TWO NEW YEARS Interview with Richard Ho and Lynn Scurfield + GIVEAWAY!

SARA: This week I transitioned from a career in early childhood education to life as a school librarian. Two New Years by Richard Ho and Lynn Scurfield is one of the first books I put on order in my new role. It’s a beautiful story of a multicultural family celebrating both Rosh Hashanah and Chinese New Year. They notice what makes these holidays unique and also what unites them. What makes this a must for our library? I was struck by all the entry points inviting children to see themselves, make connections, or learn something new through the rich language and exquisite art featuring Judaism (modern Orthodox, in particular), Chinese culture, biracial children, family traditions, intergenerational bonds, and the joy of being together.

We are lucky to have Richard Ho and Lynn Scurfield on Picture Book Builders to talk about the creation of this stunning book. And you have a chance to win your very own copy!  

SARA: Richard, you share about your Chinese and Jewish identities in the author’s note. What in particular sparked the idea for a book about both Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year? What challenges and discoveries came up along the way?

RICHARD: I knew that I wanted to write a book about the intersection of my Chinese and Jewish identities. There are just so many similarities between Judaism and Chinese culture that I’ve encountered throughout the years! The challenge was narrowing those down to a manageable number for a book. I quickly realized that I should pick one specific area of focus. I chose Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year because the idea of welcoming a new year is universal among all cultures, and also because it offered an opportunity to spotlight some of the most delightful parallels between Jewish and Chinese custom. Wordplay, food symbolism, emphasis on family–we explore all of it in the book!

SARA: There really is so much to unpack in Two New Years. The main text is fairly brief, leaving the reader space to build meaning, and the artist space to tell the story. Lynn, what compelled you to take this project on as an illustrator?

LYNN: A bit of background on me – I’m half Chinese and half British-Canadian. My mom and step-dad have been together for around 13 years and my step-family is Jewish. So I’m not born and raised Jewish but I’ve been very fortunate to have been so warmly welcomed into the Sharpe family and included in a lot of the celebrations.

It was almost uncanny to receive that email in my inbox. First of all, I don’t expect to get work that’s about mixed-race families, so that in itself was exciting. But then for the book to be specifically about a Jewish and Chinese family was SO mind blowing! I said yes pretty much immediately. I have never worked on a project that felt this close to home and I’m still honoured to have been reached out to draw this book.

SARA: One of my favorite visual aspects of Two New Years is the way borders and color schemes are used to represent the two celebrations. Can you share how you approached the art for this book? 

LYNN: Thank you so much and I’m glad you noticed and enjoyed them! 

If you look through Two New Years you’ll see there’s a lot of papercut elements. I was doing research for the book and I already knew Lunar New Year uses quite a bit of papercut art as decorations but through my research I found out Jewish marriage certificates (ketubahs) also are papercut works of art. It was such a serendipitous piece of research. The fact that this papercut art became an additional layer/ symbol that supported the whole theme of the book is still my favourite aspect of the illustrations.

Colour was also a fun challenge in the book. Lunar New Year and Rosh Hashanah have very opposite colour schemes (Lunar New Year is red and gold while Rosh Hashanah is blue and silver) which was great when I was drawing the opposite pages but when you’re putting everything together it can turn really primary-colour heavy really fast. I ended up throwing some more neutral colours (such as light yellow and greens) to try and combat the primary colours. I will say, it helps that this is a kid’s book and primary colours are not a bad thing for kidlit. 

SARA: There are several pages of back matter and they are wonderfully illuminating. Was this information always a part Two New Years or did it develop during the revision process?

RICHARD: I knew while writing the manuscript that there wouldn’t be room within the main text to fully flesh out each custom and tradition we depict. I always envisioned using back matter to do just that, and fortunately the editor had the same idea! 

SARA: What’s one of your favorite New Year’s traditions? 

RICHARD: For Lunar New Year, one of my favorite traditions is placing tangerines around the house. Tangerines are a symbol of prosperity in Chinese culture because the words for tangerine and gold are phonetically similar. Decorating the house with tangerines is a way to invite prosperity for the new year! For Rosh Hashanah, I’ll also go with another food-related custom: dipping a piece of apple in honey on the first night of the holiday. The kids learn a song about this from an early age, and it’s quite catchy! The combination of these sweet foods reflects our wish for a sweet year ahead. 

LYNN: My favourite New Year tradition is making and eating dumplings with my family. We don’t make dumplings every year, because we get busy, but the times we do are really special. 

SARA: Is there anything else you’d like to share about this book?

LYNN: I want to say how excited I am to know there’s a book like this out in the world. Richard and I spoke on The Book of Life: Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) Podcast and one of the questions was could you recommend any other Jewish/ Chinese books. Disclaimer: I need to read more, but I really couldn’t think of another book off the top of my head. I didn’t grow up with a lot of mixed-race representation so it’s very heartwarming to see this out and know there’ll only be more.

RICHARD: More than anything else, I hope the book resonates with people of all backgrounds, and especially people who identify with more than one culture. Even though this book features Chinese and Jewish celebrations, it’s not meant for only Chinese or Jewish readers! The heart of the book is the recognition that themes like family, community, hope, and renewal are universal, and that celebrating a new year can be a unifying thread that connects us all.

