Lin, best known for her picture books, here offers up a charming first novel, an autobiographical tale of an Asian-American girl's sweet and funny insights on family, identity and friendship. When her family celebrates Chinese New Year, ringing in the Year of the Dog, Pacy (Grace is her American name) wonders what the coming months will bring. Her relatives explain that the Year of the Dog is traditionally the year when people "find themselves," discovering their values and what they want to do with their lives. With big expectations and lots of questions, the narrator moves through the next 12 months trying to figure out what makes her unique and how she fits in with her family, friends and classmates. Pacy experiences some good luck along the way, too, winning a contest that will inspire her career (Lin's fans will recognize the prize submission, The Ugly Vegetables, as her debut children's book). Lin creates an endearing protagonist, realistically dealing with universal emotions and situations. The well-structured story, divided into 29 brief chapters, introduces traditional customs (e.g., Hong Bao are special red envelopes with money in them, given as New Year's presents), culture and cuisine, and includes several apropos "flashback" anecdotes, mainly from Pacy's mother. The book's inviting design suggests a journal, and features childlike spot illustrations and a typeface with a hand- lettered quality. Girls everywhere, but especially those in the Asian-American community, will find much to embrace here. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Grace Lin writes the book as she invents a protagonist, Pacy, who must have been much like she was. Pacy is confused about her identity. She has a Taiwanese name at home, but at elementary school where she is the only Asian-American, she uses her American name, Grace. Her mom is Taiwanese. Her Dad is Chinese. Is she Taiwanese- Chinese-American? And what will she be when she grows up? Pacy knows The Year of the Dog will be lucky for her. It was the year in which she was born and her mom tells her "since dogs are honest and sincere, it's a good year to find yourself." Will she be a scientist? A writer? This readable short novel is even more approachable because of its amusing drawings and instructive family anecdotes. Knowing the character is based on the author's life makes it really interesting to check how everything worked out on the author's website, www.gracelin.com. 2006, Little Brown, Ages 7 to 10.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-A lighthearted coming-of-age novel with a cultural twist. Readers follow Grace, an American girl of Taiwanese heritage, through the course of one year-The Year of the Dog-as she struggles to integrate her two cultures. Throughout the story, her parents share their own experiences that parallel events in her life. These stories serve a dual purpose; they draw attention to Grace's cultural background and allow her to make informed decisions. She and her two sisters are the only Taiwanese-American children at school until Melody arrives. The girls become friends and their common backgrounds illuminate further differences between the American and Taiwanese cultures. At the end of the year, the protagonist has grown substantially. Small, captioned, childlike black-and-white drawings are dotted throughout. This is an enjoyable chapter book with easily identifiable characters.-Diane Eddington, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Being Taiwanese-American is confusing, and being the only Asian kid in your elementary school-except for your older sister-is not always comfortable. Pacy has high hopes for the Year of the Dog, which, she learns, is a year for finding friends and finding yourself. The friend comes first: a new girl, Melody, whose family is also Taiwanese-American. Over the course of the year, Pacy eats at Melody's house, where the food is familiar but also very different, celebrates her cousin's Red Egg day, writes a story for a national contest, visits Chinatown in New York City and wins a prize. Not only does she feel rich, she knows what she wants to do with her life. The Year of the Dog turns out exactly as advertised. Elementary school readers will enjoy the familiar details of school life and the less familiar but deliciously described Chinese holiday meals. Interspersed with the happenings of daily life are her mother's stories of Pacy's grandparents' lives and her own struggles as a new immigrant. Occasional black-and-white drawings by the author enliven the text. This comfortable first-person story will be a treat for Asian-American girls looking to see themselves in their reading, but also for any reader who enjoys stories of friendship and family life. (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
* "Lin does a remarkable job capturing the soul and spirit of books like those of Hayward or Maud Hart Lovelace, reimagining them through the lens of her own story, and transforming their special qualities into something new for today's young readers."Booklist, starred review"
This comfortable first-person story will be a treat for Asian-American girls looking to see themselves in their reading, but also for any reader who enjoys stories of friendship and family life."Kirkus"
Lin creates an endearing protagonist, realistically dealing with universal emotions and situations. Girls everywhere, but especially those in the Asian-American community, will find much to embrace here."Publishers Weekly"
Entertaining and often illuminating."The Horn Book
Read an Excerpt
The Year of the Dog
By Grace Lin
LITTLE BROWN FOR YOUNG READERS Copyright © 2006 Grace Lin
All right reserved.
