Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)

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To celebrate recently published books about Chinese culture and the Chinese language, I wanted to share a list of all my favorite children’s picture books related to China. Please let me know if you have any favorite books that aren’t on this list! I’d love to know those, too.

Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)

My First Mandarin Words with Gordon & Li Li
by Michele Wong McSween
Colorful, readable, and engaging — learn words everyday words, animal words, and numbers in Mandarin in this sturdy, oversized board book. Each word is illustrated with cute cartoons of pandas. The words are written in English, Mandarin, and Pinyin plus the phonetic pronunciations.

Gordon & Li Li Learn Animals in Mandarin Coloring & Activity Book
by Michele Wong McSween
If you have readers, you’ll love this impressive coloring book/workbook combo that will help children learn and practice Mandarin. Find the word, trace the word, and do many other activities like coloring, mazes, and spotting the difference.

Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
Bring In the New Year
by Grace Lin
The family prepares for New Year — Jie-Jie sweeps the old year out of the house, Ba-Ba hangs the poems, Ma-Ma makes the dumplings, everyone does their part. Richly patterned artwork makes this story pop.


Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
Dim Sum for Everyone
by Grace Lin
Lin invites readers to learn all about this delicious Chinese cuisine as a family picks out their food to eat. Yum!


The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang, illustrated by Lorian Tu
Sing along with this cheerful and exuberant story that rewrites the words to the familiar “Wheels on the Bus” song, making it a story about a large, multi-generational Chinese family sharing a meal together.Nai Nai drinks her tea with a hoo, hoo, hoo…Ye Ye eats noodles going slurp, slurp, slurp. Ge Ge eats tofu with a squish, squish, squish.” Seeing the yummy foods the family eats will make you hungry for some rice, noodles, and dumplings yourself.

Ten Blocks to the Big Wok
by Ying-Hwa Hu
Bilingual in English and Mandarin, this is a playful story of a girl and her dad walking ten blocks through Chinatown, counting things they see like four miniature trees on the fourth block and seven silk fans on the seventh block. When they arrive at the restaurant for dim sum, they count the delicious foods–9 fried wontons, 8 shumai, 7 tofu-shin rolls, and more.

Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
by Dawn Casey
The Jade Emperor decides to name each calendar year after an animal and will pick the order based off the first twelve animals who finished in a race. 13 animals start but only 12 can finish. Who do you predict will be out?


Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
Riding on a Caravan: A Silk Road Adventure
by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Helen Cann
A family travels on the Silk Road with camels and cargo. Narration of the nine month journey with detailed illustrations of the trip is accompanied by a delightful lyrical refrain: “We’re riding on a caravan, a bumpy, humpy caravan, We’re riding on a caravan to places far away.” Back matter shares the story of silk and a map of the Silk Road. Read this book to introduce kids to this important piece of history and culture.


 Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes
by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by David Roberts
Richly detailed illustrations accompany this delightful twist on a classic fairy tale. Ming Da became emperor of China as a boy. His ministers stole from the treasury but instead of firing them, Ming Da found a better way to teach them a lesson. With the help of his tailors, he tricked the Ministers into thinking his new clothes made of burlap rice sacks were magical, that only honest people could see the splendor. The tailors trick the Ministers into giving back the jewels and silk they stole and were so embarrassed they fled the country. Kids will love the Chinese cultural elements within the illustrations like the designs, the hairstyles, the dragons, and the fashion.


Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
The Empty Pot
by Demi
The Emperor gives all the children in his kingdom a flower seed to plant and grow. Ping loves flowers but his seed fails to grow. He takes his empty pot to the Emperor and admits that the seed failed to grow. To his surprise, the Emperor rewards Ping for his honesty.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao
by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua
Amy can do a lot of things but she can’t make bao very well. Amy watches the dough rise, her dad rolls the dough while Amy’s dad makes the filling. Amy tries to make her own bao but she tries and tries and she just can’t. Then Amy has a great idea — to make Amy-sized pieces. Perfect! They get boiled and taste delicious. Want to make your own bao? There’s a family recipe in the back. A yummy introduction to Chinese dumplings and that with a little creative problem solving, you can achieve your goals.

