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From The Asian Reporter, V15, #6 (February 8, 2005), page 13.
A warm and rollicking adventure to share year after year
My First Chinese New Year
By Karen Katz
Henry Holt, 2004
Hardcover, 26 pages, $14.95
By Josephine Bridges
Hooray! Hooray!" begins My First Chinese New Year, and the enthusiasm stays high all the way through this book as a little girl shares her preparations for and excitement about the Lunar New Year.
After she and her mother decorate the walls with red paper for good luck, our narrator and her little sister sweep last year’s bad luck away. Then she and her father buy plum and quince blossoms. "The tiny buds remind us that new things can always grow."
The narrator and her grandfather make an altar to honor their ancestors. Bowls filled with tangerines and oranges "stand for money and good luck." After haircuts and shopping for brand-new clothes with Mom, the narrator and her grandmother "make a special soup to bring good health." Later, she confides, "I will fold the dumplings with my cousin."
Family is clearly an essential element of a Chinese New Year, and on New Year’s Eve, "grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles come over to share our feast," which includes "Eight Precious rice pudding."
On New Year’s Day, the grown-ups give the little ones money in red envelopes for more good luck, and then, "At last it is time for the Chinese New Year parade!"
Karen Katz, also the author of My First Kwanzaa, Over the Moon, The Colors of Us, and Counting Kisses, has written a delightful guide to Chinese New Year preparations and festivities for youngsters of all ethnic backgrounds. Her collage and mixed media illustrations are just as vivacious as her narrator. The family feast is a delicious riot of color and pattern, and the sky above the parade is filled with fireworks. You can almost hear it and smell it.
A note at the end of the book concludes with these details: "Chinese New Year begins at the second new moon after winter solstice, sometime between mid-January and mid-February. The holiday lasts for fifteen days, and each day is distinguished with a different activity, such as visiting relatives or eating special foods."
My First Chinese New Year is a warm and rollicking adventure to share year after year.