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A children’s book tour of Chinese culture

Posted on October 20, 2015 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Edmondson

A children’s book tour of Chinese culture By Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library DistrictIf you haven’t noticed yet, downtown Spokane is all aglow. The Chinese Lantern Festival is lighting up Riverfront Park every night from 5–10pm, with an extra hour on Friday and Saturday nights. If you haven’t had a chance to see the lanterns and enjoy the many cultural performances and activities, there’s still time. The festival runs through November 1. Whether you want to extend your family’s foray into this beautiful culture or give your kids their first taste of China without a trip downtown, books offer a great way to travel to distant countries without ever leaving your house.

A great way to begin learning about other cultures is to learn about their traditions and holidays. A wonderful start to your Chinese journey would be the book, Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin. This beautiful picture book is appropriate for even the littlest “travelers,” but also includes more detailed information in the back for older kids. Grace Lin has written many other children’s books worth exploring. In fact, one of my favorite books to recommend for a family read-aloud is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Another wonderful picture book by this author is Bringing in the New Year. It follows the same format as Thanking the Moon but teaches kids about the traditions of Chinese New Year. In fact, since Chinese New Year is the most important festival in Chinese culture, there are many picture books about this holiday. Get started with:

A children’s book tour of Chinese culture By Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library DistrictMy First Chinese New Year

By Karen Katz

Watch as a child and her family prepare for and celebrate Chinese New Year.

D is for Dragon Dance

By Ying Chang Compestine

This alphabet book introduces customs of the Chinese New Year with vibrant, beautiful pictures.

The Runaway Wok

By Ying Chang Compestine

Ming finds an old empty wok, but soon discovers it has magic.

While this last book is also about Chinese New Year, it has a classic folktale structure. Exploring Chinese folktales is another fun way to introduce aspects of Chinese culture to your kids. Here’s a few that are sure to entertain:

A children’s book tour of Chinese culture By Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library DistrictThe Water Dragon

By Li Jian

With a draught in the land, Ah Bao sets out to find the Water Dragon and save his village. This book is also told in Chinese, so it’s a wonderful way to introduce your child to what Chinese writing looks like.

The Emperor and the Kite

By Jane Yolen

When the emperor is imprisoned in a high tower, his youngest daughter comes to his rescue.

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story From China

By Ed Young

This Caldecott-winning picture book tells the story of three girls who outsmart a wolf. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is a visually stunning and powerful book that has been captivating kids for over a decade. This author has written other Chinese folklore picture books worth checking out.

A children’s book tour of Chinese culture By Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library DistrictThe Empty Pot

By Demi

A sweet folktale celebrating honesty that has lovely illustrations.


By Arlene Mosel

A boy with a really long name falls down a well and his brother must run for help. While there is some controversy surrounding this book, it is still a childhood rite of passage not to be missed. Be prepared to hear your kids reciting the boy’s name over and over again.

Of course, cooking and crafts are also a great way for families to explore another culture. For some kid-friendly recipes and crafts, check out this hidden gem, Recipe and Craft Guide to China by Joanne Mattern. This wonderful book (part of the World Crafts and Recipes series) pairs recipes and crafts with information about the customs and traditions of China. This book made me want to get busy in the kitchen. I may have missed the traditional Autumn Moon Festival this year, but the recipe for Moon Cakes is calling my name!


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