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale
 by Ying Chang Compesten
Sort of a Gingerbread Man and Jack and the Beanstalk hybrid story, a boy returns home with a wok instead of food. To make matters worse, the work runs away. But, it returns…with quite a surprise!


Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
Crouching Tiger
by Ying Chang Compestine illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
This story captures a common story of feeling embarrassed about being different. When Vinson’s grandpa from China visits, Vinson is embarrassed. However, Vinson learns grandpa is a martial-arts master and starts to see grandpa him as someone to be proud of. The elements of Chinese culture like tai chi and clothing make us all learn proud Vinson can be of his culture.



Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
The Cat from Hunger Mountain
by Ed Young (maybe CHINA, somewhere in Asia)
Gorgeous mixed-media collage illustrates a new fable-like tale with a valuable life lesson. Lord Cat, is a greedy and wasteful landowner until famine strikes his land. At his lowest point, desperate for food and shelter, he meets a kind monk who feeds him from the Lord Cat’s wasted rice from upstream. “And for the first time ever, he knew what it felt like to be truly blessed.”

Fairy Tale Picture Books
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong
My daughter says this picture book is SO MUCH better than the original “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” because in this story of a young Chinese girl named Goldy, Goldy returns to the scene of her crime to apologize and help fix things. This is a better ending. I agree!

Hot Pot Night!
by Vincent Chen
Lyrical, simple, and repetitive language narrates the story of a young boy who brings his neighbors who all contribute ingredients and tools including a hot pot to make a hot pot communal meal. This meal that is traditional in Taiwan (not China) brings many people by preparing and sharing a meal. “Hot pot, hot pot, let’s have a hot pot!

Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty and the Beast Tale
by Laurence Yep, illustrated by Kam Mak
With similarities to the French Beauty and the Beast story, this a unique Chinese fairy tale about a brave daughter who tries to save her father from a dragon who is really a prince.


Demi’s written illustrated a gorgeous, detailed biography about the Chinese philosopher Confucius. She explains how he became a tutor then sought to improve society through public service and compassion. The amount of text makes this better for upper elementary age students, 8 and up.


Children’s Books About the Chinese Language of Mandarin

Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
Mandarin: 100 Mandarin Words to Learn (First Words)
by Lonely Planet Kids
From hello to book to movie theater, learn basic Mandarin words in this brightly illustrated book. On the left side of the page, the word is written in English then in Mandarin characters with the phonetic script and pronunciation. For example, cat is , māo (mao). This book is quite visually appealing — it would be fun to go through a word a day! Use the QR code on the back or visit the First Words website to hear the words pronounced by a native child.


ShaoLan created this system to show children how to remember Chinese characters by imagining them as pictures. It works, too. I’m always going to remember person and tree. You HAVE to check this out — I’d really impressed. I think this method could revolutionize teaching non-Mandrain speakers!


 Picture Books About China and the Chinese Language (Mandarin)
My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Language and Culture
by Faye-Lynn Wu, illustrated by Aya Padron
Beautiful illustrations show family life while sharing the Chinese language and culture.


The Pet Dragon: A Story about Adventure, Friendship, and Chinese Characters
by Christoph Niemann
Lin has a pet dragon. They do everything together — play ping-pong, teak stories, and play hide and seek. Then one day, Lin’s dragon disappears. She must find where he is! As you read, you’ll be impressed at how the author/illustrator incorporates the Chinese characters (Mandarin) into captivating illustrations. I LOVE everything about this book.

The Hanmoji Handbook Your Guide to the Chinese Language Through Emoji
by Jason Li, An Xiao Mina, and Jennifer 8. Lee
A cute little pig character guides readers through this book of Chinese characters and emojis that make Hanmoji and help kids learn the Chinese language. For each character, you’ll read the word in Mandarin Pinyin and Cantonese Jyutping which use letters from the English alphabet, the Chinese characters, the simplified Chinese character, than illustration in the form of an emoji.  The book introduces words of the five elements, people words, and phrases. My eldest daughter LOVES this book!

picture books about China and the Chinese language and culture
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