My nephew Austin just turned five. Holidays seem to be made for children. Children have a sense of joy and wonder that make holidays particularly fun.
Children might not be able to stay up to see the new year arrive (Jews might have the right idea there — have holidays start at sunset). But, they too are excited about the new year. Except when they realize Christmas vacation is over.
The new year is a time for new beginnings. It is a time to set forth goals and resolutions. Children can take part in this as well. Books can be used to help. They also can simply be fun, including possible presents (there are EIGHT days of Hanukkah, after all).
My purpose here is to provide some of the best children’s books out there about the new year. Things I looked for: the author and illustrator’s reputation, what others are saying about them, how approachable they are for the target audience, and any deficits that might be red flags.
Note: The intended ages are just averages and the books might be enjoyed by others too.
TOP TEN BOOKS
Every Month Is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World by Marilyn Singer (Author), Susan L. Roth (Illustrator)
Not everyone celebrates the New Year on January 1st. This book uses poetry to highlight sixteen new years festivals celebrated throughout the year by cultures worldwide.
Intended Audience: 7-10 Years
Feedback: Critics celebrate this “rich compendium of poetry, collage, and cultural and historical information” that teaches children about many cultural traditions. A few readers did not like the poetry approach and wanted more real-life photos of the material.
Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela by Alexandra Alessandri (Author), Addy Rivera Sonda (Illustrator)
Ava Gabriela is visiting her extended family in Colombia for the holidays, but is very shy, especially among people she does not know. Ava is excited about taking part in family traditions, but will her shyness be a problem?
Intended Audience: 4-7 Years.
Feedback: This is a good book to learn about ethnic traditions as well as the fact that some children are quiet and shy. Children can learn, empathize, and relate to the main character. Spanish phrases are dropped in and explained to the reader.
Just in Time for New Year’s!: A Harry and Emily Adventure by Karen Gray Ruelle
Two kittens try to stay up late to see the new year arrive. This is one of many “holiday house” adventures of these characters.
Intended Audience: 6-8 Years.
Feedback: A colorfully illustrated book portraying a cozy, comfortable home. A useful book to help early grades learn about the holiday. Children who like to stay up will relate to the story.
New Year (A Lunar New Year Book for Kids) by Mei Zihan (Author), Qin Leng (Illustrator)
It’s Lunar New Year and a father thinks about his daughter, who is now living far away. He imagines how she is celebrating the holiday while thinking about her growing up and moving away to be on her own.
Intended Audience: 9-18 Years.
Feedback: A sentimental book that teaches about the lunar new year and the complexities of family. Has special meaning in the age of COVID with families often kept apart. The author both writes for children and is a professor; she lives in China.
The Night Before New Year’s by Natasha Wing (Author), Amy Wummer (Illustrator)
Another title in Natasha Wing’s bestselling Night Before series. It’s the night before New Year’s, and the whole family is determined to stay up until midnight!
Intended Audience: 3-7 Years
Feedback: Another favorite from a well-known children’s book author. Good for reading aloud. Multiple readers praise its age-appropriate explanations. Some liked other books by the author better. One reader flagged the “pop-up text” as not working well as an e-book.
P. Bear’s New Year’s Party: A Counting Book by Owen Paul Lewis (Author), Paul Owen Lewis (Illustrator)
P. Bear’s New Year’s party teaches children counting skills as they count off his animal guests.
Intended Audience: 2-4 Years
Feedback: People have praised this book for its illustrations and fun approach to teaching children basic counting skills. One reviewer noted that its simple black, white, and read illustrations are ideal for young readers.
Shante Keys and the New Year’s Peas by Gail Piernas-Davenport (Author), Marion Eldridge (Illustrator)
Shanté Keys loves New Year’s Day! But while Grandma fixed chitlins, baked ham, greens, and cornbread, she forgot the black-eyed peas! Oh no―it’ll be bad luck without them!
Intended Audience: 4-8 Years.
Feedback: Bright colorful illustrations. A good way to introduce children to other cultures (such as African-American) and honor their own. One reviewer flagged possible problems with the Scottish culture references.
Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller (Author), Kathi Ember (Illustrator)
Squirrel knows that New Year’s Day is a great day for making resolutions! But what does it mean to make a resolution, anyway?
Intended audience: 5-7.
Feedback: Critics single out the “detailed acrylic painting” and simple story with a basic message that is ideal for the audience. Good sense of humor. Might have issues as an e-book. A few thought the story too simplistic.
This is Tet: Rhyming story about Lunar New Year in Vietnam by Tam Bui (Author), Tam Le (Editor), Mai Ngo (Illustrator), Tiny Wrist (Contributor)
This rhyming book, translated from Vietnamese, is about celebrating Tết, the Vietnamese New Year through the curious eyes of a city kid with her family in a northern Vietnamese village.
Intended Audience: Very young readers
Feedback: This book is from the Tiny Wrist Bilingual Vietnamese Books collection. The company’s goal is to provide English and Vietnamese language books to honor Vietnamese culture. Multiple readers have praised this book, including as appropriate for very young readers (2-5 years). One review notes “the three-word verses tell a surprisingly detailed story.”
What is Rosh Hashanah? by Shari Last
This is part of the “Jewish Holiday Series” (six books) and teaches children about the history, traditions, and foods of the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).
Intended Audience: 4-10 Years.
Feedback: A tradition at the Passover Seder is to have a little child ask about why Jews are celebrating the holiday. Children are interested in the “whys” of all holidays. Readers found this book a colorful, fun, and engaging account. Some noted it might best be for readers over six given the reading level.
Bonus book: Happy New Year, Spot! by Eric Hill
One of the many “Spot” books (over 75; does your child have them all?!), this tells the story of young Spot finding a way to celebrate the new year without staying up past his bedtime.
Intended Audience: 3-5 Years.
Feedback: This is a short “board book” (10 pages) that might be more sturdy than other books for your child. Many readers are fans of this series and found this particular book fun and cute as well. Spotting how much people liked the book, I decided it was a good toss onto this list.
HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR (WHENEVER IT COMES!) and RESOLVE TO READ MORE BOOKS!