Chinese New Year: ‘New Year Surprise!’

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new-year-surprise- We are incredibly fortunate to have living with us, a delightful student from Macau, so Chinese New Year 2016: Year of the Fire Monkey, is being celebrated in style in our household! We’ve always taken the opportunity to celebrate Chinese culture, food and community at this time of year, but this year we stepping it up, with trips to BrisAsia Festival, Chinatown, Sunnybank and other festivities around the place planned…and ‘The Peasant Prince’ a little later in the year – cannot wait for that.

Last night* our student, and her good friend (who is living next door this year – bonus!) cooked us a most excellent meal indeed and I’m polishing off leftovers tonight: dumplings; noodles; soup; tomato eggs and tomato and chilli fried rice cakes. Macanese food is a very excellent blend of southern Chinese and Portuguese food, and is quite unlike other Chinese food I have eaten. Did I mention I love our Macanese student? Rachel and Natalie

Like Christmas and Easter books, Chinese New Year books are seasonal ones that I like to gradually collect and rotate in and out of my home and school library. This year I’ve added one that has gone to the top of my favourites pile immediately, ‘New Year Surprise!’, which is aimed at an early childhood audience, but its appeal extends far beyond this age group.

Click on cover or title links to purchase.

Image from 'New Year Surprise!'

Image from ‘New Year Surprise!’

Little Brother is told by his brother and his friends that he’s too small to help out at the Spring festival.

He’s not strong enough to hold onto a kite, and too little to hold the dragon poles. But Father says that he has a special job to do. What can it be? He knows it’s not hanging the lanterns up, as Father has already done that. He knows it’s not choosing the treats from the hawker as Father chose the duck. He knows it’s not serving tea or lighting fire crackers as he did that last year.

Follow Little Brother through the village to find out what his special job is.

Image from 'New Year Surprise!'

Image from ‘New Year Surprise!’

‘New Year Surprise!’ is an authoritative picture book on the subject of Chinese New Year. Author Christopher Cheng has seamlessly woven facts about Chinese culture throughout a narrative which has major child appeal, while illustrator Di Wu has used a palette of colours traditionally used in Chinese painting along with Chinese brushes on rice paper to create sumptuous illustrations which deserve a wide audience and gallery space – definitely like to see a travelling exhibition of this artwork.

Like all publications from NLA Publishing, ‘New Year Surprise!’ has ties to the collection of the National Library of Australia, in this case to the Chinese Collection, and the book is featured in the ‘Celestial Empire’ exhibition. After the narrative, there are several pages of note on Chinese New Year and other festivals, with images from the NLA collection. NLA Publishing have also produced 23 pages of excellent teachers’ notes for ‘New Year Surprise!’, which can be downloaded here and used to create an entire unit of work on this title.

NLA Publishing blows me away with the titles they select and publish each year. Their collection of children’s and YA titles bring to life the NLA collection and share this collection with an incredibly wide audience. NLA books are favourites in school libraries, but are just as informative and entertaining for home collections. We need to encourage our young readers to read outside their comfort zones of funny narratives or series they become obsessed with, and I often find that NLA publications can spark a whole new area of reading interest.

Image from 'New Year Surprise!'

Image from ‘New Year Surprise!’

Other favourites in my Chinese New Year collection are below. Click on cover or title links to purchase. Race for the Chinese Zodiac

‘Race for the Chinese Zodiac’ . Author Gabrielle Wang has skillfully 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.The book is much extended by looking at Gabrielle Wangs notes on the book here.


‘Fang-Fang’s Chinese New Year’, written and illustrated by Sally Rippin for an early childhood – middle primary audience has themes of frienship, celebrations and mulitcultralism. 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.

the-magic-brush xlong-long-s-new-year_jpg_pagespeed_ic_IVzdEe-aby

*Not a meal, or event (or any hour of the day really) goes by without ChickPea having some kind of meltdown – we are super confident she will be a most excellent teenager in order to make up for her younger years. Last night during one of ChickPea’s meltdowns over dinner, our Macanese students told her that it was bad luck to cry during Chinese New Year, a fact that ChickPea repeated today at kindy and tried terribly hard to abide by. We live in hope that she has taken this on board…

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.

Check out my mini ebook, 'What to Read Next' or sign up for my FREE webinar, '3 Tips to Start the Best Book Club Ever'.

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