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Mar 192014
 

The Year of the Book

The Year of the Book

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world. Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart

List Price: $ 15.99

Price: $ 8.94

  3 Responses to “The Year of the Book”

  1. 6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Celebrates readers and encourages them to take the next step to connect with the very real plots, June 4, 2012
    By 
    KidsReads (New York, NY) –

    This review is from: The Year of the Book (Hardcover)

    Fourth-grader Anna Wang wishes she didn’t have to go to school. Not only does school interrupt from her favorite activity — reading — her friendships have gotten incredibly complicated, as Anna’s best friend, Laura, now spends all her time with a mean girl named Allison. Standing with the crossing guard Ray, Anna wishes she could stay with him rather than “go to the fourth grade playground where Laura and Allison stand so close that there’s no space left for me.”

    Instead, Anna turns to books. Books never reject her. The stories they tell contain scope for the imagination, whether it’s the survival tips of Jean Craighead George’s MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (about a boy living in the wilderness with a hawk) or the inter-dimensional adventures of Meg and Charles Wallace in Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME. What they don’t tell her is how to stop being embarrassed or how to make people like her.

    Author Andrea Cheng deftly captures the viewpoint of a precocious child struggling to bridge the social gap with kids her own age. Anna is very good with adults who appreciate her creativity and encourage her natural talents for art. But she has a hard time making friends with other children, in part because she cannot decode the subtle social cues and demand for conformity that signify group belonging. For example, early in THE YEAR OF THE BOOK, she sews herself a lunch bag out of leftover scraps of fabric from her bedspread. The adults in her life praise her creativity, but the kids make fun of her eccentric choice for accessories. Later on in the book, Anna decides to forego trick-or-treating altogether rather than give into pressure to go as part of a group costume dictate by Allison.

    Anna’s mother is frustrated by her daughter’s stubbornness, but we gradually discover that Anna’s mother has challenges of her own. Anna is American-born Chinese. Like her father, she speaks no Chinese, but Anna’s Chinese-born mother perseveres to bridge the gap between different languages and cultures. Anna even attends Chinese school on weekends, which she resents because she does not understand the teacher and finds it difficult to excel. When she announces that she does not want to go to Chinese school anymore, her mother asks, “Then what will you do when we go to China?”

    “Dad manages and he doesn’t know Chinese,” Anna says.

    “And that is very difficult for him,” says Anna’s mother. “A Chinese face but no Chinese words is not easy.”

    Anna is embarrassed by her mother’s English, in which she frequently misplaces words or mixes up common phrases. When an adult neighbor comments on how much Anna has grown, her mother responds, “She is a weed,” rather than “she is growing like a weed.” It’s only gradually that she comes to realize that the frustration she feels with Chinese is the same challenge her mother faced in learning English. Or that the books she loves are a way to connect with new friends.

    One of the book’s most touching scenes is when a classmate comes to stay with Anna’s family for a few days as her own family is undergoing some difficulties. Initially, Anna resents the interruption away from her own interests and projects, but she gradually opens up to this friend in need. Instead of silently reading to herself at bedtime, she starts the book she is reading from the beginning and reads aloud until her troubled friend falls asleep.

    Charmingly illustrated by Abigail Halpin, THE YEAR OF THE BOOK is filled with pictures and instructions that help illuminate Anna’s activities. The language level and subject matter are perfect for the intended age group of 6-9, and the book is great for emerging independent readers. Cheng brings her experiences as an ESL teacher to teach some very basic Chinese and illuminate what it’s like to learn a new language.

    My only criticism (and it is mild) is that some of the books Anna reads are a bit sophisticated for the intended audience of THE YEAR OF THE BOOK. Even classics like E.L. Konigsburg’s FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER might be a stretch for kids just learning to read. Other titles, like Jacqueline Woodson’s HUSH (about a murder witness who goes into the witness protection program) or MY LOUISIANA SKY by Kimberly Willis Holt (about a girl dealing with her mentally disabled mother), might be deemed inappropriate for newly minted readers. Nevertheless, it is rare to find a chapter book that so deftly captures the inner life of its protagonist in such simple and absorptive language. THE YEAR OF THE BOOK does not talk down to its readers or make any assumptions about what they should or should not be reading. Instead, it finds a way to bridge the many challenges Anna must deal with, whether it’s relationships with friends and family, or how to be your own person without excluding others.

    People often describe reading as an “escape.” I’ve always resented this…

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  2. 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Sweet Bookloving Book, April 15, 2012
    By 
    R. Chaffey “beckahi” (Chicago) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Year of the Book (Hardcover)
    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

    Anna Wong is a fourth-grader whose head is always stuck in a good book and she is perfectly content to be so. Or is she? That is the concept of Andrea Cheng’s delightful little novella “The Year of the Book.” It is a quick read, peppered with expressions in Chinese and sweet illustrations by Abigail Halpin.

    Anna loves to read and doesn’t understand why her fellow classmates don’t like to read as well. Anna’s reading is an escape, for she desperately doesn’t want her classmates to know that her mom has trouble speaking English or that she cleans houses on the weekends when she isn’t studying to be a nurse. The previous year Anna was somewhat good friends with Laura, but when Lauren started hanging around with Allison and Lucy, Anna is left out of the picture. Initially, that’s okay with her and she is confounded when her mom pushes her to be friends with Laura again when Laura’s family is going through a really difficult situation. By having to accept Laura back into her life, Anna begins to see things differently, and even starts to enjoy things she disliked before, like Saturday Chinese school. It is a year of new experiences, growth, and friendship, as well as the title books.

    Cheng’s love for reading is evident in Anna, who reads classics like “A Wrinkle in Time” and “My Side of the Mountain” but also some unfamiliar ones like “My Louisiana Sky.” The references to these works can only help propel readers to be interested in them as well, which is always a good thing. The book ends rather suddenly, which may confuse younger readers or leave them wanting to know more. Yet Anna and her family are good role models for young readers. Anna learns a lot about friendship, but also a lot about herself and why it’s important to appreciate the differences between people and not be ashamed because she isn’t like everyone else. These lessons that Anna learns are important ones for everyone to experience.

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  3. 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Good Resource for Classroom Library, April 7, 2012
    By 
    Frances J. Sills (Charleston, SC United States) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Year of the Book (Hardcover)
    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What’s this?)

    As a retired educator, I would recommend this book for a classroom library. According to the back cover, the author teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) English. This story serves several functions for all students. First, it exposes children to another culture, in this case Chinese. Second, the engaging main character likes to read, read, read; often she uses books as a coping mechanism to help her through the difficult times. Third, because she shares her many favorite titles, the young reader may use her references as a springboard to other high quality titles. The illustrations nicely complement the story.

    I also envision this book being used as a teaching tool. The teacher could use a KWL chart to draw students into a lesson on diversity: What do you KNOW about Chinese culture ?; What do you WANT to know ?; and after reading, What did you LEARN? I’m sure all students can relate to Anna Wang, the main character, regardless of their ethnic origin.

    Finally, the story models how a child might deal with common petty antics, interact with adults, and learn compassion for those facing individual challenges. In conclusion, this book has a great deal of potential for teachable moments.

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