Janet S. Wong didn’t start out the author of picture books for children. She was a lawyer who focused her practice on corporate law and labor law when she decided to make the surprising switch to writing books for children. Since then, the author has won many awards for her poetry and literature and had been asked to read at the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Her more than 15 book titles include Apple Pie on the 4th of July, Grump, A Suitcase of Seaweed, and another called This Next New Year.
In that book, we learn about a young Chinese-Korean boy’s anticipation for the upcoming Chinese New Year, a time of hope, new beginnings, and second chances. It’s a time when everyone – not just the Chinese – can celebrate, a fact made clear by the main character’s best friend, Glenn, a German and French boy who helps celebrate, and cousin, Evelyn, who is part Mexican and part Hopi. The boy takes part in the typical customs of the Chinese holiday, like cleaning the house to sweep away the bad luck from the year. He washes himself and even flosses to prepare for the important holiday. The boy promises to be brave and refuses to cover his ears or hide his face when the firecrackers start popping. He’s ready for a year without negative thoughts.
Janet S. Wong writes in lyrical couplets through the voice of a child who is determined to face a new year with optimism and courage. She carefully lays out the reasons for the traditions in an easy-to-follow way for even the youngest of readers. And she explains her own confusion about the holiday when she was a kid. Artist Yangsook Choi captures the boy’s spirit and the festivities through energetic, lively illustrations. They compliment the story perfectly.
This Next New Year is a great book for anyone preparing for a Chinese New Year celebration, and not just those who have a Chinese background.
Kids of every nationality will love to read this book over and over again! These 32 pages are an exciting read for children ages 4 to 8, and will become a fast favorite of theirs for years to come.