Celebrating China: Children’s Books

February 2, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

In years past, I’ve scoured websites and bookshelves for every Chinese New Year/Spring Festival themed kids’ book around to read to our clan in anticipation of the holiday. We found some good ones and some not so good ones. Overthinker that I am, I hope my musings help you decide which ones are worthwhile for your clan.


No Year of the Cat from Sleeping Bear Press is a familiar folk story about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac and why there is no cat among them. It all starts with the emperor needing a way to remember time, when things happened, most notably the year the prince was born. His idea to name the years after animals results in a race with the winning animals making it into the ranks of becoming legacies in the calendar. Cute story and really beautiful illustrations.


Chelsea’s Chinese New Year explains Chinese New Year for the younger set. I love the size of it–a nice big paperback book (about a 9 1/2″ square) with big ole illustrations very similar in style to the Disney Channel’s Charlie and Lola. The main character, little Chelsea, explains how her Chinese American family celebrate Chinese New Year, touching on all the traditions either in the text or illustrations. Each page has a little section that gives additional information about the holiday that you can choose to read or skip over to just keep it a story. This one would be great to use in a classroom to read aloud to a group of preschoolers or kindergarteners.


Marcia Vaughan’s The Dancing Dragon has simplistic text about how Chinese New Year is celebrated in Chinatown. But, what makes this book worthwhile is that the pages all unfold accordion style to reveal the illustration of a long dragon from the parade. Good one to read to a classroom of kids since you could have a child hold each page as it unfolds. Just wish the book was a little larger in size. At 9″x7.5″, a couple more inches would make it much better.


Another preschool friendly one, Joan Holub’s Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book is a popular one. Each page has 4 lines of simple text in a classic ABCB rhyming pattern (hope that’s right…trying to remember 7th grade English class) with good sized flaps to open to reveal some part of the New Year celebration, supposedly one in New York City’s Chinatown (though it wouldn’t have to be). Colorful and bold illustrations include little “extras” you can point out–the significance of the flowers, the oranges, and the super long noodles. Only complaint? The last flap ends with “Gung Hat Fat Choy!” in big ole print which is Cantonese rather than the Mandarin “Xin Nian Kuai Le!” New Year’s greeting – something that really bothered my Mandaring-learning kiddos.

chinese new year craft book
Rivers-Moore and Davis’ Chinese New Year! Create and Celebrate is new this year since it just came out this past fall. I just ordered it myself and am hoping that it gives my daughter some fun activities to engage with Spring Festival traditions while giving me some less spectacular ideas than the ones I can find on Pinterest. Yup. Easy works.

goldy luck
It’s not easy to make a new story out of a classic one. In Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, the author did that out of…can you guess the classic story? The story takes place during Spring Festival, and Little Goldy’s mother sends her to wish their panda neighbors a happy new year and deliver a plate of traditional turnip cakes. What follows is a familiar set of events with a silly twists that will make your little ones giggle. It’s a fun book and one that can teach about CNY in an entertaining way as well as open up conversation about friendship and mercy. A recipe for turnip cakes is included at the end that I haven’t been brave enough to try to make yet, but it’s on my to-do list!


Despite mediocre illustrations, Bella and the Year of the Dragon is the best book I could find explaining the fable behind all the animals of the Chinese zodiac and their race to the emperor to determine what order they would come in for the years of the Chinese lunar calendar. And, believe me, I read a bunch that were not even worthy of a review. This one, however, does a good job explaining the fable simply but in an interesting way.



Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns by Carolyn Otto is a National Geographic book for kids. It has super compelling photographs that have a big wow-factor for kids and adults (including ones of Shanghai, a dinner table in Shanxi, Xi’an all lit up, children in Inner Mongolia, a parade in London, dancers in Vancouver, and fireworks in Guiyang). Includes great information without putting too many words on a page too–something that could turn the bedtime book reading into a bad scene. And, it has a great resource section in the back with facts, how to make a Chinese lantern and fortune cookies (which they do point out are an invention of either the Japanese or Chinese Americans), and where to go for more information including other books and websites. Good for real little ones if you want to just talk about the pictures and interesting enough to keep the attention of older kids (and adults). I just ordered the newest edition published in December 2015. I’m hopeful it will be just as good if not better.


