Books to enjoy about Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival, or Duanwu Festival, (aka Dumpling Festival) is an exciting Chinese celebration filled with legends and traditions.  It’s been celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese Lunar calendar for over 2000 years.  This year, 2021, it falls on June 14th.

As Chinese is not our native language, I try to always make Chinese reading a joy, not a drudgery.  So whenever festivals comer up, I try to ensure we read a good dose of festival related books and doing craft/play around these topics, it is my hope that the children will be genuinely excited to read (in any language, but especially Chinese).

This post summarises four books which we’ve been enjoying as a family to to learn about the history of this festival.

Books reviewed in this post:

  •  小粽子,小粽子 Little Dumpling, Little Dumpling
  • 书名:今天我们包粽子(新加坡华族传统食品系列2)  Today We Are Making Dumplings
  •  文化都在节日里 Culture Is Found in Our Festivals
  • 节日Chinese Holidays (Book 1 & 2)

小粽子,小粽子 Little Dumpling, Little Dumpling

Author: 卷儿
Country of original publication: China
Language: Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese
~ Pages: 41
~ Lines per page: 1 – 2
~Pinyin: No
Audio available:  Yes, with Luka
Available in Singapore NLB libraries: Yes
Target age range: 3 – 8

A compelling tale about when a savoury dumpling meets a sweet dumpling, which charmingly reflects the ingredients and taste of dumplings between northern and southern China. 

As context, the rice dumpling is symbol of the Dragon Boat Festival, however there’s been a long rivalry between the north and south on which type of dumpling is the best.  The dumplings from the north are usually sweeter, filled with red beans.  The southern dumpling are savoury using meat and salted egg yolk.

This story send an important messahe, as the dumplings each realise that despite their sweet and salty differences, they’re united as dumplings and each have their unique merits.

We enjoyed listening to this book narration using our Luka Reading Robot.

书名:今天我们包粽子(新加坡华族传统食品系列2)  Today we are making dumplings

Author: Lin Wenpei
Country of original publication: Singapore
Language: Simplified Chinese
~ Pages: 20
~ Lines per page: 5-9
~Pinyin: Yes
Audio available: No
Available in Singapore NLB libraries: Yes
Target age range: 4 – 8

Singaporean author Lin Wenpei has written a wonderful series of picture books about food in local celebrations, including Dragon Boat Festival. 

The main characters of the picture book are a courageous sister and a playful brother who make dumplings 粽子.  In this book, they learn about the different ingredients and cultural significance with their grandma, and make some cute blunders along the way, (like the younger brother’s attempt to wash the dumpling leaves with soap and water!).

The whole series revolves around a playful brother-sister duo who help their adult family members prepare different foods.  Through cartoon style pictures, the books cross the boundary between being a factual book about the festival traditions and a fictional adventure, as we follow them at the market shopping through to back home cooking.

Read the book, and then give it a try yourself as a family to make dumplings. The book has Pinyin, which helps a young reader with the more difficult words.

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

Country of original publication: China
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 illustrate Chinese Festivals. 

The book covers 8 major festivals, and includes legends and tales, including Dragon Boat festival.   It’s not the type of book you’d read cover-to-cover, but nor does it need to be.  There’s just something magical about having a “special” book which comes out only for celebrations.

The words in this book are a little more difficult, so unless you’re a fluent reader, I’d recommend it needs to be read with assistance of a Chinese-English dictionary pen.

节日 Chinese Holidays (Books 1 & 2)

Author:  Cathy Ju Yao
Country of original publication: Taiwan
Language: Simplified Chinese (although Traditional is also available)
~ Pages in book: 8 – 12
~ Lines per page: 1 – 2
~Pinyin: No
Audio available: Yes – through Le Le reading pen
Available in Singapore NLB libraries: No
Target age range: 3 – 6

These books form part of our Le Le Chinese readers set.  I always like to include these in our thematic book studies, because the text is simple (able to be read by a child who know ~800 characters), yet meaningful, and means that each of my children can play a role in the reading.  Preschoolers can enjoy seeing the dragon boats and dumplings, and the simple joy of reading about the festival independently.

Great Places to Find Chinese Books for Children

Singapore is 100% blessed with an amazing collection at the local libraries, and a plethora of lovely Chinese bookstores, both online and in person, and many of our favourite ones have passionate owners who will be able to curate the perfect books for your family too.  

As a mother who doesn’t read or speak Chinese, I’m really thankful for the amazing options out there, mainly run by passionate mums who have helped to build out our Chinese home library, and instil a love for Chinese literature in our family. Whether you are a native speaker or not, I’ve written a post on our favourite Chinese bookstores in Singapore and elsewhere. The books in this specific post have come from My Story Treasury and Flip for Joy.

What about you?

I hope you and your family will read and enjoy Dragon Boat Festival in the upcoming week, including some fun books too. For 10 fun home-based activities to do with your family and complement these books, please see the excellent blog post from Ms Claudia Lee Kimura.

I’ve love to hear from you about your thoughts and recommendations too. Reading widely is a key to attaining fluency in Chinese, and it’s something I’m passionate about. I love connecting with other book-loving comrades, and if you’re in Singapore, perhaps you might even like to join the Ni Hao Singapore Primary School Chinese FB Group created by a few local bloggers just for this purpose, and it includes the ability to buy and sell used books!

Otherwise see you on FB or IG!

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