Books

12 Canadian books to celebrate the Lunar New Year

We’ve put together a list of 12 books by Canadian authors from countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year. 

2024 ushers in the Year of the Dragon across nine countries worldwide

It's time to celebrate the Lunar New Year! Individuals in many Asian countries gather with friends and family to commemorate the beginning of a new year. China, North and South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam all celebrate a centuries-long tradition of a 12-year cycle. Each year is designated an animal who is said to dictate the personalities of each person born during that year. Feb. 10, 2024 marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

In Vietnam, the ox and the rabbit are instead represented by the water buffalo and the cat. 

Here are 12 books by Canadian authors from celebrating countries you can check out to celebrate the Lunar New Year! 

Twelve in a Race by Catherine Little, illustrated by Sae Kimura

A cover of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals beside a short-haired Asian woman with glasses smiling at the camera.
12 In A Race is a children's picture book by Catherine Little. (Plumleaf Press)

Twelve in a Race is a rhyming book teaches kids about the characteristics of each zodiac animal entered in the Emperor's great race and their placement that signifies their order in the lunar new year cycle. 

Catherine Little lives in Toronto with her husband and son, working as an educator, consultant and writer. Her previous books include Endgame and Dragon's Dilemma. 

Sae Kimura is originally from Odawara, Japan and currently lives and works in Toronto. Twelve in a Race is her first illustrated book. 

Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua  

a cover of a children's book featuring dragons between two Asian women smiling at the camera.
Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon is the second book in the Amy Wu series, written by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua. (Simon and Shuster, Wayne Santos, Mai Urai)

In the picture book Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon, Amy Wu loves to craft and her class has been asked to each create their own dragon to share. But despite all of Amy's effort, her dragon doesn't seem right and her friends don't think it's real. Can Amy's family help her create her perfect dragon?

Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon is the second book in the Amy Wu series, after Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao.

Kat Zhang is an American author of books for young readers. Her middle grade and young adult novels include The Emperor's Riddle and What's Left of Me. 

Charlene Chua is a children's author and illustrator based in Hamilton, Ont. She has illustrated all of the Amy Wu books, and other stories including Bye Bye, Binary, the Sports Baby series and Leah's Mustache Party.

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula

A bright book cover featuring young girl in a school uniform beside an Asian woman with long hair and square black glasses smiling at the camera.
The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei is a book by Christina Matula. (Inkyard Press)

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei is the first in a series about Holly-Mei Jones, a young girl from Toronto who is moving to Hong Kong when her mother gets a new job there. But moving means a new life — and leaving the old one behind. It takes determination and a positive attitude for Holly-Mei to adjust to her new world.

Christina Matula is an author raised in Ottawa. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Hong Kong and now lives in Finland with her husband, two children and puppy. The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei was the 2023 Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year and a 2022 Freeman Award Book of Note. The third book in the Holly-Mei series, The-Not-So-Simple Question will be released April 23, 2024. 

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

A hand drawn blue book cover next to a person in cosplay staring at the camera.
Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is a book by Xiran Jay Zhao. (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Xiran Jay Zhao)

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor follows a boy named Zachary Ying as he embarks on a mission after discovering he was born to host the spirit of the First Emperor of China. His journey takes him across China to heist magical artifacts, defeat figures from history and seal the leaking portal to the Chinese underworld before it's too late.

Xiran Jay Zhao is a Vancouver-based author and social media creator. They are a first-generation Chinese immigrant who is passionate about Chinese history, cosplay and anime. Their debut novel Iron Widow, a YA fantasy featuring aliens, giant robots and a quest to battle evil, was a New York Times bestseller. Its sequel, Heavenly Tyrant, will be released on April 30, 2024. 

The Space Between Here & Now by Sarah Suk

On the left is a photo of a woman looking into the camera. On the right is the cover of a book.
The Space Between Here & Now is a book by Sarah Suk. (Farisa Thang, Quill Tree Books)

In The Space Between Here & Now, Aimee Roh has a rare condition called Sensory Time Warp Syndrome. When Aimee smells something that is linked to a memory, she will travel in time to that moment in her life. When Aimee time travels to a memory about her estranged mother, the moment she is brought back to doesn't match up with the story she was told about why her mother left. Aimee decides to travel to Korea in search of some answers.

Sarah Suk is a YA writer living in Vancouver. Her debut novel, Made in Korea, was named one of the best Canadian books for kids and young adults of 2022 by CBC Books

No Place Like Home by Linh S. Nguyen

a hand drawn cover next to a Vietnamese woman with long hair and red lipstick smiling at the camera.
No Place Like Home is a novel by Linda S. Nguyen (HarperCollins Canada, Albert Hong)

Having recently immigrated to Canada, Lan finds herself lonely with only her father while her mom and little brother remain in Vietnam. She takes comfort in her fantasy stories and is shocked when a magical wind whisks her right into the world of her current book. Lan must harness this mysterious wind to help her new friends in the world of Silva and rediscover what it means to be home. 

Linh S. Nguyen is a Vietnamese Canadian author living in Cambridge, Ont. Her previous book is titled Visiting Gales and was illustrated by Christie Wing. She is currently pursuing her PhD in educational philosophy. 