This one was published in October 2011 and has won the Feng ZiKai Chinese Children’s Picture Book Award. A New Year’s Reunion was written by Yu Li-Qiong who was born in Anqing, China and currently lives in Nanjing. It tells the fictional story of a family united only once a year when the father, one of China’s 100 million migrant workers, returns home for a few days to see his wife and daughter and celebrate the lunar new year. It’s illustrated beautifully and is a cute story of a family’s traditions, ending poignantly with the father saying goodbye to go back to work. I’m declaring this one a must-have book–not only does it describe well how a Chinese family celebrates the new year, it also shares how so many people in China live as migrant workers. Count on this book opening the door for great conversations with your kids about life in China and, possibly, questions about birth families. Get ready.


Though I’m not a big fan of the illustrations in Ying Chang Compestine’s The Runaway Rice Cake, I appreciate the message. The Chang family makes one rice cake with the last bit of their rice flour for their whole family of 5 to eat for Chinese New Year. In gingerbread man fashion, the rice cake comes alive and runs away, showing you elements of the New Year celebration as they chase it. When the rice cake runs into a poor and hungry elderly woman, “the rice cake stopped trying to escape” and surrenders itself to be eaten. The children are sad that their last food is gone, but they return home to an abundance, much more than they could have imagined, to their happiest New Year’s Eve ever. Some kids might find the anthropomorphized rice cake’s surrender to be eaten a bit sad (or disturbing?), but the overall message of giving generously and receiving blessings, sometimes tangible ones right away and sometimes ones we may not recognize so easily, makes this book a worthwhile family read.


Ying Chang Compestine wrote another runaway book – The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale. These illustrations are way more my style–bright, funky, fun, filling the pages with color. The story is a silly fable that is sort of a mix of Jack and the Beanstalk, Ebenezer Scrooge, and the Gingerbread Man, Chinese style. My kids thought it was hilarious and were quickly repeating the catchy “skippity-hoppity-ho” line from the crazy wok. And, in addition to showing them pieces of how Chinese New Year is celebrated traditionally, it gave us the chance to talk about bigger things like sharing, justice, revenge, and mercy. This one has been read in and out of season.



Another Chinese New Year book from Ying Chang Compestine, but one very different from the runaway books. And, one I really love. Crouching Tiger is a Chinese New Year’s themed book with elements I didn’t find in other books (like how in some Chinatown New Year parades, there is a “cabbage boy” who holds a head of cabbage on a bamboo pole in front of the dragon in the parade) as well as the more traditional elements (the cleaning, a new haircut, traditional foods, etc.), while also engaging readers with Chinese martial arts (each page shows a different Tai Chi position) and beautiful illustrations. But, more than that, it’s a book about a young boy learning that he is “Chinese as well as American,” a very important lesson taught to him by a loving and faithful grandfather. Don’t just get it from the library. This one you’ll want to buy, especially if you are a parent of a Chinese boy.

year of the monkey
Start your own New Year tradition with this series by Oliver Chin. So far, in his Tales from the Chinese Zodiac, he’s written a story book for the Dog, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, and now Monkey. All are cute little stories that capture the symbolic spirit of the zodiac animal featured. Though I haven’t read the new book for this year yet, they typically integrate some of the traditional characteristics believed for those born in that particular year with a fun story. Also, we love the iPad app for the year of the dragon and are hoping Immedium creates some new ones for the other years too since even our iPad likes to celebrate CNY.


Janet Wong’s year 2000 This Next New Year is unique in that it shows different ethnic groups in America celebrating Chinese New Year. The little boy who is the main character is half Chinese and half Korean. The book also mentions a little boy who is French and German who celebrates the holiday with Thai food to go and a little girl who is Hopi and Mexican who calls the New Year her favorite holiday because she likes getting red envelopes from her neighbor from Singapore. With vibrant colors, the boy explains with a bit of wit and humor and spunk their traditions around the New Year including washing his hair and “drying it extra dry.” A cute book for the younger set – maybe 4-7 year olds – and particularly good for pointing out that lots of different people enjoy recognizing Chinese New Year with their own little traditions. (Note: there is a Chinese/English bilingual version too for budding learners or those who simply want to follow along in characters.)


