Review: Celebrate Chinese New Year

“When Asians immigrated to countries like the United States and Canada, they brought these traditions with them.” page 7

Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto and Haiwang Yuan.
National Geographic Kids, Washington, D.C., 2009, my edition 2015 reprint.
Picture book informative nonfiction, 32 pages.
Lexile:  740L  .
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 0.5)  .

How Lunar New Year is celebrated around the world, especially in China.

Chinese New Year cover resized

This is a very comprehensive book.  You could easily do a short unit study using just this text.  The format works for a variety of ages or abilities.  The book is divided into two parts – first the picture book, then the last six pages are mostly text with “More About the Chinese New Year”, a variety of supplemental activities and further information for parents, teachers, or older children.

Every two-page spread in the picture book portion has four elements.  Every page has a picture or part of a picture.  For some the whole page is a photograph.  Each photograph is captioned with a short sentence.  Some of the captions identify where the picture was taken, while others just identify or inform us about what’s in the picture.  However, if you are curious where the photographs come from, the back of the book has a map.

Chinese New Year page 10 11 resized
Celebrating Chinese New Year pages 10 and 11.

Besides the pictures, there are two types of text on each page spread.  One is very simple text in a large font, set apart by a different color and layout.  Sometimes this text is a short sentence, other times it’s a sequence of words that relate to the photos.  The main text is in black font on a white background, with the first sentence or phrase a little larger than the rest.  For this portion, the vocabulary might challenge (spectacular, cymbals, firecrackers) but the sentences aren’t complex.

I was impressed that the texts, photographs, and captions were so carefully laid out.  Whichever method of reading I’m using, I’m still able to track the text.  It’s harmonious rather than confusing, which is difficult to achieve.

Chinese New Year page 13 resized
Celebrating Chinese New Year page 13

The end section contains basic facts about Lunar New Year, a glossary, the map mentioned above, articles about the Chinese calendar and origins of Chinese New Year, a lantern-making craft project, a recipe for fortune cookies, a game to play, five “educational extensions” that can be assigned to older children, and further resources.  You can see what I was saying about a unit study!

This book could be used many ways.  I’d read the large text and show the pictures to toddlers.  The main text could be read by kids around second or third grade.  And I’d hand this book to an older student so they could read the entire book, including the captions and final portion, for a short project, brief lesson, or fun.  Children of differing ages or reading levels could partner read different portions of the text.

Chinese New Year page 28 29 resized
A recipe and further information on pages 28 and 29 of Celebrating Chinese New Year.

One wish I had for this book is that it was titled Lunar New Year.  As we learn on page two, a variety of countries celebrate and the photographs represent this as well.  While I understand the publisher’s decision (most Americans refer to this as Chinese, not Lunar, New Year so this title will sell more books), it would have been nice to have a more inclusive title.

We’ve purchased a couple of  these National Geographic Kids books now and so far I’m impressed with this series.  More diverse authors would be better, but they are hiring consultants for accuracy, and it seems like this imprint is at least trying to include other cultures.  The books are vibrant and appeal to kids.  While they’re more expensive, I feel that they have enough material to compensate.  If you have young children, or work in a library or school with a wide range of learners, this book would be a valuable investment.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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