Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (for babies to young adults) is here and you can peruse ALL of my reviews (searchable by age, genre and theme) here.

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1 Comment

  1. […] the ink began to run enthusiastically. However, I have long been a fan of Sally Rippin’s beautiful ‘Fang Fang’s Chinese New Year’ that features profusely bleeding ink outlines so I continued on and  really enjoyed it. (I must […]

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