Book Review: 16 Chinese Picture Books Celebrating Families Ties and Grandparents

This post summarises six book sets (16 books in total) written in Simplified Chinese for children to enjoy about families, family values, and especially grandparents. Of all the ties we have in life, family are the most important.

Chinese New Year, or the Lunar New Year, is synonymous with buying new clothes, overdosing on the colour red, ang pows, endless cookies and pineapple tarts, and singing.  But the thing we’ll likely all be missing this year is the family element.   COVID has brought a standstill to the days of visiting and massive family gatherings. 

For us, Chinese New Year it’s a stark reminder that it’s been one year already of social distancing, mask wearing, and inability to travel overseas to visit parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles.  That’s what has inspired this post, and the books our family has been reading this week. 

One reason I particularly like these books highlighted below is that they demonstrate that every family is different – some are blended families, others adopted, or single parent ones, and that is okay.  It’s love that makes a family.  These books have been helpful in answering / averting some awkward questions my children have asked in front of other families who are different to ours.

Books in this post

Toddlers & Preschoolers (all bilingual Chinese-English)

  • Peppa Pig’s Family: 1st Bilingual Book Series (小猪佩奇)
  • Todd Parr’s Taste of Home Book Set (家的味道)
  • Book of Family & Book of Global Celebration – Habbi Habbi

Primary Schoolers (all Simplified Chinese, without pinyin)

  • My Favourite Grandma (最喜爱的奶奶)
  •  Full Moon (满月)
  • Culture Is Found in Our Festivals (文化都在节日里)

Peppa Pig: 1st Bilingual Board Book Series 4-Book Set (Chinese Bilingual)

Author:  Ladybird Books Ltd / Entertainment One
Country of original publication: United Kingdom
Language: Simplified Chinese and English (Bilingual)
~ Pages per book:  16
~ Lines per page:  1 – 2
~ Books in series: 4
~Pinyin: no
~ Audio available: Luka
Available in Singapore NLB libraries: yes
Target age range: 1 to 4

This set of four hardcover books focuses on family.  In each book, Peppa introduces a new member of her family, and discusses their unique characteristics.   The story would appeal most to a 1-3 year old, and readable by a young reader as it has simple words from daily life.

Peppa Pig (小猪佩奇) is often said to be a great cartoon show for kids beginning in Mandarin, because it’s so short, slow paced and simple, with large amounts of repetition. The same can be said of this book series. 

Books in the series:

我妈妈 My Mummy
我爸爸 My Daddy
我爷爷 My Grandpa
我奶奶 My Granny

The Taste of Home Book Set 家的味道 淘弟有个大世界

Author: Todd Parr
Country of original publication: U.S.A
Language: Simplified Chinese & English (Bilingual)
~ Pages per book: 30
~ Lines per page: 1-2
~ Number of Books: 7*
~Pinyin: No
~ Audio available: Luka compatible (in Chinese & English)
~ In Singapore NLB: Yes
Target age range: 2 to 6

In Todd Parr’s iconic style, this book is filled with bright and simple illustrations, to bring short quirky sentences to life. My kids like it that the illustrations show only Chinese words, so it really feels like a book written in Chinese, despite also having the English subtitles. 

The books are progressive, in that they describe many different types of families which exist in the world today.  In the Grandma book, for example, it says “Some grandmas live with a grandpa, and some grandma’s live with their friends”, with a picture of an elderly home.  It’s a really sweet way to put it.  We also like “Some grandmas drive slow, and other drive fast”, with a picture of a racing granny in a wheelchair!

The grandparent books in this set are especially nice reminder of the bond between grandparents and grandchildren.  So many things which we miss out through not being there physically in person with each other – like telling stories, giving kisses, wiggling ears, etc.  So reading this book together helps us to recall and share these lovely physical memories we have from pre-COVID.

In all, the set of seven Todd Parr books embrace differences in a playful way, and reassure the reader that whether your family is big or small, messy or clean, that each family is special. 

*Note: One book in this set is not available in Singapore NLB catalogue (it was “axed” so to speak….  ), and audio is also unavailable through Luka.

