Only One Yearby Andrea Cheng, Nicole Wong (Illustrator)
Sharon can hardly believe the news. Di Di, her two-year-old brother, is being taken to China to spend a year with their grandparents. Why can’t he go to day care or be watched by a babysitter when Mama goes back to work? Sharon wonders. But her parents say it is better for relatives to take care of little children. After Di Di first leaves, Sharon and her younger sister, Mary, pore over the photographs their grandma sends, trying to keep their little brother fresh in their minds. As the year passes, the girls become involved with school, friends, and hobbies. They think of Di Di less often. Then one day he is home again, and it feels as if a stranger has entered their lives. The children struggle to sort out their mixed emotions but soon discover that the bonds among siblings hold strong.
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Can you imagine being separated from your little brother or sister for a whole year? Sharon, a nine-year-old Chinese American girl who is going into fourth grade, lives with her Ba Ba (dad), Mama, six-year-old sister Mary who is going into first grade, and two-year-old little brother (Di Di) named David. Then one day she learns that because Ba Ba is busy with his work as an engineer, Mama is starting her new job in the junior high school office, and both girls will be in school, Mama is going to take Di Di to China to spend a year with his grandparents and their family where Nai Nai (Grandma) will take him to market, Ye Ye (Grandpa) will take him to the playground, and Uncle Tao will take him to the zoo. Sharon wonders why their brother can't just go to day care or have a babysitter, but her parents think that it's better for him to be with relatives. During the year, the two girls pass the time away by involvement with school, friends, and hobbies, especially building a miniature house. They receive regular pictures of Di Di from Nai Nai which they put into a photograph album. Also they remember him when they shop for new shoes and see all the toddler boys' sneakers and boots. Certainly they do not forget Di Di, but when he returns with Nai Nai to get ready for preschool, will he remember them? Author Andrea Cheng hopes the book will help readers to understand the role that different cultural customs play in the ways which loving families raise their children, and she explains the reasons for these different customs with an author's note in the back of the book. This is followed by a pronunciation guide and glossary for the Chinese terms. Nicole Wong, who provided the black and white illustrations, was drawn to the story because it presents a Chinese American experience that is different from her own. The text and drawings work together to provide a gentle tribute to enduring family love, even when tested by a difficult decision.
This story begins in the summer and centers around a Chinese family that has three children, ages 2, 6 and 9. The mother will be starting a new job at a school when school starts, so the parents have made the decision to send the 2 year old to China for a year so that he can be cared for by relatives. The two older girls are not happy about this decision. However, they get through the year and the little brother returns the following summer. The black and white illustrations that accompany the text are very detailed and add to the feel of the story. This book explores the different adjustments that must be made by the family throughout the year and especially by the little brother when he returns to the US from China. The author also includes a note discussing the difficult decision that families make more often than we would expect. She also includes a pronunciation guide and definitions for the Chinese words used in the book. This would be a great recommendation to readers who enjoyed The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin. I would recommend purchase of this book as an early chapter book for grades two and three.