Chinatown


New York City has to be one of the greatest places in America, if not the world. Luckily for us, many authors have chronicled The Big Apple's antics in a way just right for kids.

Here are some of the books available. This is not yet a complete list, but I'm adding books to the list daily. If you wish to purchase any of these books, click on either the title or the book cover to be directed to Amazon.com. As a warning, I have put up pictures of the book covers to give you somewhat an idea of the style of each book (I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover") so the pages may load slowly, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

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Fiction and Nonfiction for Beginning Readers



Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year

By Kate Waters & Madeline Slovenz-Low
In brief, simple sentences, Ernie Wan describes his Chinese -American family's celebration of the lunar New Year. Ernie lives in New York City's Chinatown, where traditions are rooted in the culture of southern China. Ernie's father, a kung fu master, choreographs The Lion Dance, the center of the community celebration and a major tourist attraction. This year, Ernie dances in the place of honor under the lion's head. Color photographs depict private and public festivities.

Description from School Library Journal

Chinatown

By William Low
In Chinatown, a young boy goes for a walk with his grandmother and describes the sights and the people on the busy streets. Delivery trucks, tai chi students, ducks hanging in the food store, fresh snapping crabs, and crowds watching the Chinese New Year celebration are vividly brought to life in full-page, vibrant oil paintings. This is a warm introduction to an urban community that captures images of interest to a child, from a child's perspective. The text reads aloud nicely, making this title useful for picture-book programs. While the setting is New York City's Chinatown, the stores, signs, and activities could be in any Chinese community across the U.S.

Description from School Library Journal

A fictionalized walking tour of New York's Chinatown at the time of the New Year celebration, conducted by a young Chinese- American boy and his grandmother. Together they make their way through the crowded, colorful streets, into shops and restaurants, and past street vendors. They watch the traditional New Year's Day parade and lion dance, and wish each other "Gung hay fat choy." Low's full-bleed oil paintings glow with red, gold, green, and turquoise; as is true of Low's work for Elaine Moore's Good Morning, City, the pages are full of atmospheric lighting effects, as when morning sun first strikes the upper stories of the buildings, then streams through a window into the dark, dusty interior of an herbal shop, or when flames leap beneath a huge restaurant wok, or firecrackers spark and jump about the great tossing head of the New Year's lion. Readers will enjoy comparing Low's paintings with some similar scenes (roasted ducks hanging in a restaurant window, an open-air fishmonger, youngsters training in a kung fu studio, the squat black drum and colorful banners in the parade) photographed by Martha Cooper for Kate Waters's Lion Dancer

Description from Kirkus Reviews

My Chinatown: One Year in Poems

By Kam Mak
Children whose ideas about life in New York's Chinatown come solely from books about holiday celebrations will get a deeper glimpse from this former resident's solo debut. In four ruminative, simply phrased free-verse poems, one for each season, Mak looks back to childhood: to feeling homesick for Hong Kong, or excited by the annual Dragon Boat races; happily spoiling his appetite for dinner with fish balls purchased from a cart; and drifting off to sleep next to his mother as she does piecework on her sewing machine. There are no colorful urban street scenes or (with the exception of the Dragon Boat race) panoramic views in Mak's sober, extraordinary paintings. Instead, he focuses on individual figures-a curbside fortune-teller, a cobbler, a wide-eyed child drinking in a shop-rendered with photographic realism and placed against plain, undecorated backgrounds. The mood is generally wistful, though brightened at the end by a New Year's lion float prancing into view. The distinctly personal voice and sensibility makes this a natural companion for the more community-conscious tour in William Low's Chinatown.

Description from School Library Journal

Extraordinary photo-realistic paintings and spare, free-verse poems bring New York's Chinatown to life in this picture book with appeal to a wide age group. Organized chronologically through the seasons, the poems follow a young boy from Hong Kong through his first year in the U.S. Written in the boy's voice, the words capture the fear and discomfort of adjusting to newness: "The English words taste like metal in my mouth." But as the year progresses, the boy feels the irresistible vitality of his new community, helped along by signs of the familiar; and at year's end, he exuberantly celebrates the dragon parade and his new home: "Drums beat / feet stamp / hands clap / voices shout / Chinatown, / this is Chinatown!" The words and pictures work beautifully together; both glow with a quiet intensity that complements rather than overpowers the other. Whether or not they've known displacement, readers will come away with a deeper interest in Chinatown's culture and in immigration stories in general. Suggest this to teachers doing units on home and place.

Description from Booklist, Starred Review

I Hate English!

By Ellen Levine
A realistic, sympathetic story of the problems of learning a new language and culture, with cartoonlike illustrations of a distraught, angry, or pleased young girl from Hong Kong set against a background of New York's Chinatown.

