China has always fascinated me.  The music is beautiful, some of the folklore is so unique, and I used to love watching Kung Fu movies like Fearless Kung Fu Elements (it is so bad, after watching it 25+ years later). The problem is that I never was taught about the history of China as a kid other than my mom making me see the movie China Cry (but I still didn’t understand the background issues of the society of China for the time period it depicts).

I didn’t really know much about anything until I was an older teenager.  Once I became an adult I did my own self research from reading missionary stories, historical fiction books, and going through rabbit holes of information on oppression they suffered.  I didn’t even know about the Tienanmen Square Massacre until I was in my twenties (and I was old enough to know about it when it was happening, but no one told me it was happening when it did, probably because I was five and a half, but still, you’d think someone would have taught me about it).

That being said, I don’t want my sons to be in the dark like I was.  We started with tying in some history from our Japan study into one of the wars between Japan and China and then went right into learning about China.  I also wanted to teach them about how America treated immigrants from China and what they went through in the 1800s through the mid 1900s.

Of course then we learned about Mao.  We had a whole great family discussion about this study.  Leto cried out of shock when I read one of the children picture books below and started to explain things that people went through during Mao’s dictatorship.

To end the study, we have plans to see the New Shanghai Circus!

Here’s some of the chapter books we read about China:

house of sixty fathersThe House of Sixty Fathers
I am pretty sure this is about the second Sino-Japanese war, though I don’t remember them specifically mentioning what it was called in the book, nor which year it took place in.  The idea is that Japan invaded China and a little boy and his family escapes by a sampan boat, but soon he gets separated from his family.  This story talks about starvation, guerrilla warfare, and the American troops that came to help China.  I feel it was very important for us to read this because it showed the hardships and sad problems that war can create for families, as well as the ability to try to survive best you can.  I think it helped open up my sons’ eyes a lot more to all that was mentioned.

in-the-yer-of-the-boar-and-jackie-robinson.jpgIn The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
This is a fictional story about a little girl who lived in China with a large family, but left to live in NYC with her parents.  She talks about the various culture in the city and what it was like to learn English and attend a school as the only Chinese kid in class.  She learns about a sport that is popular in the US called baseball and a man who was changing racial prejudices within the sport (and becomes her hero).  I could tell my sons really loved this one.

Li Lun, Lad of Courage
lilunThis book is about a young boy who is afraid of fishing on the ocean.  His father is angry at his cowardliness and sends him up to the mountain to plant rice as his grandfather had done.  In the process, he struggles and works hard in order to receive back his father’s pride.  It was a short book and really odd to think that an eleven or ten year old boy would be sent off on his own to survive for several months as a punishment, but it did show my sons about taking responsibility and being in charge of something so important.

God’s Adventurer
God's AdventurerPretty much the first missionary who went to China who decided to live like the Chinese and look like the Chinese and learn as they do was Hudson Taylor.  Most missionaries before then would try to make them like Westerners (drives me bonkers when I read those).  This book is all about Hudson Taylor’s life.  The first half is about his life before he went to China though.  It talks about his trust in God through prayer to take care of him (and goodness they include some great crazy miracles).  I really wish this talked more about China (it does enough but I wanted much more).  It is really a wonderful story and he is one of the best missionaries I have read about in general, so it was nice to share about his life with the boys.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
where themountainThis was our favorite book from all that we read.  It was such an awesome book!  The story is about a little girl who thinks she should travel alone (ahhh) to meet the Old Man of the Moon and ask him to give her family fortune, as they are poor farmers who can barely survive.  Throughout the book she meets people or creatures who tell tales of adventures and each one has a life lesson, but it is all a part of the one big story that this is.  My sons were obsessed with it and didn’t want to stop reading it once I started it.  It is about 400 pages but we got through it in a matter of days because they loved it so much and I’d read chapter after chapter after chapter.

Picture books we loved reading:

Hannah is My Name

The Seven Chinese Brothers

The Story of Noodles (we read one about paper and kites too, but this was our favorite)

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

King Pom and the Fox

Mao and Me

Rabbit’s Gift

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Lost and Found: Adele and Simon in China
lost and found

The Empty Pot

Two of Everything

The Magic Horse of Han Gan

Water Dragon: A Chinese Legend

The Great Race

Daisy Comes Home

How Many Pandas?

Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale

Dragon craft shown in video above is found here.


Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Oh yay, we recently finished a unit on China too! Not as involved as yours but I’m filing this away for the future! Love the book list. We did a few of those too, but I will have to check out the other ones you listed. And you’ll have to check out these ones when enjoyed!

    Picture books: – The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese (Zoey’s favorite) – The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker (Abigail’s absoute favorite).

    Chapter books: – Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing by Guo Yue and Clare Farrow – Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Adres Vera Martinez.

    The chapter books are autobiographical stories from now-grown children living under Mao, and it is interesting to see their perspective. We really liked Little Leap Forward, and Little White Duck was extra cool because it’s in comic book format!! Your boys are sure to love them. There is also a world cultures CD we got from the library so that we could listen to a song written by Guo Yue, who wrote Little Leap Forward.

    On Sat, Feb 17, 2018 at 11:36 AM, Justice Pirate wrote: > > Victoria / Justice Pirate posted: ” China has always fascinated me. The music is beautiful, some of the folklore is so unique, and I used to love watching Kung Fu movies like Fearless Kung Fu Elements (it is so bad, after watching it 25+ years later). The problem is that I never was taug” >

    • I used to own The Story About Ping and read it to them when they were tiny. I love the Seven Chinese Sisters, which is similar to the brothers story I mentioned in this!! I will have to look into those two chapter books you mentioned. They sound like something that would be great to read!!!! I read a lot about the culture to the boys but didn’t include those books in this (which is dumb of me).

  2. Just requested some of the books from the library to be put on hold at the location near me. Bummed they didn’t have some of the ones I wanted, including Lost and Found: Adele and Simon in China because we already know and love Adele & Simon! Have you read the France one? I also have on my list of books not available in my library system Bird Boy by Elizabeth Starr Hill & illustrated by Lesley Liu. I haven’t read it before but it was suggested by someone else.


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About Victoria / Justice Pirate

Victoria. Anabaptist, Wife of Rob, Mom of two boys, minimalist, quilt maker, Resources Adviser/Social Media Manager for anti-human trafficking awareness organization Justice Network (


homeschooling, lifestyle


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