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For a holiday that’s over 2,000 years old, there are surprisingly few children’s books exclusively dedicated to the Dragon Boat Festival. Fortunately, I’ve found five that do a good job of introducing the holiday, as well as the sport of dragon boat racing.
If you’re headed out to see dragon boat races this summer, you can pick up one of these books to share with your kids in the weeks before as a way to prepare them for what they’ll see.
Whether you’re watching dragon boat racing in person or floating toy dragon boats in your bathtub, the books below, which I’ll update as I discover new titles, each offer a great way to introduce your child to the Dragon Boat Festival.
One is a Drummer
For the youngest readers, Roseanne Thong’s One is a Drummer is a good starting point. This is a counting book that incorporates the Dragon Boat Festival in its journey from one to ten. Parents will have to voice over details about the holiday in their own commentary.
Celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival
Sanmu Tang’s Celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival is a charming volume in which a little girl asks her grandfather about the Dragon Boat Festival. Be aware that this book does include mention of Qu Yuan’s suicide, a necessary part of the historical narrative that may be disturbing to younger readers nonetheless.
Gung Ho! A Dragon Boat Story
Sarah Hughes’ Gung Ho! A Dragon Boat Story is probably my favorite book of this bunch. A uniquely Chinese American take on the holiday, Gung Ho! follows the adventures of a team competing in the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival.
Awakening the Dragon
Arlene Chan’s Awakening the Dragon offers a thorough retelling of the Dragon Boat Festival, with a heavy dose of Chinese mythology and history. A comprehensive book for older children covering the holiday’s origins and customs, as well as the sport of dragon boating.
Dragon Boats: A Celebration
Pat Barker’s Dragon Boats: A Celebration is a similarly robust book about the sport of dragon boat racing that would be great for more athletically-inclined kids. It includes race rules, paddling technique and history.