3 February Holiday Books Featuring Brothers and Sisters

In these three titles—a board book, picture book, and early reader—brother-and-sister duos celebrate Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day.

Hong, Stella. LunarTale: A New Year’s Adventure. illus. by author. 52p. (An Abrams Trail Tale). Abrams/Appleseed. Nov. 2023. Board $15.99. ISBN 9781419769511.
PreS–In this engaging board book, a series of prepositional phrases describes a brother and sister’s journey from their home in the country to their grandparents’ house in the city as they are guided by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac and end up in a community celebration of Lunar New Year. Vibrating with color, the packed illustrations have a seek-and-find feel. Gatefolds and peek-throughs add to the sensation of traveling through different worlds. A spectacular final double gatefold expands the Chinatown neighborhood party both outward and upward. The pictures, which also depict a variety of Lunar New Year symbols and traditions, more than make up for a bit of choppiness created by text breaks in the page turns. VERDICT This sweet visual introduction to Lunar New Year will delight young readers at any time of year.–Rachel Owens

Berenstain, Mike. The Berenstain Bears’ Extra Special Valentine. illus. by Mike Berenstain. 32p. (My First I Can Read). HarperCollins. Dec. 2023. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063024564; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780063024557.
K-Gr 2–A wonderful story presenting family love and connection. Sister and Brother are making valentines for their school’s Valentine’s Day party. But as they work, Brother makes a mysterious valentine he hides from Sister. Is it for a girl cub, or someone else? Sister must know! She does what she can to figure it out. This story, written for early readers, balances a classic feel with simple text and allows readers to explore rhyming through a special Valentine’s Day card. A nice plot structure lends suspense. The full-page illustrations balance soothing, subdued colors with the bold colors of Valentine’s Day, ultimately adding to the story’s classic and festive tone. VERDICT A perfect shared and classic reading experience for emerging readers.–Jennifer Strattman

Wang, Jade. The Lunar New Year Surprise. illus. by Tammy Do. 32p. (Holidays in Our Home: Bk. 1). Soaring Kite. Nov. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781958372050.
K-Gr 3–The first entry in the “Holidays in our Home” series features an unnamed brother and sister celebrating Lunar New Year. The older brother has crocheted a special dragon as a gift for his meimei (Mandarin for younger sister) and keeps trying to find the right time to give it to her amid the festivities. Traditions such as red envelopes, paying respects to ancestors, fireworks, and the lion dance are all thoroughly explained. The gift-giving plot, while cute, is a thin throughline to the text-heavy work that is mostly focused on explaining the holiday to readers who are encountering it for the first time. Mandarin vocabulary is lightly sprinkled in the text. The brother and sister are cued as Chinese, but the wider community is racially diverse. Back matter includes information about traditional Lunar New Year’s foods from around the world, such as Tibetan momo (dumplings) and Vietnamese bánh chu’ng (rice cakes). There is also a spread on the Chinese zodiac and a general craft idea—but, sadly, no crochet pattern for the dragon. VERDICT Recommended for larger collections or those that need books about Lunar New Year.–Jennifer Rothschild

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