top of page

Picture Books for the New Year

Celebrate the Lunar New Year with a colorful zodiac read

This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn commissions from qualifying purchases made from this article.

A mom reads a picture book in bed with her two kids.

We're kicking off our 2023 cultural library with the colorful children's picture book The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Christopher Corr.

Summary: The Great Race is a simplified origin story of the Chinese zodiac calendar.

When the Jade Emperor needs a way of measuring time, he decides to host a great race. The first twelve animals to cross the river will be assigned a year, and all 12 years combined will form the Chinese zodiac calendar.

On the day of the race, the animals begin crossing the river one by one. Some swim, others fly, and others get creative :) As each animal reaches the far side of the river, the Jade Emperor awards them a year and a few are given a specific character trait. All 12 years are filled and the calendar is complete.

Cover image of the picture book The Great Race

Why we picked it: The illustrations are so unique! We don't have anything like it in our home library so The Great Race adds nice diversity in both content and illustration style.

What our kids liked most: Our kids loved all the different brightly colored animals featured in the book.

What our kids learned: This book was a great opener to discussing each family member's animal on the Chinese zodiac calendar. They each learned which zodiac animals they are and which traits are linked to their birth year.

Recommended buy or borrow: Buy

Overall Review: The Great Race is easy for young kids to understand and is paired with vibrant illustrations to keep them engaged. We had our older daughter name each animal that crossed the river and had our younger daughter imitate each animal's sound. It was fun for them to see all the different ways the animals crossed the river (hint, not all of them swam!)

While The Great Race includes one basic trait for a few of the animals, we wish that it would have had more information at the end of the book. We'll probably make our own insert of the Chinese zodiac calendar and glue it on the end page. This way my kids can easily look up which zodiac animal they are based on their birth year as well as traits linked to that animal. This helps them apply the story to their own lives and makes it more memorable.

When we were looking for a Lunar New Year picture book, we found several different options. Some were focused on explaining the traditional items used to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Others had an added language element with the text in both Chinese and English. So, if you're looking for a Lunar New Year book, you're sure to find a great fit for your family's interests.

Scroll through below to see some of the vibrant illustrations from The Great Race.

Title: The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Author: Christopher Corr

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books

Pub Date: January 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1786030658

Other New Year cultural children's books:

While we haven't read these, we loved being able to find a variety of cultural children's books focused on the New Year! If you've read these, let us know your thoughts.

(recommended by @lamamibilingue)


bottom of page