When I read about the Chinese New Year contest that Jimmie‘s hosting, I thought this week would be the perfect time to take a break from the human body study we’ve been working on for the past three or four weeks (and which I hope to post about in the near future) and add another Five in a Row title to our list: The Story About Ping. The obvious connection here is the setting, since Ping is set in China. However, I’ll save my thoughts and our activities pertaining to the prodigal duck for another post. This post is about how we “celebrated” the Chinese New Year on Monday here at the House of Hope. I thought a day spent in celebration would be a good way to introduce Ping, and, well, I can’t pass up a contest.
For us, of course, it is all about the books. I have very little knowledge about China and its customs myself, so I hied me to the library and brought home all the resources I could find. I checked out the requisite nonfiction series titles about China, none of which are stand-outs. However, I find that such books provide as much background information as we need (I pick and choose what to read), and they also often provide excellent pictures to provide a landscape for what we learn.
Two books, though, really did the job of “showing” us what a Chinese New Year celebration might look like. The first one is an oldie–Moy Moy by Leo Politi, first published fifty years ago, in 1960. Granted, this is a story set not in China, but in Chinatown, Los Angeles. It’s the story of a little girl named Lily (called Moy Moy, or “Little Sister,” by everyone in her neighborhood) and her four brothers and the preparations and time period leading up to Chinese Near Year. This story does a great job of putting a face on the celebration–namely, Moy Moy’s face. This is perfect, since my own little girls are close in age to her. We learned about many Chinese New Year traditions, but the ones that made the biggest impression on my girls are the lion and dragon parades. This story is very engagingly told, and the illustrations are colorful (in that 1950′s way ) and interesting. This is one that I think my girls would listen to over and over again.
The other book is one I just used as a resource, but I wanted to mention it because it’s a good one. Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities, and Recipes is a book written by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz with the help of The Children’s Museum of Boston. It is just what it says it is: a book which contains all kinds of fun things to read, do, and eat that center around Chinese festivals and holidays. The only thing I actually used out of this book this week is the instructions on how to make a paper lantern, but if a study of China is something you plan for your children, I think this would be an almost indispensible aide. The craft activities and recipes are interspersed among folktales, etc., so it’s a book that could be useful in many ways.
Okay, so what did we do, besides read?
First, we made paper lanterns.
After this, the girls were inspired to create their own illustrations based on the Chinese calendar. I mistakenly told them that this new year is the Year of the Dragon (sorry, Jimmie!), hence Lulu’s dragon:
Louise’s started out to be a dragon, but she changed it mid-drawing into an octopus (“with ears”):
We spent a few moments looking at Jimmie’s own Happy New Year post. Best of all, we had lunch from our favorite Chinese restaurant, thanks to Steady Eddie and yet another snow day that kept him home from work.
Thanks, Jimmie, for the inspiration to do this! It was a lot of fun!