Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Happy Lunar New Year! Celebrate with These Four Picture Books

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year and it's the Year of the Pig, the twelfth animal of the 12-year cycle. People born in the Year of the Pig are said to be strong, noble, loyal friends, but be careful, they can also be a little reckless at times. We have been reading some books about the Lunar New Year and would like to share some with you today.

D is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine,
illustrated by Yongsheng Xuan
Holiday House, 2006, 32 pages
Younger readers can learn all about the Chinese New Year celebration while learning their ABCs with this beautifully illustrated alphabet book. Each letter of the alphabet is on a two page spread and includes one or two aspects of Chinese New Year beliefs or customs: "K is for Kites, L is for Lantern/Chinese people believe that flying kites and lantern light scare away evil spirits, R is for Red Envelopes/Children receive red envelopes that contain good luck money, S is for Steamed Dumplings/Eat these special treats to begin the New Year." The vibrant watercolor, acrylic, and latex illustrations richly depict icons of Chinese New Year celebrations, over a background of Chinese calligraphic characters. Back matter includes a recipe for New Year's Dumplings, a Chinese Zodiac chart, and Tips to Ensure Good Fortune in the New Year. 
FYI: I haven't seen this yet, but D is for Dragon has been reissued in 2018 by Holiday House in a bilingual edition written in English and Chinese characters, with the pinyon, a Romanization of Chinese characters based on pronunciation.  

Ruby's Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee, 
illustrated by Joey Chou
Henry Hold BFYR, 2017, 40 pages
When her grandmother gets sick and can't make it to Ruby's house to celebrate Chinese New Year, Ruby decides to bring the celebration to her. After carefully drawing a picture of her family sitting at the table eating traditional New Year's food, Ruby tucks it into a red envelope and sets off to visit her grandmother. Along the way, Ruby runs into all the animals in the Chinese zodiac who accompany her to grandmother's house. This is an appealing introduction to the Chinese Zodiac and highlights the importance of sharing the New Year with family. Back matter includes the legend of the zodiac and what each animal represents. There are also instructions for three craft activities - a lantern, a fan, and a good luck banner. The colorful, humorous illustrations are digitally painted.

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine,
illustrated by Sebastia Serra
Dutton BFYR, 2011, 32 pages
This starts off like a bit of a Jack and the Beanstalk story, except there's not giant, just a rusty wok with no handles. It's almost New Year and Ming is given some eggs to trade for a bag of rice for his family's celebration. Even though Ming's father works, the family is poor because Mr. Li, the richest man in Beijing, doesn't pay his workers enough. On his way to the market, Ming meets a man who sells him a rusty wok after Ming hears it singing "Boy, Boy, trade for me/I am more than what you see." His parents are understandably upset when they see what Ming has done, but when the wok begins to sing again, then runs away, they are more than pleasantly surprised when it returns. Young readers will be pleased and surprised as well, when they see what this wok does. We read this every year now, and love the story as much as Sebastia Serra's colorful, lively illustrations.

A Gift written and illustrated by Yong Chen
2009, Boyds Mills Press, 32 pages
As we've already seen, the Lunar New Year is family time, a time when everyone gets together to celebrate. But sometimes families are separated by long distances and can't be reunited with their relatives. As Amy and her mother get ready for Chinese New Year, her mother is homesick because her brothers Zhong, a farmer, and Ming, a fisherman, and her sister Mei, a nurse, are all still living in China. But when a letter arrives from her siblings, Amy's mother's spirits are lifted, and inside the letter is a beautiful gift from her brothers and sister for Amy. As Amy's mother reads the letter, she and Amy are transported to China because of the vivid descriptions of how the gift was made. While the text is spare and the story quite gentle, Yong Chen's detailed watercolor illustrations do much to complete the text's narration. This is a story that really hit home for us, as I watch my Kiddo's husband struggle with homesickness every Chinese New Year because he lives her and his parents and friends are still in China.

Good Luck, Good Health, Good Cheer and Pass a Happy New Year

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