Only One Year

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cheng (who collaborated with Wong on Brushing Mom's Hair) offers a quiet yet resonant novel that explores a practice unfamiliar to most American children. Just before Sharon's mother begins a new job, the fourth-grader's parents send her two-year-old brother, Di Di, to live in Shanghai for a year with their grandmother, Nai Nai. When Sharon questions why a babysitter can't care for him instead, Mama explains that for a sitter, “Di Di is a job. But for Nai Nai, he is a grandson.” Moving moments underscore the void his absence leaves: shopping for shoes, Sharon's younger sister, Mary, suggests they buy a pair for Di Di, and Mama replies, “We don't know his size.” Di Di's return brings different distress: he has no interest in playing with his sisters (“He doesn't like us anymore,” Sharon laments), he cries too often, and during a tantrum he tears apart the girls' homemade playhouse. Expectedly, the boy gradually bonds with his sisters, a process further humanized by Wong's delicate line art. Cheng's concluding note gives cultural context to her insightful story. Ages 7-11. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Nine-year-old Sharon hardly knows how to react when Mama almost casually announces that in two weeks she will be taking baby Di-Di back to China to spend time with Nai Nai, their grandmother, rather than having him go to daycare while Mama is at work. "Only one year," Mama tells Sharon. "It's not so long." But a year seems like forever to Sharon and her little sister Mary: "A year is all of fourth grade"—"And all of first grade." In some twenty brief, episodic chapters, Cheng crafts a kaleidoscope of the year of Di-Di's absence and of the somewhat strained time following his return. While Di-Di is away, the girls look at photos of him at the zoo or on the merry-go-round; they go to school, where they feel embarrassed to tell their friends about Di-Di's long time away; and they play with their home-made miniature house set up on the bottom shelf of a bookcase. When Di-Di returns home, he is talking now, mostly in Chinese; he cries for Nai Nai; he ruins the miniature house, but then the house is repaired. This is a quiet book, with little dramatic tension and no real plot: Di-Di goes away, Di-Di returns. The fragmentary chapters give the narrative a poetic quality as a series of photographic glimpses into the shifting seasons of Sharon's family, highlighting both the ways in which Chinese immigrant families may differ from the families of most readers and the more important ways in which they are the same. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Sharon and Mary can't believe their parents' decision to send their two-year-old brother to China. He'll spend a year with their grandparents, who will care for him and teach him Chinese with the help of aunts, cousins, and neighbors. His parents reason that "it's only one year" and everyone here is busy going to work or school. Di Di leaves, and the sisters keep his memory fresh by placing photos of him in an album chronicling his time in China. As months go by, the girls spend less and less time thinking about him. They're embarrassed to tell their friends what their parents have done. When Di Di returns, he doesn't remember them or English words, and Sharon worries he doesn't like them anymore. This slim novel opens a window into a unique cultural experience while showcasing the similarities of families. A pronunciation guide and glossary assist readers with the Chinese words, and black-line illustrations complement the text. An author's note explains that this family's experience is similar to that of many Asian immigrant parents who send a young child to their home country to stay with family members while they make a new life in America and work or attend school to provide a better future for their children. This novel illuminates a family's love and sibling dynamics and will be embraced by many young readers.—Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego
Kirkus Reviews
Cheng, known for exploring issues of diversity (Shanghai Messenger, illustrated by Ed Young, 2005, etc.), tackles a custom that many will find disorienting. Sharon and her younger sister are upset that their two-year-old brother, Di Di, will live with extended family in China for the "only one year" of the title. Mother explains that it is better for him to be cared for by family than by strangers at day care while everyone is at work or school. "We have to do what is best for Di Di," she says. "Not what is best for us." Sharon's narration follows the sisters throughout the year as they attend school, make friends and play, all the while missing Di Di. Those familiar with this practice will appreciate the book's frank and thoughtful tone that never diminishes the family's longing. For others, Di Di's trauma upon his return, when he no longer recognizes his parents or sisters nor understands or speaks English, will resonate. An author's note provides some background, but the notion may well be too jarring for many readers to accommodate easily. Wong's graceful black-and-white sketches complement the text. (Fiction. 7-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600602528
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 104
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 550L (what's this?)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 1 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Raise Cultural Awareness - Ages 7-9

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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