The Stand-In by Lily Chu

An illustrated cover of a woman wearing two outfits and hairstyles next to a blonde woman smiling at the camera.
The Stand-In is a novel by Lily Chu. (Sourcebooks, Fred Lum)

In The Stand-In, Gracie Reed is just trying to hold it together after being fired by her overly "friendly" boss and dealing with being a caregiver for her aging mother. Her world quickly turns on its head when one day a SUV carrying Chinese cinema's golden couple, Wei Fangli and Sam Yao, pulls up beside her. Turns out she's a dead ringer for the famous actress — who asks Gracie to be her stand-in. But playing the role of an elegant movie star — and resisting Sam's charms — proves harder than Gracie bargained for.

Lily Chu writes romantic comedies set in Toronto with strong Asian characters. She is also the author of The ComebackHer book Drop Dead is set for publication in summer 2024. 

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu

A book cover of a man sitting on a stool. The same man poses staring at the camera with his hand on his temple.
We Were Dreamers is a book by Simu Liu. (HarperCollins Publishers)

Simu Liu details his journey from China to Canada to Hollywood, where he becomes the star of Marvel's first Asian superhero film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in his memoir We Were Dreamers.

Born in China, Liu's parents brought him to Canada when he was just four years old. As he grows up, he gets top marks in school, participates in national math competitions and makes his parents proud. But less than a year out of college and disillusioned with the life laid out for him, Liu is determined to carve out his own path. 

We Were Dreamers was on the Canada Reads 2023 longlist

Liu is an actor and writer best known for his work on Greta Gerwig's Barbie, Marvel's Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience. He lives in Los Angeles and Toronto and hosted the 2022 Juno Awards.

You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. by Sheung-King

An Asian man leaning his head on his hand looking at camera next to a purple book cover.
You are Eating an Orange. You are Naked. is a book by Sheung-King. (Maari Sugawara, Book*Hug Press)

You are Eating an Orange. You are Naked. is a surreal novel about a translator who travels the globe with his lover. Along the way, they tell each other stories, pose philosophical questions and share their ideas about the world. It's glamorous and stimulating, but the lover often disappears without explanation.

Sheung-King is a writer born in Vancouver, raised in Hong Kong and currently living in Toronto. You are Eating an Orange. You are Naked. was a 2021 fiction finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award and longlisted for Canada Reads 2021. His next book, Batshit Seven, is set to be released on Feb. 20, 2024. 

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee

A book cover featuring mountains and forest next to a woman with long brown hair looking off camera.
Two Trees Make a Forest is a book by Jessica J. Lee. (Hamish Hamilton, Ricardo A. Rivas)

Two Trees Make a Forest is a nonfiction book that explores how geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories. A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads author Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she traces his story while growing closer to the land he knew. Throughout her adventures, Lee uncovers surprising parallels between nature and human stories that shaped her family and their beloved island. In the memoir, she also turns a critical eye onto colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, and both relied on and often erased the labour and knowledge of local communities.

Two Trees Make a Forest was the winner of the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Prize in Adventure Travel and the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize. It was also a Canada Reads 2021 selection, championed by Scott Helman

Lee is a British Canadian Taiwanese author and environmental historian. She won the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award in 2019. Her first book, Turning, was longlisted for the Frank Hegyi Award for Emerging Authors. She is the co-editor of the essay collection Dog Hearted, and her other books include the upcoming Dispersals on March 12, 2024.

The Language We Were Never Taught To Speak by Grace Lau

A woman with short curly black hair smiles at the camera beside a book cover featuring a head in silhouette on a blue background.
The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak is a poetry collection by Grace Lau. (Guernica Editions)

The poems in The Language We Were Never Taught To Speak use influences from pop culture, the Bible, tech and Hong-Kongese history to reflect and reveal how the stories of immigrants in Canada hold both universal truths and singular distinctions. The book invites the reader to meditate on spirituality, food, and the shape love takes.

Grace Lau is a Hong Kong born Chinese Canadian writer who was raised in Vancouver and currently lives in Toronto. 

Denison Avenue by Daniel Innes & Christina Wong

A black and white illustration of a street of storefronts with signs in mandarin. Red text at the bottom reads, "Denison Avenue."
Denison Avenue is a comic by Daniel Innes, left, and Christina Wong. (ECW Press)

Set in Toronto's Chinatown and Kensington Market, Denison Avenue is a moving portrait of a city undergoing mass gentrification and a Chinese Canadian elder experiencing the existential challenges of getting old and being Asian in North America. Recently widowed, Wong Cho Sum takes long walks through the city, collecting bottles and cans and meeting people on her journeys in a bid to ease her grief.

Denison Avenue is a 2024 Canada Reads selection and will be championed by Naheed Nenshi

Christina Wong is a Toronto writer, playwright and multidisciplinary artist who also works in sound installation, audio documentaries and photography.

Daniel Innes is a multidisciplinary artist from Toronto. He works in painting, installation, graphic and textile design, illustration, sign painting and tattooing.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

Sign up for our newsletter. We’ll send you book recommendations, CanLit news, the best author interviews on CBC and more.

...

The next issue of CBC Books newsletter will soon be in your inbox.

Discover all CBC newsletters in the Subscription Centre.opens new window

now