Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Year of the Dog, a novel by Grace Lin

Children love reading about the ordinary lives of other children. It gives them a chance to recognize themselves in what they read, as well as to connect with other kids. When Grace Lin was a little girl, she loved the everyday stories like "B" is for Betsy - but she never could see herself in these stories. When she asked her librarian for stories about Chinese children, all she was given were Chinese fables like Seven Chinese Brothers. So when she grew up, she decided to write her own story about growing up as a Chinese American: The Year of the Dog.
The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin
New York : Little, Brown, 2006
ages 8 - 12 (great read aloud for younger kids)
The Year of the Dog is a nice story for 3rd or 4th graders about a young girl's experience growing up as one of the only Chinese-Americans in her school. As the story developed, I really grew to like Pacey. I loved getting a sense of her family life and her friendship with Melody. There are many points where any kid might relate to Pacey's struggles - with the science fair, with a crush on a boy at school. But this story also gives the reader a feeling for Pacey's Chinese-American traditions and how she struggles to accept and understand her identity.

The dramatic tension in the story grows as Pacey tells about her feeling awkward at school being Chinese - she worries about being in the school play of Wizard of Oz, that everyone would think it was odd to have a Chinese munchkin. But she also feels awful when other Chinese girls teased her for not speaking Chinese or Taiwanese.

This would make a great read-aloud for kids in 1st or 2nd grade, or a nice independent read for 3rd or 4th graders. It would appeal to any kid who likes a realistic story, especially kids who might be interested in Pacey's Chinese-American identity.

Find it at the Berkeley Public Library or the Oakland Public Library. If you like this book, you might try the sequel: The Year of the Rat.

1 comment:

  1. I love that she wrote the book she wished she'd had as a girl. That sounds just like what Zetta Elliot said about why she wrote A Wish After Midnight! Don't forget to add your review links on Diversity Rocks for these. :-)