Karen Chinn’s book Sam and the Lucky Money is one that engages children in Chinese New Year traditions while teaching a lesson of contentment and generosity. Sam is excited to get his red envelopes from his grandparents for Chinese New Year filled with $4. But, when he goes to Chinatown to buy himself something special, he’s frustrated that everything he wants is more than what he was given. When he sees an elderly homeless man without shoes on his feet, he gives all his money to him. I’m more of a bright, funky illustration type of person, so the soft watercolors didn’t wow me like they might for some. But, the message is one that does wow me. And, it gives you the opportunity to talk to your child about what it means “to be lucky” and if there even is such a thing.


Grab a used copy of Red Eggs & Dragon Boats: Celebrating Chinese Festivals by Carol Stepanchuk while you can find a copy still. It’s a great kids’ reference book for Chinese New Year, the grave sweeping holiday (Clear Brightness), red egg and ginger celebrations, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Moon Festival. Loads of information about those holidays, fables, and other traditions are in here and explained in a way that a grade schooler can understand. The color illustrations are really pretty–made me wish they were fabrics in them for a cute little skirt for my little one.


Want a book for an older girl? You might want to check out The Chinese New Year Mystery. In classic Nancy Drew style, the school is getting ready for the Chinese New Year parade when the dragon is stolen. Nancy Drew (you can’t just call her Nancy) has to figure out who stole the dragon so that the parade can go on. Traditions of the Chinese New Year are described as one of Nancy’s friends, Mari Cheng, is Chinese American. There’s a little bit of interesting drama too as a few girls mouth off about Chinese New Year being “stupid.” Hmmm…could lead to some interesting conversations.


Another one I really like is Cheng Hou-tien’s The Chinese New Year. We got it from the library since it’s an old book and hard to find. The book explains Chinese New Year traditions with the only illustrations being black colored paper cuttings on a white background which is so beautiful actually. May not wow your little ones as much since it isn’t bright and eye catching, but the art of scissor cutting in China just fascinates me.

If that’s not enough for you, here are a few other titles that were recommended to me but that I haven’t checked out yet:

Any more titles that you’d suggest? Comment and share so we can all check them out.


 *Amazon links are affiliate links which means that when you use those links to purchase, a small percentage will go to the affiliate which, in this case, will support the work of The Sparrow Fund.

find my family: Gwen

February 2, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Gwen was born in September 2005 and brought to the hospital to be treated for Neonatal Septicemia when she was about a week old. During her hospital admission her parents did not return for her and she was declared abandoned. After spending several weeks in the hospital for observation she was moved to her orphanage. Her diagnosis is post-treatment of Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia, post-treatment Toxic Encephalopathy and Pterygium Hyperplasia on her right eye (which didn’t require treatment).


In June of 2007 Gwen was moved into a foster family and her adoption report was completed when she was 10 years old. She was able to feed, wash and dress herself as well as taking care of her own toileting needs. She was said to be an introvert with a mild personality, also flexible and easy-going. She speaks in a low voice and sometimes her speech isn’t very clear but she is understandable if you listen carefully. Gwen is a sensible child and gets along well with her foster parents and neighbors. She loves drawing, coloring and skating, and her favorite snacks are chocolate and candies.


After moving into her foster families home her physical skills have gradually been catching up with other children her age. She can run, jump freely, go up and down stairs, ride a bike and roller skate. She eats with chopsticks and uses a spoon for soup.

At school she respects her teachers and behaves well in class. She is sociable and plays well with other children. She studies Chinese, Math, English, Music, Drawing and Physical Education. When she does her homework she needs help from her foster parents. Gwen’s communications skills are slightly behind those of other children her age. She is a polite and caring child.


There are several videos available on the Waiting Child Info site. Gwen is designated to New Beginnings, please contact them for further information on adopting Gwen.

Heart Month: Little Hearts Medical

February 1, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

It’s February 1. Happy American Heart Month! To start off heart month here at NHBO, I asked Andrea Olson to share. Andrea has shared here before, as mom to four children with complex (some with very complex) heart needs.