Chapter One "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" DAD LAUGHED INTO THE phone. "Gong xi-gong xi! Xin-nian kuai le!" The phone had been ringing all night with relatives calling to wish us a happy Chinese New Year. If we had lived in Taiwan, we would be having a big dinner with all of our relatives-aunts, uncles, and cousins. But since we lived in New Hartford, New York, they called us instead.
"Yes," Dad said over the phone to Uncle Leo, "happy Year of the Dog!"
"What does it mean when it's the Year of the Dog?" I asked. Our kitchen was full of rich, heavy smells because Mom and Lissy were cooking the special Chinese New Year dinner. I was teaching Ki-Ki how to draw a dog for our decorations. "I know every Chinese New Year is a different animal, but is something special supposed to happen because it's the Year of the Dog?"
"Yes," Lissy told me, nodding her head so hard that her black hair swung back and forth. Lissy always thought she knew everything. "You know how they say a dog is a man's best friend? Well, in the Year of the Dog you find your best friends."
"That's true," Mom said, her hands mixing speckled brown meat, "because dogs are faithful. They say the Year of the Dog is the year for friends and family. But there's more to it than that. The Year of the Dog is also for thinking. Since dogs are also honest and sincere, it's a good year to find yourself."
"Find myself?" Ki-Ki said. "Why? I'm not lost."
We all laughed and Mom tried to explain.
"No," she said, "finding yourself means deciding what your values are, what you want to do-that kind of thing."
"Like deciding what you want to be when you grow up?" I asked.
"Yes." Mom nodded her head.
"Well," Lissy said, "I've decided I'm definitely NOT going to be a chef, because I'm tired of cooking. We still have to make the shrimp, the pork, and the vegetables. We're never going to eat!" "We will, we will," Mom said, and she looked at the clock. "Pacy, stop drawing and go fill the New Year tray." I went to the cabinet and took out the New Year tray. We had polished it so much that I could see myself shining in the red and black wood. I also took out a bag of the special Chinese New Year candy. It's very important that the New Year tray is filled with candy. If it's full of sweet things, it means your year will be full of sweet things.
Ki-Ki hung up our drawings and then came over to help me, though she didn't really help much. All she did was eat the candy. She loved New Year's candy. I don't know why. It isn't real candy like chocolate or lollipops. New Year's candy is sticky taffy melon candy, the color of the moon. Ki-Ki kept eating the candy, so I couldn't fill the whole tray. I looked in the cupboard for more, but there wasn't any more. But there were rainbow- colored M&M's. I loved M&M's. That's real candy. So I fitted the rest of the tray with that.
When Lissy saw the tray, her mouth made a big 0. "You can't fill the tray with M&M's," she told me. "It's a Chinese tray; only Chinese candy is supposed to go in it."
"But there's not enough Chinese candy to fill it," I told her.
We both looked at the tray. We couldn't decide if it was better to have the tray be half empty with only Chinese candy or full with Chinese and American candy.
Mom was frying food, so we took the tray to Dad. He scooped up a big handful of Chinese candy and M&M's and ate it.
"This way is good," he said. "We should have both Chinese and American candy for the new year. It's just like us-Chinese-American. I think it's going to be a very sweet year!"
Excerpted from The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin Copyright © 2006 by Grace Lin. Excerpted by permission.
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