Chinese New Year–or Lunar New Year–celebrates the culture of the Orient. What better way to explore oriental culture with kids than with children’s literature? Here are Chinese New Year stories for preschool children, kids books from China and children’s literature for Lunar New Year. Some books are specifically from China and others are Japanese or general Buddhist children’s literature. Chinese New Year encompasses the traditional animals of the Chinese zodiac and since most Buddhist stories involve animals, these books would be appropriate.
“The Chinese Zodiac Story” (ancient legend) tells stories of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac–rat, dog, horse, snake, rooster, ox, rabbit, monkey, dragon, pig, sheep and tiger. Follow up with these Chinese zodiac crafts.
“Buddha Stories” (Demi): Buddhist fables are generally allegorical and Demi’s stories are translations of Buddhist legends. Preschool children can learn important truths from the follies and foibles of the animals in these stories.
“Zen Shorts” and “Zen Ties” (Jon Muth): Gentleness is the key construct in Buddhism. Stillwater the Panda and his Haiku-speaking nephew Koo, teach three children of the wisdom of the east is these endearing tales. These wise stories make good reading for the Spring Festival with its themes of prosperity tempered with good sense. These children’s literature selections should be on every kid’s bookshelf.
“Three Samurai Cats” (Eric A. Kimmel and Mordicai Gerstein) Three brave warrior cats learn the art of humillty and patience from an aged Samurai cat. Respect for elders is big in China, so this a good virtue to practice for Chinese New Year.
“The Story about Ping” (Margorie Flack, Kurt Weise, 1933) Ping is an adorable, nosy little yellow duck who lives with his family and people aboard a Chinese junk (boat) on the Yangtzee River. Preschool children will delight in Ping’s mischief and close call with the soup pot. Kurt Weise’s delicate pictures evoke the exotic, quaint in life on the Yellow River.
“Tikki Tikki Tembo” (Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent) The curious naming of children in Chinese culture almost causes grief in the village when little Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo-Chari Bari Ruchi-Pip Peri Pembo falls into the well. It’s almost as much fun to read as it is to hear and this is Lunar New Year a must-read children’s literature for preschool.
“The Five Chinese Brothers” (Claire Huchet Bishop, Kurt Wiese) There is a famous legend retold in many cultures about five brothers who all look alike, but each have a unique power. The fidelity of the brothers is called upon to rescue one brother from death by the combined efforts of their special talents. This is the Chinese version of the tale and dovetails nicely with Lunar New Year.
“The Funny Little Woman” (Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent) This is a kind of Chinese Little Gingerbread Man story with much silliness, chasing and three wicked Oni to outwit. It won the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature illustrations. This story will enchant preschool children at Lunar NewYear parties!