But today Andrea is sharing as the Executive Director of Little Hearts Medical. One of her roles in this is to hear from parents like me… parents painstakingly navigating the confounding waters of reviewing a file of a child with a complex heart condition. For us, Andrea expertly managed Magnolia’s file review with an amazing pediatric cardiologist. She also helped us with the translation of numerous Chinese documents and informed us that the hospital where Magnolia had her surgeries is the hospital that LHM supports via training missions by their cardiology team. Such an incredible blessing.

I would encourage anyone in the process for a heart child to consider working with LHM. With one hand working here in the US to help inform and equip adopting parents, and the other in China working to educate orphanage staff and support orphans with heart needs, there’s really no one better. LHM does not charge a fee for the work that they do in reviewing files and providing much-needed insight to potential parents, but they do appreciate donations to help further their efforts in China. You can contact Andrea and LHM here


Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

– Psalm 143:8

If God asked if you were willing to allow Him to place a blindfold on you and be led by Him into the abyss, would you be? If you knew the path you would travel would lead to challenges unlike any you had faced previously, including financial hardship, the loss of friendships, and heartache, would you follow? What about if He told you that you would also experience great happiness, enjoy the camaraderie of amazing people, and experience profound personal growth?

Would you be willing to take that leap?

I think it is human nature to view the unknown with suspicion and fear. But what if we replaced those feelings of trepidation with joyful anticipation, and opened our minds to the idea that we may find ourselves broken free from the life that we once clung to with such ferocity?

My husband and I once fiercely held on to the desires of our hearts, desperately attempting to control outcomes and manufacture the version of our family that we held in our minds. That version did not involve much giving on our parts, and certainly no firm sacrifices, and it centered on finding the right child for our family. The concept of becoming the right family for a child was foreign to us at the time, as was the idea that our lives would burst open in amazing ways we could not begin to fathom!

God laughed at our plans and our worldview changed. Ten years and five adoptions later, we who began our first adoption journey wanting a healthy female, as young as possible, have since welcomed three girls and two boys from China, four born with congenital heart disease. So far, we have supported our children through fifteen heart catheterizations, three open heart surgeries, four cardiac arrests, almost two weeks on ECMO, one heart transplant, more emergency procedures than we can count, enteral feeding, medication schedules to make our heads spin, cross country trips for cardiac care, and logged in over one year of in-patient time since 2011. It has been difficult, and it has been glorious!


I thank God for asking us to trust Him. Our lives are so much greater, richer, and more fulfilling than they previously were. We are experiencing life in a way we used to view as being lived by others who were stronger, certainly not the life that average and imperfect people like us we were capable of living.

The introvert that I am at heart, the intensely shy child who would cling her mother and cry when “Happy Birthday” was being sung to her, a person who became adept at flying under the radar and avoiding notice, has become a woman who now loves leading an organization which strives to improve the lives of children in China born with congenital heart disease.

Who would have thought? God, that’s who! All I had to do was follow His promptings. That is something that we are all capable of doing! God used my children to help give me the courage to step into the abyss, and how grateful I am for that!

I am delighted and proud to work as the Executive Director of Little Hearts Medical, an all-volunteer organization whose mission it is to help improve cardiac care for orphan and impoverished children in China through the medical partnerships we have formed with hospitals in Beijing. Founded in 2012 by adoptive parents Mike and Tanya Lee, LHM also works hand-in-hand with the China Center for Child Welfare and Adoption to assist in advancing cardiac care within China’s social welfare institutions through the education of orphanage staff and local officials.

Little Hearts Medical at the CCCWA in May, 2015

A service we provide to orphanages, adoption agencies, and prospective adoptive families is our Cardiac Case Summary service. Free of charge (although donations are always appreciated!), our team of Pediatric Cardiologists and Surgeons from children’s hospitals across the country provide file assessments, as well as work with Cardiologists and Surgeons in China to plan interventions and surgeries for children there. LHM provided 116 Cardiac Case Summaries in 2015, our first year of providing this service.