Books in the series

家庭书 The Family Book * [not available in NLB or through Luka]
妈妈书 The Mummy Book
爸爸书 The Daddy Book
奶奶书 The Grandma Book
爷爷书 The Grandpa Book
我爱你 The I Love You Book
爱让我们在一起 We Belong Together

Book of Family & Book of Global Celebrations – by Habbi Habbi

Author:  Habbi Habbi
Country of original publication: U.S.A
Language: Simplified Chinese-English (Bilingual) or English-Spanish
~ Pages: 10
~ Lines per page: 4
~Pinyin: Yes
~ Audio available: yes, through Habbi Habbi Reading Wand
~ In Singapore NLB: No
Target age range: 2 to 5

Habbi Habbi are unique bilingual board books, well suited to toddlers and also beginning Mandarin readers.  I wrote an earlier post about Habbi Habbi Book sets, and their Reading Wand, which brings book sets to life.  In this post, I want to highlight two topical books from the Habbi Habbi Collection:

Book of Family

The book does a great job to portray many different family combinations, and the hard work it can be, along with the beauty of families. In Asia, we see lots of single child families, and lots of multigenerational households, which is less well reflected in typical Western literature.

One things we’re often challenged with in Chinese families is also how to decode the family tree – like what name to call your father’s brother’s wife, or the cousin on your mother’ side etc etc?  Especially given the importance of addressing people correctly in Chinese etiquette, we love that the book has a family tree which attempts to explain this all! 

Decoding the Chinese Family Tree, Habbi Habbi style

Book of Global Celebrations

This very newly released Habbi Habbi book covers Thanksgiving, Lunar New Year, Bastille Day, Day of the Dead, Holi, Eid, and Carnival!   By tapping the Reading Wand on the book’s pages, it contains added features like exploring the objects and food at the celebration, or traditional greetings and songs.  It’s nice to see a family with grandparents surrounding a food-laden table to celebration the Chinese Lunar New Year.

As with all the Habbi Habbi collection, both of these books celebrate values such as diversity and inclusion and empathy.  This can be seen through the illustrations – which show diversity of faces and races – and the very intentional choice of words in their phrases.

My Favourite Grandma 最喜爱的奶奶 (aka Dearest Grandma)

Author:  日野重明 (Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara)
Country of original publication: Japan
Language: Simplified Chinese
~ Pages per book: 32
~ Lines per page:  3 – 6
~ Number of Books: 1
~Pinyin: No
~ Audio available: Luka compatible
~ In Singapore NLB: No
Recommended for Ages: 4-12

This delightful book, translated from Japanese, is a poignant read.  A little girl loves spending time with her Grandma – playing games together, going for walks, and listening to the older woman’s wisdom.  One day, Grandma becomes unwell, and after a stint in hospital, she grows weaker and weaker, and eventually is unable to neither walk nor talk.  The girl,  茉莉, recalls the happy times, and after asking many questions, realises that loved ones live on in our hearts forever.   

For many Chinese families, the Chinese New Year Eve involves some type of ‘ancestor’ worship, and creates questions with the littlies.  This book is a nice way to talk about the delicate subject of illness and death, and also being grateful and appreciate of the elderly in our families.  It’s a touching read, an the illustrations, with a very Asian feel, are equally moving.  One picture which brings back memories for me is the Grandma teaching her beloved granddaughter a game with string, which I was also taught by my grandmother, and which I’ve taught my children.

This book was given to us by Lin Xin from My Story Treasury, and we thoroughly enjoyed reading her recommendation, with the help of our Luka Reading Companion.  She shared the Chinese saying  “An elderly at home, is like a treasure”. 家有一老,如有一宝. This book is also a treasure on our bookshelf.

The book author is equally fascinating. Dr Hinohara was a celebrated Medical Doctor in Japan, who, at the ripe of old age of 78 decided to start writing literature. This book, My Favourite Grandma, was written when has was 103. He passed away age 105. I find Japanese authors like this most fascinating – they have such a heartfelt desire to share their learnings with the younger generation, and continue to do so at the end of their lives. In echoes similarly to author Satoshi Kako who wrote the excellent series Crow Bakery at age 87 to share business skills with his grandchildren.

