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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Qu

Lunar New Year Zodiac Animal Picture Books for Year of the Rabbit / Cat

Updated: Jan 25

The Chinese and Vietnamese Zodiacs both feature 12 animals, each representing a year, with the Lunar New Year marking the beginning and end of each cycle. The Chinese Zodiac animals include the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig, each with unique character traits that are associated with people born in those years. The Vietnamese Zodiac also includes most of these animals but replaces the Rabbit with the Cat.

January 22, 2023 starts the year of the Chinese Rabbit and the Vietnamese Cat. People born in the year of the Rabbit are said to possess qualities such as quick-wittedness, kindness, and attention to detail, while those born in the year of the Cat are characterized as being sociable, creative, flexible, and ambitious.

For those interested in learning more, I've put together a list of picture books about the Zodiac animals. This collection includes several series that highlight one animal per book, providing a deeper understanding of the significance of each animal in both Chinese and Vietnamese cultures.

Shop this list on Bookshop or Amazon.

For Lunar New Year Board Book recommendations, Click Here!

Jump to Book:


The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Authors: Ling and Eric Lee (@learnchinesewithtofu)

Illustrator: Rachel Foo

The Jade Emperor has invited all the animals of the kingdom for The Great Race. Which 12 animals will cross the river first and become a part of the Chinese Zodiac? Teach young readers Chinese through this retelling of a classic Chinese legend passed through the generations. Follow along in Simplified Chinese, Pinyin, and English. Children, parents, and teachers will enjoy the beautiful, immersive illustrations and dynamic story. A free audio reading in Mandarin is included to help with pronunciation. (Description from Amazon)

The books is available in either Simplified or Traditional Chinese.

I Love Chinese New Year

I Love Chinese New Year

Author: Eva Wong Nava (@evawongnava)

Illustrator: Li Xin (@lixin.illustration)

Chinese New Year is right around the corner and Mai-Anne is so excited! As her family start decorating the house, there's a knock on the door... her grandmother, Nai Nai, has arrived!

They start their celebrations with a traditional meal filled with fish for good luck, noodles for long life, dumplings for blessings and a WHOLE chicken. Then after dinner Nai Nai tells the story of how Chinese New year began, with the Great Race!

Join Mai-Anne as she learns about twelve animals and their special powers in the story of how Chinese New Year began! (Description from Amazon)

Ruby's Chinese New Year

Ruby's Chinese New Year

Author: Vickie Lee

Illustrator: Joey Chou (@choochoojoey)

Ruby has a special card to give to her grandmother for Chinese New Year. But who will help her get to grandmother’s house to deliver it? Will it be clever Rat, strong Ox, or cautious Rabbit? Ruby meets each of the twelve zodiac animals on her journey. This picture book includes back matter with a focus on the animals of the Chinese zodiac. (Description from Amazon)

Stories from the Chinese Zodiac Series

Li Jian Stories from the Chinese Zodiac Series

Author/Illustrator: Li Jian

Li Jian's Chinese Zodiac series uses stories from Chinese legend and lore to introduce the characteristics of each Zodiac animal. His traditional Chinese brush paintings make beautiful illustrations.

Tales from the Chinese Zodiac Series

Oliver Chin Tales from the Chinese Zodiac Series

Author: Oliver Chin (@immediumbooks)

Illustrators: Jennifer Wood, Kenji Ono, Juan Calle, Justin Roth, Alina Chau, Jeremiah Alcorn, and Miah Alcorn

Each book in the series uses the personality of one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals to tell an entertaining story. Many of the books are also available in bilingual editions with Chinese characters.

Twelve in a Race

Twelve in a Race

Author: Catherine Little (@books.beyond.bedtime)

Illustrator: Sae Kimura (@esalalamu)

TWELVE IN A RACE is a read-aloud rhyming book about the origin story of the Chinese zodiac. Young readers will learn about the characteristics of each zodiac animal and how they finished in the Emperor’s great race. Written by Catherine Little and illustrated by Sae Kimura, Twelve in a Race is the perfect gift to give children to find out which animal correlates to their birth year!

Year of the Cat

Year of the Cat

Author: Richard Ho (@richkarho)

Illustrator: Jocelyn Li Langrand (@jocelnlilangrand)

A legendary race determined the order of the animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar . . . but what happened to Cat, the one animal who never received a year? Rat, Cat, and their eleven friends star in this funny animal adventure that introduces young readers to both the Chinese zodiac and the importance of apologizing. (Description from Amazon)

The Year of the Cat: The Untold Story of the Lunar New Year Race

The Year of the Cat

Author: Phuong Chi Nguyen and Daniel Rettig (@yearofthecatbook @jeannielinauthor)

Illustrator: Mae Linh Rettig

The legend of the Lunar New Year Race tells of how the first twelve animals that finished would be honored in the zodiac. But one very important animal is missing... What happened to the Cat?

Follow the clever Cat on a magical journey through the ancient land of Vietnam to finally win its rightful place among the chosen twelve. (Description from Amazon)


Do you know a fantastic book that would make a great addition to this list? I'd love to hear your recommendations! Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts. Thank you for helping make this list even better!

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