Barbara's Reviews > The Year of the Book

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
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May 02, 12

bookshelves: bullies, community, cultural-identity, families, ncbla2013, reading, literacy
Read in May, 2012

Anna Wang is finding fourth grade quite lonely since her friend Laura spends more time with other friends, especially Allison who bosses the other students around and makes fun of Anna's homemade lunch sack and other aspects of Anna's personality and identity. When Laura seems to be making efforts to rekindle their friendship, Anna isn't sure whether to trust Laura. Instead, she finds solace, insight into human nature and friendship of a sort in the books she is reading. I like the brief mentions of these classic children's books, but I would have liked their impact on Anna to be discussed a little more. Then again, it's possible that the author only provides hints about the books, hoping readers will search them out for themselves. When Laura's home life leaves Laura vulnerable, Anna takes a risk and extends the hand of friendship to Laura just when she needs it most. I love how painstakingly the author portrays Anna, drawing sustenance from her own family and the books she reads, but also longing for a friend. Her kindness is evident in the way she greets the school crossing guard, Ray, even visiting him when he has an accident. The added layer of Anna's initial reluctance to learn how to speak and write Chinese plus her refusal to believe that Laura might actually be interested in her culture make this book memorable and useful in classroom conversations about trust and acceptance. Andrea Cheng has the ability to cover many important themes subtly while portraying family dynamics accurately. If this is a year of reading, it's also a year filled with self-discovery. The pen-and-ink illustrations have been colored digitally, making the book resemble in appearance those of Grace Lin. Young readers will love having the directions and visuals for several of the projects Anna undertakes.
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