It's almost Chinese New Year! Sprout has a sort of horrified fascination with snakes at the moment, and when I told him this coming year was the Year of the Snake he wasn't sure whether to be thrilled or freaked out (Mama is definitely in the latter camp).
Last year we shared some great picture books for Chinese New Year, so this year I thought it would be fun to feature books for slightly older readers. Because let's remember that these sorts of celebrations aren't just for the youngest set - there's all kinds of celebratory fun to be had for older kids, teens and adults too. And as I pointed out last year, it's really important to choose selections that have cultural accuracy, in order to share with our kiddos the most authentic view of the holiday and the cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year.
First up is Laurence Yep's The Star Maker. Yep is a prolific author with many award-winning books to his credit, including historical fiction and fantasy titles as well. In The Star Maker, Yep gives us the story of Artie, whose desire to fit in with his obnoxious cousin Petey leads him to make a rather rash promise - that he'll supply firecrackers for Chinese New Year for all the cousins. Now Artie has to figure out how to come up with all the money to pay for it. And he thinks he has the solution in his Uncle Chester; now if only Uncle Chester will come through. Set in 1953 in Chinatown, The Star Maker is a slice of life that kids will thoroughly enjoy. Even better, the fast pace and realistic conflicts makes it a perfect choice for those just transitioning into more advanced chapters.
Up next is Grace Lin, one of my favorite authors, and her novel The Year of the Dog. Pacy is excited because this is supposed to be the year she finds her special talent. What will it be? She has no idea, but she does know this is going to be a lucky year when she makes friends with Melody, who is Taiwanese just like Pacy. As the two girls get into trouble, have adventures, and work hard to find Pacy's talent, they learn about friendship, family, and the process of finding yourself when you have a foot in two cultures. This is a great book for readers who love stories about bright, determined heroines - and look for more of Pacy's adventures in The Year of the Rat and Dumpling Days.
Lensey Namioka has written a series of chapter books about the Yang family; while none of them focus specifically on Chinese New Year, they all provide an excellent perspective, that of a family of Chinese immigrants navigating life in America. In the first novel in the series, Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, we hear the story of Yingtao, the only untalented member in a family of brilliant musicians. Yingtao is struggling to fit in not only at home but also in this strange new American life, where even his name is hard for Americans to understand. But Yingtao soon makes a friend and finds an activity he's truly passionate about -- only it isn't the violin. This is a well-written story of identity and individuation, and kids will understand Yingtao's twin desires to be himself without disappointing his family.
What are your favorite novels for Chinese New Year? We'd love to hear how you celebrate the holiday, and what traditions are most important to you and your family. We hope books are part of the fun!