A GOOD READ: Read up on lunar new year fun & traditions

Gung Hay Fat Choy — Feb. 2 is the start of Chinese New Year. Also known as the Lunar New Year, this festival is celebrated in many Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and Vietnam. This year, we begin the Year of the Snake.

One of the joys of living in Canada is that we can celebrate the festivals of many different cultures, whether we were born into them or not. And what better way to learn about this festival than to read about it with your children? Recently there have been many excellent picture books that tell the story of the Lunar New Year to young and not-so-young children.

Look for books that present the information about the New Year in an entertaining manner. Hiss! Pop! Boom!: Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey showcases each New Year’s tradition or custom with beautiful watercolour illustrations by Kong Lee.

Similarly, Chinese New Year by Alice K. Flanagan explores the history, customs and symbols as well as some of the changes in the traditions over time. Svetlana Zhurkina’s childlike illustrations add interest to each page.

For the very young, have a look at D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine, a charming alphabet book using Chinese New Year’s customs to illustrate the letters.

Children who enjoy pop-up books will like Lucky New Year by Mary Man-Kong with its interactive pages.

For older children, take time to enjoy Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats, with its festival lore, traditional stories, tasty recipes and interesting activities for this and other festivals throughout the year.

If you want to learn about the Chinese zodiac and the fables behind the naming of the years, have a look at The Great Race by Dawn Casey. This story, with its creatively stylized folk art, is a retelling of the ancient legend about the Jade King, who decides to name the calendar after the animals. He holds a race to determine the order of the animal years.

The story is also retold in The Cat’s Tale: Why the Years are Named for Animals. In this book, the cat, Mao, takes it upon himself to correct his little girl’s version of the story and retell it his own way.

To get an overview of the meaning of each animal’s place in the zodiac, read The Dragon’s Tale and other Animal Fables of the Chinese Zodiac; each page has a charming fable about one of the animals.

As well as books that give us information, there are many picture books that simply tell a story about children and their excitement as they prepare for and celebrate the Lunar New Year.

New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Korean writer Hyun-Joo Bae is a delightful story about a little girl getting dressed in her traditional costume for the festival.

Award-winning picture book A New Year’s Family Reunion by Yu Li-Quong and Zhu Cheng-Liang is the poignant story of the love of a family separated by circumstances for much of the year. At the New Year, Mama and Maomao welcome Papa’s return and prepare for all the festivities.

For a longer story, read Long-Long’s New Year by Catherine Gower He Zhihong, in which Long-Long and his grandpa try to sell their cabbages to get money to pay for the festival activities for the family. With lively illustrations that bring the reader right inside the busy marketplace, this is a story about honesty and persistence.

In Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, young Sam has to decide how to spend his lucky money. The multitude of possibilities confuses him until he remembers the man on the street with no shoes.

Yong Cheng’s book The Gift is a beautiful story of an immigrant mother and daughter who are thinking about their family far away at the New Year. Then a package arrives for Amy with a hand-carved gift that brings both memories and good wishes from their old home.

And finally, just for fun, read The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine. This engaging story, based on a Danish folk tale, tells of a magic wok that brings good fortune to a poor but hardworking family and punishes the greedy rich man. With highly detailed illustrations showing a town decorated for the New Year, this book will delight all ages of children.

Find all these stories and many more at your local library.


A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Barbara Buxton is head of adult services at Port Moody Public Library.



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