Full Moon 满月 

Author:  保冬妮
Country of original publication: China
Language: Simplified Chinese
Pages: 30
Lines per page:  6
Pinyin: No
Audio available:
Available in Singapore NLB libraries: Yes
Recommended ages: 5 – 12 with a Chinese speaking adult. 

Beautiful illustrations with another poignant story make Full Moon 满月 a memorable picture book.  It might bring tears too – especially for the adult reader, so it’s worth being ready for.  The concepts contained would also benefit from adult guidance, since it relates to adoption, death (and being grateful).  Whilst these are deep, the overarching message is about positivity, optimism and hope.

A little village girl in rural China is named 满月 (Full Moon), because she was born on the day of a full moon.  Her parents pass away whilst she is very young, and before passing away, the girl’s mother assures her that Mummy and Daddy will be back to visit when there is a full moon in the sky.    The orphaned girl is cared for by an elder in the village, until a childless couple from the city adopt her.   She grows up happy and loved, and always remembers her biological parents, and the kind grandfather who cared for her.

Full Moon is the girl’s name, and also a symbol of her mother’s hope, and the seasons we go through in life, from waxing and waning, to full again.  The focus on the “moon” reminds us that the Chinese calendar is indeed a lunar-related one, and that our celebration of the Lunar New Year starts on the first new moon of the year, and will end 14 days later on the first full moon of the lunar calendar. 

I have written a longer review of this touching story in an earlier post.

Culture Is Found in Our Festivals 文化都在节日里

Language: Simplified Chinese
~ Pages in book: 16
~ Lines per page:  ~ 20 – 30 facts per double page
~Pinyin: No
~ Audio available: No
~ Available in Singapore NLB libraries: No (it’s a bit delicate to be a sharing book!)
Target age range: 3 to 12

We don’t have many pop-up books – but this one makes up for all that!  It’s physically huge in size (larger than A3 size when opened), and filled with amazing pop-up pages which illustrates Chinese Festivals – all showing families.

The book covers 8 major festivals, and includes legends and tales too.  There is a double page spread on Chinese New Year which is stunningly beautiful.  I get a tinge of excitement every time I open the page (then as the children squeal in delight, I remind them it’s delicate and not to play too much!).  

This book has had a lot of ‘reuse’ at our place, as it can be brought out at each of the different festivals.   The children particularly like that there are three families’ stories woven throughout this book, at each of the festivals:  being a nuclear family of four; a little boy with a dog; and a grandson / grandfather pair.  It’s nice to see different families observing the celebrations.   The importance of family really resonates throughout: it’s through a family that the traditions and the festivals have their meaning.

Our favorite page in the book! At A3 sized pop-up.

Where to buy the books?

This post is not intended as an advertorial, however readers tend to ask me where I got our books from.  So here are some leads, hopefully with the most cost competitive options (if you have better suggestions, please let me know!).

We bought these books from a combination of:

  • Taobao : We have bought some great books from Taobao, but we’ve also bought some disasters!
  • My Story Treasury in Singapore: My Story Treasury is a lovingly curated collection of Chinese picture story books for kids.  My blog readers can have a 10% discount if you use “LahLahBanana10” at checkout from their store (note – I’m not affiliated, and don’t earn anything from this, it’s a benefit to you only). There are several other fantastic children’s bookstores in Singapore too who stock some of these books.  Buying local is totally the best. 
  • Habbi Habbi : which came gifted to us from the US supplier. We just loved Habbi Habbi Reading Wand and Books, and everything the company stands for.

Most of the books can be narrated page-by-page with Luka Reading Robot for Chinese audio. For our family, this is an essential.

Enjoy and celebrate life with your family!

I hope you and your family will spend some time Lunar New Year reflecting on the importance of family ties, and are looking forward to an excellent year ahead on your bilingual journey.

If you enjoyed this post, I have written a few earlier blog posts about books to enjoy together as a family, which celebrate families, kindness and peace, at the links below:

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