Description from Horn Book

"Such a lonely language. Each letter stands alone and makes its own noise. Not like Chinese." Mei Mei, a bright and articulate immigrant from Hong Kong, is having much difficulty adjusting to the new language and culture at school in New York City. When she hears a story in English about traveling by covered wagon, Mei Mei cries. ``She didn't want English to have words that she didn't know in Chinese. . . . She felt she might lose something.'' A sensitive teacher takes Mei Mei under her wing, literally bombarding the girl with words, and succeeds in breaking through her fear of losing her identity. This story of cultural adjustment rings true, and Mei Mei's dilemma is strongly affecting. Her disgruntlement with English, the fun of an outing to Jones Beach, to cite two contrasting examples, are brought vividly to life by Bjorkman's cartoon-style illustrations (watercolor with pen-and-ink outline). Differentiating carefully between the Asian and Caucasian characters, the breezy humor of the pictures alleviates what otherwise would have been a burdensome bibliotherapeutic message.

Description from Publishers Weekly

The Dancing Dragon

By Marcia K. Vaughan
The Chinese New Year is about to begin. There's lots to do--tie strings of firecrackers outside, hang up red scrolls, bake special cakes, and sing New Year's songs. And when family and friends are gathered together, it's time for the parade to begin. This book folds out to reveal all the color and excitement of a traditional Chinese New Year celebration, complete with dancing dragon!

Description from Publisher

I have read this book to my daughter's nursery school class (of 2 - 6 year olds) for the last two Chinese New Year's. It is an accordian style book so you need to practice holding/reading it but quite worthwhile. The children were all interested in watching the dragon unfold and there is a good rhythm to the words. Nice preparation especially if they will have a parade of their own later. It does not make any pretense of explaining Chinese New Year. You would need look at additional books for that or the (animal) horoscopes.

Description from Amazon.com Customer Review

In rhymed couplets, a Chinese-American child describes the excitement, preparation, and festivities of the Chinese New Year, culminating in a parade that includes a magnificent dragon carried aloft on sticks. The format of the book is foldout cardboard; for best effect, after reading it aloud, stand it on a table to show the eight-page panorama of this fine, fierce creature and the appreciative throng of celebrators in the streets of Chinatown. The watercolor-and-gouache illustrations are full of bright colors and action, reflecting the culture and the festivities. Combine this title with Kate Waters and Madeline Slovenz-Low's Lion Dancer, which is more detailed and full of vibrant photographs.

Description from School Library Journal

Sam and the Lucky Money

By Karen Chinn
It's Chinese New Year in Chinatown, and young Sam has four dollars of New Year money burning a hole in his pocket. As he and his mother are milling through the crowded streets--alive with firecrackers, lion dances, and shoppers--Sam accidentally steps on the foot of a homeless man who is buried in a pile of red paper. Flustered, Sam hurries back to his mother, and is soon distracted by the char siu bao and other sweets he might buy with his gift money. When he sees fish-tail cookies that remind him of toes, he remembers the old man again, and Sam starts to think of his "lucky money" in a new light. Karen Chinn's winning story is perfectly complemented by the vibrant watercolors of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, creators of the award-winning Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree and A House by the River. Voted "Pick of the Lists" by American Bookseller, Sam and the Lucky Money succeeds at telling a simple story, while allowing young readers to explore the sights and sounds of an American urban Chinatown during the Chinese New Year.

Description from Amazon.com

Beautiful, vivid watercolors bring to life this tale of a young boy eager to spend his ucky moneyon Chinese New Year day. As Sam searches the streets of Chinatown for ways to spend his four dollars, he stumbles upon a stranger in need. After he decides to give, rather than spend, his money, Sam realizes that he's he lucky one.The heartwarming story is told in a well-paced text.

Description from Horn Book

Every year, Sam's grandparents celebrate the Chinese New Year by giving him "lucky money": brand new dollar bills, each inside a special red envelope called a leisee. This year he got four dollars, and he can spend it any way he wants. So Sam and his mother go to Chinatown, a place so crowded with New Year's shoppers that Sam accidentally steps on a homeless man, barefoot and dirty. It doesn't take long for Sam to discover that four dollars won't go as far as he'd like-not even close to enough for the basketball he's got his eye on. On the way back home a frustrated and pouting Sam again meets the homeless man. And he realizes that to this dirty, barefoot human being four dollars is a fortune. This book's beautiful watercolor illustrations mesh perfectly with the text to capture the color, bustle, and excitement of Chinatown at New Year's.

Description from Children's Literature <



Fiction For Older Readers



Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Fortune Cookie Fox

By Cathy East Dubowski
Sabrina is the target of pranks by a Chinese exchange student who turns out to be a magical creature called a Chinese Fox. Searching for a way to bring the trickery to an end, Sabrina journeys to New York's Chinatown and the Great Wall of China.

Description from Publisher



Nonfiction For Older Readers



City Within a City:
How Kids Live in New York's Chinatown

By Kathleen Krull
In a welcome pair of 'at-home' versions of the colorful cultural profileswe've been seeing about kids in other countries, Latino children in Southern California's Chula Vista {The Other Side, BRD 1995} and Chinese-American children in New York City's Chinatown here talk about how they've learned to mediate two cultures, the one they were born into and the one to which their parentshave brought them. In many ways, these books are a model for the genre. They're strongly focused on the young subjects, there's a greater emphasis on daily life than on exotic foods or 'festivals,' and the color photos are plentiful, sharp, and unposed.

Description from Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books




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