Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, with the new year beginning tomorrow, January 23. New Years is a very important holiday for the Chinese people, and the celebration is one of the biggest that Chinese families celebrate. New Year marks new beginnings, but also is a chance to honor family and express hopes for good fortunes in the months to come.

When choosing books to use as part of your holiday observance, whether it's Chinese New Year or another holiday, it's important to pay attention to cultural accuracy. Look for titles written and illustrated by individuals with strong cultural ties (those who are either raised in a culture or closely linked to it in some significant way). Books with author's notes or explanatory passages about the holiday offer other beneficial insights. And choosing a cross-section of several titles will help present the most diverse perspective, including a sense of how the holiday is observed by people around the world. Check out sites like Kid World Citizen for unique crafts and other ideas of how to celebrate Chinese New Year in your library, classroom, or at home.

There are so many great titles about Chinese New Year that it's hard to sum up just a few. An older title that I really like is Janet Wong's This Next New Year. In the book a Chinese-Korean boy explain how his family celebrates the holiday and what his hopes are for the year to come. Each of the traditional observances is carefully explained in a way young readers will understand. The boy also describes how his friends, all of various other ethnicities, commemorate Chinese New Year in their own ways. A cheerfully inclusive title that's great for sharing.

Another fun title is The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine. I love this one for its traditional feel. Set in China, the book explores one family's New Year observation. Momma uses the last of the flour to make one rice cake, which the family will share. But suddenly the rice cake comes to life and runs through the village (hints of The Gingerbread Man story here). Will the family catch the rice cake, or go hungry on New Years' Eve? Compestine provides some excellent cultural details here, including an afterward that explains the customs that most families follow in celebrating New Year. This is a really delightful tale that doesn't disappoint!

And what would a Chinese New Year list be without a book by Grace Lin? In Bringing in the New Year, Lin brings her trademark joyous illustrations to a book about the holiday. Every member of the family contributes to the holiday preparations, getting the house ready for the year to come. And the celebration that follows is extraordinary - who wouldn't love to participate? Lin caps the book off with a unique look at the dragon parade that is sure to impress. Bright and festive, this title belongs in every library's collection. (And for older readers, don't miss Lin's The Year of the Dog. The book follows Pacy on her quest to "find herself" throughout the year - it's a warm and funny story that has lots of great cultural detail too.)

However you celebrate, may the Year of the Dragon bring you much good fortune!


Jim Randolph said...

Great roundup of Chinese New Year books, thanks!

Amy said...

I haven't seen This Next New Year - it sounds great and I'll definitely look for it. And I adore Grace Lin!

Doret said...

I haven't read Lin's The Year of the Dog books yet though I've heard great things after reading this I am in the mood to add it to my queue. I loved Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

thanks for sharing these books - and Happy Year of the Dragon! thanks as well for being part of the 2012 Comment Challenge.
Keep on commenting,

Michelle Cusolito said...

Thanks for these great suggestions. I'm off to reserve them from my library right now.