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Chinese New Year Books for Kids

chinese new year picture books

Whether you are looking for a quick Chinese New Year read aloud to share with your students on Chinese New Year or are doing a holidays around the world unit and need a collection of Chinese New Year books for kids, this list of books about Chinese culture has you covered! Each book shares facts and information about this holiday in an interesting way. This keeps elementary students engaged and learning, so they can learn about and appreciate this special holiday and the traditions surrounding it. Check out the list of Chinese New Year books below!

This post highlights the following read aloud books:

  • Ruby’s Wish
  • Sam and the Lucky Money
  • Bringing in the New Year
  • The Runaway Rice Cake
  • The Runaway Wok
  • Dumpling Soup
  • The Story about Ping
  • The Five Chinese Brothers

8 Chinese New Year Books

Below are some of my favorite Chinese New Year books to share with elementary students! They are fantastic winter read alouds!

stack of books about Chinese New Year

Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

The story Ruby’s Wish takes place in China a long time ago. Ruby lived in a big house with her wealthy grandfather. He had many wives and therefore had many grandchildren. Unlike other girls in China, Ruby was able to take classes because her grandfather had hired a teacher to come to the house. Ruby was always an impressive student, and even continued with her classes when the other girls stopped going. It was not easy for her to keep up with the boys because she had household duties after school, while the boys were able to play.

One day, Ruby wrote a poem about how the boys in the house are treated differently. Ruby’s grandfather was concerned and asked her to explain the poem to him. He learned that Ruby wanted to go to university just like the boys. Later, on Chinese New Year, Ruby’s grandfather handed her a large envelope. Inside was an invitation from a university inviting Ruby to be their first female student. Ruby’s dream of attending university finally came true! This is such a great read aloud! I liked it so much I added it to my Starts With a Story collection!

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn

In Sam and the Lucky Money, Sam loves Chinese New Year because his grandparents always give him liesees, red envelopes with money inside. The best part about this year is that he can choose what he gets to spend the money on!

He goes to Chinatown with his mom to see what he can buy with the money he received. To his disappointment, Sam discovers that the four dollars he got from his grandparents is not enough to buy the cookies or toys that he wanted. His mother reminds Sam that, regardless of the cost of a gift, it is important to be grateful, but when Sam can’t buy anything he hoped for, it is difficult for him to believe that.

Then, Sam remembers an old homeless man he encountered earlier that day. He knows what to do with his money, and, ultimately, he learns what it means to be grateful.

picture books for chinese new year

Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

Bringing in the New Year describes everything a little girl and her family does to prepare for Chinese New Year. Jie-Jie sweeps out the house, Ba-Ba hangs the spring happiness poems on the walls and Mei-Mei gets a haircut. The girl puts on a new qi pao dress for the New Year feast. The little girl watches everyone prepare for the celebrations, and knows that the big day must be just around the corner. Her aunt paints the dragon’s eyes and the girl and her friends carry lanterns to light the New Year’s way. Finally, the New Year arrives!

The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compenstine

In The Runaway Rice Cake, it’s the Chinese New Year, and the Chang family, Ming, Cong, Da, and their parents want to make nián-gão, a special type of New Year’s rice cake, but they only have enough rice flour to make one. When the rice cake jumps up and escapes the house, the whole family chases it through the village. Finally, the rice cake and its pursuers run into a hungry old woman. Although little Da wants the treat for his own family, he decides to share the rice cake with the woman because she needs it more than him.

With nothing to eat for their own New Year’s celebration, the Chang family returns home. They find that the Kitchen God has left a surprise for them in return for their generosity!

Chinese New Year book activities

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine

In this Chinese New Year tale, The Runaway Wok, Ming and his family do not have a lot of money. When Ming returns from the market with a rusted wok instead of food, his family wonders what they will eat for dinner. After Ming’s mom washes the wok, it rolls right out the door and to the richest family’s kitchen. When it returns, it is full of food! Again, it leaves the house and returns with toys from the rich man’s house. After the third trip it returns full of gold coins. Finally, after the Zhangs have these new riches, they share it with their friends and neighbors, and they can all have a grand Chinese New Year feast!

Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan

The book Dumpling Soup is about a girl’s first time participating in one of her family’s holiday traditions. Every year on New Year’s Eve, a young girl named Marisa and her family always go to her grandma’s house for dumpling soup. This year, Marisa is excited to help her grandma make dumplings, and, the night before the big day, she can hardly sleep. However, Marisa soon finds that her dumplings don’t look as perfect as her grandma’s or her aunties’ do, and she becomes worried that nobody will want to eat them.

Soon, the rest of Marisa’s family arrives and they stay up past midnight playing games. Finally, after they have set off fireworks, it is time to eat the dumpling soup. At first, Marisa’s family makes fun of her strangely-shaped dumplings, but soon they notice that they taste delicious, and Marisa realizes that she had nothing to worry about!

Activities for Chinese New Year

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack

This book is about a family of ducks that live on a boat. Every day, the owner of the boat puts a ramp on the boat to let the ducks out. In the evenings, the ducks all walk up the ramp to return to the boat. However, the last duck always gets a spank on the way up. This terrifies Ping, so, one day, when he is late and knows he will be last, he hides in the reeds and the boat sails away. The next morning, Ping sets out on the Yangtze River to find his family. After encountering many dangerous obstacles and nearly being eaten, Ping is glad to find the boat and return to his family!

The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop 

Once upon a time, there were five Chinese brothers who all had special abilities. The first brother could swallow the sea. The second brother had an iron neck. The third brother could stretch out his legs. The fourth could not be burned. The fifth could hold his breath forever.

The first brother was a great fisherman and, one day, a little boy asked if he could join him. The first brother agreed, but only if the boy was to obey him promptly. The boy agreed, but after seeing the treasure uncovered after the first brother swallowed the sea, ignored the brother’s gestures to return to shore. Unable to hold the sea any longer, the brother spits it out and the boy disappears into the ocean. He is set to go to prison and is condemned to be executed. The brothers must all work together, using their unique abilities, so that the first brother can avoid punishment.

These Chinese New Year books are a great way to teach elementary students about the festive holiday and another culture. Your students will enjoy listening to the stories and learning about the cultural traditions surrounding Chinese New Year. Check out the Ruby Wish book companion below! It includes reading comprehension questions, writing prompts, SEL lesson ideas, and much more!

Ruby's Wish book companion

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