Other highlights from 2015 included being invited to the CCCWA’s assembly in Shanghai in September to present the Little Hearts Medical/Holt International Children’s Services’ “Love You More” Cardiac Care Presentation to orphanage directors and Civil Affairs officials. Also in September, we assisted at the Shandong province Journey of Hope Camp, and made presentations at multiple orphanages throughout the province as well as at Peace House medical foster home in Beijing.

Andrea Olson presenting Dr. Zhou with his newsurgical loupes, Beijing, November 2015

In November, we participated in the Beijing Ambassador Program, and thanks to our generous donors, we fundraised and presented Harmony House Beijing with an air conditioning unit. I was thrilled to be able to present Dr. Zhou, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at BaYi Children’s Hospital in Beijing, with much needed new surgical loupes during my trip in November, again thanks to the generosity of donors during our fundraiser.

We are currently planning our medical team’s next trip to China, tentatively scheduled for late spring. As we did on previous medical trips, our plan is to provide echocardiograms, heart catheterizations, and open heart surgeries to some of the thousands of children in China who so desperately need diagnostics and intervention.

Andrea Olson with two boys with CHD during the Beijing Ambassador Program, November 2015

Life is busy, and it feels incredible to be of service! So many wonderful things have happened since we opened ourselves up to having our hearts broken! That may sound peculiar to some, but I know there are others who understand exactly what I am talking about. For those who do not, I encourage you to take that leap! Allow your heart to be broken open by the suffering of the children, allow yourself to embrace a child with whom you will have the privilege of walking an uncertain path with, and let go of the hold that fear has on you.

Prepare for miracles!


Andrea Olson can be reached at Follow LHM on FB here, their new website will be launched soon!

My Family’s First “Real” Chinese New Year

January 31, 2016 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


My son was only 18 months old when Chinese New Year approached last year. From his perch on my shoulders, he gasped in amazement at the dragon dancers advancing along Market Street during San Francisco’s Chinese New Year parade, but he was too young to understand the cause for all the fuss. Now a year …Read More

I Could Never Do That

January 30, 2016 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments


I could never do that. I could never adopt. I could never foster. I could never have more than two kids. I could never adopt multiple children. I could never afford adoption. I could never say yes to a child with special needs. I could never bear my child needing surgery. I could never parent …Read More

find my family: Austin

January 30, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Meet Austin, a playful – but very determined – five year-old boy. Austin has cerebral palsy, but don’t let that scare you. Austin doesn’t let it stop him. Through Austin’s hard work at physical therapy, and the support of his orphanage, Austin has learned to walk short distances and to climb stairs without assistance. Austin …Read More

Tackling Food Issues: My Family’s Experience with “Love Me, Feed Me”

January 29, 2016 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments


“Knowing deep within us that someone is going to feed us when we are hungry is how trust and love begin…” – Mister Rogers (as cited by Rowell, 2012, p. 2). I want you to be very candid with me. When you think about meal time with your children, what words or phrases initially come …Read More

Undiagnosed Hearing Loss: Wisdom from the Journey

January 28, 2016 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments


We always knew there were unknowns, as all adoptive parents do. But the moment we saw their faces we knew they were ours. This is important to always remember. Most of us who adopt realize that the medical records we receive are not always accurate or trustworthy. But sometimes, you just don’t know the right …Read More

find my family: Zora

January 26, 2016 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Precious little Zora is a darling girl born June 2013, Her special need is a hearing deficit which may in fact mean she is possibly deaf. Further testing would need to happen once she is home. Zora loves to be cuddled and her report from August of 2015 stated that she was improving her motor …Read More

Celebrating China: A Simple Chinese New Year

January 25, 2016 by nohandsbutours 10 Comments

Lydia with tiger hat (1)

It’s the single most important holiday of the entire year there. Businesses close and trains literally overflow as people all over China journey home for Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Despite the rising number of Starbucks scattered about big cities and iPhones all over, traditions not all that different from stockings hung by the …Read More

© 2016 No Hands But Ours

The content found on the No Hands But Ours website is not approved, endorsed, curated or edited by medical professionals. Consult a doctor with expertise in the special needs of interest to you.