SARA: What’s next for you both as book creators?

RICHARD: I’ve got a busy 2024 planned, with several picture books scheduled to arrive. The first is If Lin Can, a biography of Asian American basketball star Jeremy Lin that will be published by Charlesbridge in April. Illustrated by Phùng Nguyên Quang and Huỳnh Kim Liên, the book shows how Lin’s magical run with the New York Knicks empowered an entire generation of Asian American kids. Then in August, Roaring Brook/Macmillan will publish A Taste of Home, illustrated by Sibu T.P. The book follows a group of kids on a walk through the vibrant cultural neighborhoods of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, as they search for foods that remind them of home. I can’t wait to share more about these and more in the coming months!

LYNN: This year was my busy year so I’m excited to have a chill 2024 in terms of bookwork. I’m currently working on one book for Bloomsbury. It’s called Quest for a Tangram Dragon and it’s written by Christine Liu-Perkins. I won’t get too much into it because I’m still working on the art but I’m really excited and I think it’ll be very cute.

SARA: I can’t wait to check out these upcoming titles! In the meantime, to win a copy of Two New Years by Richard Ho and Lynn Scurfield, comment below by September 30, 2023. A winner will be announced on October 6th. Thank you Lynn and Richard for spending time with us today, and Chronicle Books for contributing to this giveaway! 

Sara Holly Ackerman

Sara Holly Ackerman is the author of several picture books including THE GABI THAT GIRMA WORE, co-authored with Fasika Adefris and illustrated by Netsanet Tesfay, NOT JUST THE DRIVER! illustrated by Robert Neubecker, and CHALLAH FOR SHABBAT TONIGHT illustrated by Alona Millgram. She is a school librarian who lives in Brooklyn, NY right down the street from the library and she never leaves home without her library card. Visit Sara at and on Instagram at @sarahollyackerman.


  1. Looking forward to reading this beautiful book!

  2. Love this beautiful book! Congrats Richard & Lynn!
    Shana tova!

  3. Wonderful interview – what a talented pair and an amazing book!

  4. Wow! What an impressive picture book. I love this last line: “A shared year of double blessings.”

  5. This book sounds so wonderful and will appeal to so many readers-. Can’t wait to read it

  6. Such a beautiful and moving book! Congrats, Rich & Lynn!

  7. I am all for books about blending cultures, being in such a family myself! Congratulations, Rich and Lynn!

  8. Mazal Tov on this beautiful new book! Shana Tova!🍎

  9. My family celebrates both Rosh Hashanah and Chinese New Year. I wish I’d had this beautiful book to read to my daughter when she was young. I plan to send it to her, even though she is now 25!

  10. Looks like a beautiful book! I love how both the author and illustrator have connections to both cultures!

  11. Great interview, Sara! Thanks for this beautiful book, Richard and Lynn. I don’t need to win a copy because I already own it. It’s magnificent.

  12. Sarah, Richard, and Lynn, thank you for a wonderful interview and a peek into this beautiful, beautiful book! Our family is multicultural as well and you’re right that there aren’t enough books for kids like ours. I esp. love the cut paper art. Congratulations!!!

  13. Wow beautiful pictures!

  14. Looks like a beautiful combination of cultures.

  15. This is gorgeous! I noticed the paper cut borders right away, and the beautiful colors. Delightful! Congrats!

  16. Fabulous questions! Especially enjoyed the illustrator behind-the-scenes!

  17. Wonderful interview! I can’t wait to read this beautiful book. Congrats to all!

  18. Thank you, Lynn and Richard, for creating Two New Years and thank you, Sara for the terrific interview. I can’t wait to have it in my hands!

  19. What a beautiful book and interesting interview! I loved learning about all of you and the customs and traditions of both holidays.

  20. What a great collaboration of writer and artist. Congratulations, Richard and Lynn.
    And thank you Sara, for choosing this book for your library and interview!

  21. This book looks so great! Think my twins will love it! Happy New Year!

  22. What a superb idea! Thanks for the review, and interview.

  23. Congratulations, Richard and Sara! I look forward to reading it as a mom to biracial kids and an auntie to a multiracial niece!

  24. What a gorgeous and meaningful book! I can’t wait to read this to my daughter – we love books that celebrate multiple cultures! Wonderful interview, Sara!

  25. I love picture books based on different cultures and foods and this one having a family who celebrates two holidays is a wonderful introduction for readers to see how different people can and do love each other.

  26. Great interview! I’m so glad that the picture book world keeps expanding so more children can see themselves in books. Congratulations, Richard and Lynn!

  27. Beautiful Book, I finished reading Two tribes by Emily Cohen (Jewish/Muskogee identify) but, being Asian identify with this one personally.

  28. Beautiful book! I love the last line, “A shared year of double blessings.”

  29. Robert Scurfield

    Lynn I couldn’t help but notice your last name. Since Scurfield is relatively unique, I wonder how we may be related.
    Robert (Bob) Michael Scurfield, born Jun 13 1948, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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