From a costume designer to a quilt maker, Karen Katz has held a number of creative-type jobs, but it wasn’t until she and her husband adopted a daughter from Guatemala that she realized her true calling – that of a children’s book author and illustrator. Her daughter inspired Katz to write Over the Moon, a story about welcoming their daughter, Lena, into their lives. Like Lena, the number of books Katz penned over the years has grown. She has a full line of stories about the different holidays celebrated by people of different races and religions, including a book called My First Chinese New Year.
This story focuses on a little girl as she learns about all of the history that surrounds an exciting time of year. It’s a lively and warm introduction to a holiday that will make even the youngest kid want to start their own Chinese New Year tradition. In one passage, a mother and child decorate their home by hanging patterned red tissues and the text talks about what the color red means to the Chinese people. It means good luck, by the way. One of the story’s characters builds and altar in order to honor their ancestors and another character tries to sweep away the bad luck from the previous year. The story’s narrator buys quince and plum blossoms with her father and has her hair cut to honor the upcoming year. Then the family sits down to a banquet before watching an exciting parade punctuated with red and gold-colored, dancing dragon puppets.
The color Katz uses in her illustrations accentuates the educational story. The energetic, bright patterns capture the excitement of the holiday. She uses collage and other forms of art in this simply told tale about the traditions important in the holiday festivities. What’s more, Katz shows a multicultural crowd of people watching the parade to
reflect America’s diversity.
Chinese New Year is all about new beginnings. You can cut your hair. Hang red tissue paper. Or just make this book a must-read for the fun annual holiday. It’s a great read, not only for the kiddos from 4 to 7, but for their parents as well.