A Sweet New Year for Ren (Michelle Sterling)

Hello friends, and Happy Year of the Rabbit! To celebrate, we have a special weekend review for you: A Sweet New Year for Ren, written by Michelle Sterling and illustrated by Dung Ho, a wonderful tale of family, tradition, and growing up.

Young Ren wakes with a heart full of excitement – Lunar New Year is nearly here, and she is hoping to be able to help with the preparations this year, especially the making of the pineapple cakes. Still, as she offers assistance to family members in hanging lanterns, steaming dumplings, and cooking noodles, she is gently told again and again that she is too little. At last, her big brother Charlie comes home and, with his patient assistance, she is allowed to try her hand at making the pineapple cakes, which are a hit! Gathering with family to celebrate, red envelopes are exchanged and firecrackers lit, as everyone shares sweet treats to usher in a sweet new year.

Delightful. Sterling’s text and Ho’s illustrations are rich with familial warmth, the childlike wonder of the holidays, and fantastic attention to detail in its depiction of Chinese-American heritage. Ren’s frustration with being “too little” is a universal one that kids of all backgrounds can relate to, drawing readers into a wonderful story that either celebrates their own culture or teaches them about a holiday they may not yet be familiar with. A recipe for Ren’s pineapple cake is even included in the backmatter. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved this one; she received her own red envelope from a friend this year, and was excited to learn more about the holiday that had prompted it. Overall, a sweet treat that all young readers are sure to enjoy, and we highly recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Friends Are Friends, Forever (Dane Liu)

Hello friends, and Happy New Year! Our first book of 2022 is Friends Are Friends, Forever, written by Dane Liu and illustrated by Lynn Scurfield, a touching tale of tradition, immigration, and friendship.

Best friends Dandan and Yueyue are excited to spend another Lunar New Year celebrating their traditions: dumplings, making red paper-cut ice ornaments, and watching the fireworks. However, this year’s festivities are bittersweet – Dandan and her parents are moving to the United States the next day, and the girls must say goodbye. Yueyue gives Dandan a stack of red paper and a spool of string to make cutouts with new friends in America, and the girls tearfully hug one last time. Dandan struggles in her new country, feeling alienated by the unfamiliar surroundings, new language, and unfriendly classmates. Will she ever find a new friend to continue her traditions with?

Heartwarming and real. Dandan’s story, based on Liu’s own immigration experience, is told with raw authenticity and honestly, in a way that young readers can connect with. One can feel the pressure and isolation of adapting to a new culture and struggling with a new language while missing everything that once felt familiar and comforting, both through Liu’s frank, sincere text and Scurfield’s expressive and atmospheric illustrations. Fortunately, Dandan does find a new friend, and with some adjustments, is able to practice her Lunar New Year traditions, a resolution that encourages openness to other cultures and provides the promise of better days during transitional times. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the story and instructions on paper cutting in the backmatter. Overall, this one is a treasure, and a great way to start the year – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)