Guest Feature

Benson Shum–What Was on His . . .

Benson Shum

Chinese New Year is right around the corner. And so is the Year of the Ox! To help us celebrate, the wonderful writer-illustrator-animator Benson Shum joins us with his most recent creation, Alex’s Good Fortune!

In this early reader, Alex shares all the Chinese festivities with her friend, Ethan. They march in a parade, paint a banner, make dumplings, and invite readers to celebrate with them in the most joyous way.



Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for Alex and her family, so it’s even more special when she gets to share her favorite traditions with her best friend, Ethan. Together, they join the Chinese New Year parade and get to help make the dragon dance. Then they prepare for the festivities by tidying up, decorating, and making dumplings. After that, it’s time to open red envelopes, eat a great big feast, and enjoy the lantern festival! Complete with fun facts about the holiday in the back of the book, young readers will want to revisit this story again and again.

In this story designed to engage early readers, charming characters combine with simple text, lively illustrations, and laugh-out-loud humor to help boost kids’ confidence and create lifelong readers!

Alex’s Good Fortune is Benson’s fifth book, with one of my favorites being Hide ‘n’ Sheep. I laugh every time I see Benson’s hilarious illustrations. If you haven’t read it, go find it. It will brighten your day!

You’ve also seen other work by Benson, perhaps without realizing it. He is an Animator at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he worked on Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, Moana, Frozen 2, and is currently working on Raya and the Last Dragon.

We are lucky, indeed, to have Benson Shum join us for Chinese New Year. Put on something red. Get ready to celebrate! And let’s see What Was on Benson’s . . .

Head: I sometimes wear a cap, but for Alex, she would wear her red headband to get into the spirit of Chinese New Year!

Staff: I never got to hold the staff with the ball that Ethan held in the book, but I was a part of the dragon dance when I was younger. I was in a Kung Fu club for years, and every Chinese New Year, we would go out to the streets and join the parade. We performed the lion dance as well as the dragon dance. It was always fun to be part of the parade and celebrate.

Banner: I remember painting red banners when I attended Chinese School. We would write greetings, wishing everyone good health and for all your dreams to come true. I made a How-to make your lucky banner activity that I hope could one day be a tradition for kids to make every year, with the zodiac animal of their choice. It’s available to download on my website.

List of cleaning jobs: Oh yes, cleaning. One of my least favorite traditions as a child. Now I somewhat enjoy doing it as it relaxes me afterwards. haha! We had to clean our rooms and sweep the floors. Brush the broom towards the door to sweep away the bad luck, to welcome the New Year. Another one I remember is my mom telling my sisters and I to wash our hair on the eve of New Year, because you don’t want to wash away your luck on New Year’s day.

Dumplings: Dumplings are one of my favorites. I love pork and veggie dumplings. I can eat them all day! I think that’s why I wanted to share a recipe on my website so people can make their own dumplings every New Year.  The great thing about dumplings is there is no right or wrong way to make them. You can modify the ingredients and steam or pan-fry them anyway you like.

Fish: The fish we usually eat for Chinese New Year is topped with scallions, ginger, soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil and the whole fish steamed. It’s delicious! Another favorite would be to have the whole fish deep fried and coated with sweet and sour sauce.

Noodles: Long life noodles was another tradition that we always had, but it was closer to the end of our meal. I am usually so full by then, but I would still have to have at least a bowl. 

Red envelopes: On my red envelopes or Hong bao, it would usually have a New Years wish on it, but sometimes it’ll have amazing designs, whether that’s beautifully designed flowers, or the zodiac animal of that year. My sisters and cousin would all look at each others as they are always different. That was exciting.

Lantern: I loved making lanterns as a kid. We would paint New Year wishes on it.

Favorite New Year Wish: My favorite New Year wish is “Xin xiang shi cheng” & “Shen ti jian kang ” which means may all your wishes come true and wish you good health. Those were the first New Year wishes that I learned as a child, and I still say it till this day to my family, aunts and uncles.

Thank you so much, Benson! I loved celebrating Chinese New Year with you and Alex. Wishing you good health, and may all your wishes come true!

You can stay up to date with Benson Shum by visiting him at, on Facebook at Benson Shum Art, on Twitter at bshum79, on Instagram at bshum79, on Vimeo at Benson Shum and on Pinterest at Benson Shum. Walt Disney Animation Studios has also done a beautiful tribute to Benson in the form of an Artist Showcase. You won’t want to miss it.

If you would like to order Alex’s Good Fortune, simply click on the book below.

If you would like to preorder Benson’s sixth book, Anzu, The Great Kaiju, the story of a giant monster born with the super power of (wait for it) . . . flowers, click on the book below.

Be sure to stop by on February 21st, World Whale Day, when Karen Yin, the author of Whole Whale stops by. 

If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit


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