Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
Fifth-grader Anna Wang is proud of being "ABC," American born Chinese. She is also proud of her parents for adopting Kaylee, a baby girl born in China. But everyone in the Wang family is worried, because Kaylee will not eat, and the doctor says that if she does not gain weight, they will have to put her in the hospital. At school, Anna faces a different kind of challenge as the pressure is on to think of an idea for the science fair. While Anna is curious about many topics, she cannot come up with a hypothesis and something to test to find out the answers to questions she wonders, like why cats purr, or why she sees colors swirling when she closes her eyes and rubs them. She even encounters tension when she and her best friends, Laura and Camille, end up in a group doing a project they don't like. Together, Anna and Camille come up with a way to get Kaylee to eat, and they test their hypothesis that she will eat more if she is distracted with singing. When Laura gets involved, the terrific trio works through the scientific process and the tricky social politics at school to develop a top-notch, original science fair project. This engaging sequel The Year of the Book depicts realistic problems confronting sympathetic characters. Anna's world centers on her close-knit family and the pressures she feels as the eldest child. Her friendship with Laura and Camille is nuanced, sweet and supportive. Readers will be charmed by this story and will not realize how much they are learning about Chinese culture, child development, and the scientific process. It is a heart-warming addition to any collection. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
Worried that her newly adopted baby sister isn't gaining weight, fifth-grader Anna Wang and her friends Camille and Laura make the toddler the subject of a successful science-fair project. Anna, who became a better friend in The Year of the Book (2012), proves to be a capable older sister as well. Three months have passed since her family brought Kaylee from China to the United States. She looks fine to Anna, who enjoys taking care of her, but she doesn't want to eat. Camille gets her to swallow a few bites by distracting her with a song, planting the seed of an idea that blooms into an easy-to-follow experiment involving both Chinese and American nursery songs and a silent meal as a control. Laura's moves between her parents' two households complicate their activities, but, though she's not Chinese, she has joined Anna and Camille at language school, providing continuity. All three use occasional simple Chinese phrases (translated in the opening pronunciation guide). As in the previous title, there are also frequent references to familiar children's books. An ending that has their teacher also considering adoption from China seems an unnecessary embellishment, but the recipe for Grandma's steamed bao zi is welcome. Middle-grade readers will find many ways to connect with Anna and her friends in this warm family and school story. (Fiction. 7-10)
From the Publisher
"Middle-grade readers will find many ways to connect with Anna and her friends in this warm family and school story."
"This book deals deftly with a range of thorny adoption- and ethnic-stereotyping issues, such as the abandonment of female Chinese infants and the assumption that all Asians are gifted students, and it has special meaning for families touched by adoption."
—School Library Journal, starred review
"The science-fair and adoption angles make this useful in a number of settings, and readers who have followed Anna since fourth grade will hope Cheng goes on to keep tabs on her as she reaches sixth grade."
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—In this sequel to The Year of the Book (Houghton Harcourt, 2012), Anna Wang's parents have adopted a toddler from China. Kaylee's failure to thrive is being monitored by an unsupportive doctor, and Anna's mother is frantic about the child's low weight and resistance to food. Even Grandma Wang's herbs do not entice her to eat. Meanwhile, Anna cannot think of an original science project that "really matters" until she and her Chinese friend Camille stumble upon something. As Camille sings a Chinese song, Kaylee seems mesmerized and eats more than usual. Anna and her project partners design a controlled experiment that proves their hypothesis: listening to songs, especially those in Chinese, encourages Kaylee to eat. And indeed, she gains nearly a pound. The experiment is entered in the town-wide science fair. Anna learns to appreciate the wisdom of Camille, who struggles academically but possesses a serene emotional intelligence. This book deals deftly with a range of thorny adoption- and ethnic-stereotyping issues, such as the abandonment of female Chinese infants and the assumption that all Asians are gifted students, and it has special meaning for families touched by adoption. The delicate black-and-white drawings scattered throughout the straightforward text help make this a good choice for readers new to chapter books, and it will appeal to fluent readers looking for a compelling story.—Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Braintree, MA