The Year of the Book (Anna Wang Series #1)

The Year of the Book (Anna Wang Series #1)


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In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated.

When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world.

Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544022638
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Series: Anna Wang Series , #1
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 102,205
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 590L (what's this?)
Age Range: 6 - 9 Years

About the Author

Andrea Cheng writes picture books, and middle grade and young adult novels, and teaches ESL and children’s literature. She walks daily near her Ohio home.

Abigail Halpin is an illustrator and a graphic designer. Away from the drawing table, she knits, reads comic books, and plays the fiddle. She lives in New England.

Read an Excerpt



Ray, the crossing guard, is waiting at the curb in his orange vest that catches the sunrise.

"How’s my girl?" he asks.

I show him the lunch bag that I sewed yesterday.

"Well if that’s not the prettiest lunch bag I’ve ever seen." He tests the drawstrings.

"It’s fabric left over from my bedspread," I tell him.

"So your lunch matches your bed." Ray admires my handiwork.

Laura and Allison join us at the curb. "How many more minutes until the bell, Ray?" Allison asks.

Ray glances at his wristwatch. "You got about three minutes today, girls." Then he walks into the intersection and holds out his arms so we can cross.

I’d rather stay with Ray than go onto the fourth grade playground where Laura and Allison stand so close that there’s no space left for me.

"Hey, what’s that?" Laura asks, noticing my bag.

"A lunch bag," I say.

"Homemade?" Allison asks.

I nod.

She looks at Laura. Their eyes meet.

We start out with the word of the week. Ms. Simmons writes it on the board. Perseverance. Laura’s hand shoots up before Ms. Simmons has even finished the last letter. She knows more words than the rest of us.

"It’s when you don’t give up," she says.

Ms. Simmons nods. "Can someone give us an example of perseverance?"

Lucy raises her hand. "Like when I learned to play basketball," she says.

Ms. Simmons tells us to write a paragraph about a time that we were perseverant. Laura starts right away. I don’t know how she thinks of ideas so fast. I stare at the blank paper. Then I see my lunch bag that’s on top of my books and that gives me an idea. On the top of my paper I write my name, Anna Wang, and the title, Making a Lunch Bag. I skip a line and then write:

Making a lunch bag is not as easy as it looks. First I cut the rectangles too small because I forgot about the seam. Then I cut them again and made them bigger but I sewed the casing backwards.

Allison glances at my paper. She leans over and says, "Perseverance has to be something that takes a really long time." She shows me her title: Learning to Ride a Two-Wheeler.

The blood rushes to my cheeks. Writing about making a lunch bag is stupid but it’s too late to start over. I don’t think Ms. Simmons will understand what I’m talking about, especially if she doesn’t know how to sew. I glance at the clock. Time is going by and I have only written a few sentences. I pick up my pen and write,

When I finally thought that my lunch bag was done, I couldn’t figure out how to get the drawstring threw the casing.

When I reread my sentence, I notice that I wrote "threw" wrong because it should be "through," but when I erase it, my paper is a mess.

Ms. Simmons asks if anyone wants to read their paragraph out loud. Allison raises her hand. "When I was in first grade, I got a two-wheeler for my birthday, but I couldn’t ride it. Then my dad put on the training wheels and I could sort of ride but not very well." She reads in a monotone and I stop listening. I’m thinking about how I had to take all the casing stitches out of my bag and sew it down the other way. The second time, I made it too narrow for the drawstring. When Allison is done, four other people say they wrote about learning to ride a bike. I bet nobody wrote about sewing a lunch bag.

The whole time that Allison is reading, Laura is still working on her paragraph. She has covered the page and now she’s writing on the back. She must have been very perseverant about something to write so much.

Ms. Simmons collects our papers, and then it’s time for reading.

We can read whatever books we want. Laura and Allison take two different Princess Diary books off the shelf but I brought my own library book called My Side of the Mountain. Soon I am with Sam, hollowing out a stump to make my own little house. Sam likes to be by himself in the forest. He has a pet falcon named Frightful for company and to help him hunt for food.

When the bell rings, I’m startled because Sam is in the middle of catching a deer. He’s going to cure the meat so he’ll have food in winter and he’ll use the fur for clothing. I feel sorry for the animal, but at least he’s not wasting any part of it. I want to keep on reading but I have to close my book because Ms. Simmons says reading and walking at once will get you into trouble. She knows because she did it and ended up with a big knot on her forehead. We head outside for recess before lunch.

I stand by the fence. Laura and Allison and Lucy come my way. "My mom can type so fast you can’t even see her fingers," Laura says. She moves her fingers like she’s at a keyboard.

"Is she a secretary?" Allison asks.

Laura shakes her head, making her blond hair fly all over. "Executive assistant."

"My mom’s a high school principal," Lucy says. "You should see the kids when my mom walks by." She nods down at us like she is the principal and we are the students. "It’s all about respect."

I hunch my shoulders.

"Have you ever heard of Hammond High?" Lucy asks. "That’s her school."

"Hey, Anna, what about your mom?" Allison asks.

I can’t just say that my mom vacuums and mops every Saturday or that she learned English almost perfectly because she is very perseverant and now she is going to college so someday she can be a nurse. "She works in one of those high-rises," I say. "With a view of the river."

"In an office?" Lucy asks.

"Sort of."

Allison looks over my head at Lucy. Then she and Lucy and Laura link arms and walk toward the tetherball.

My brother, Ken, and the other third-graders are in the grassy area, chasing each other up and down the hill. Last year Laura and I were there too, and when we got sweaty, we sat in the shade of the school building and played a Chinese game with little rocks that Mom taught me, kind of like jacks without the ball. But this year Laura found Allison and Lucy. I found Ray but he goes home while we’re at school.

The boys are kicking a soccer ball across the field. Tai is in front, moving the ball like lightning with his feet. I like Tai and I’m a fast runner, but I don’t like playing soccer because I get mixed up about which side is my goal. Once I scored a point for the wrong team and everyone yelled at me.

I sit down on the blacktop and open my book. Sam skins the deer and hangs the hide so it can dry. Later he plans to sew himself deerskin pants and a shirt. I wonder if he’ll remember that seams take up a lot of room. When I made my rectangles too small, I cut new ones out of more leftover material, but Sam doesn’t have extra deerskin. Maybe he should try a pattern out of paper first the way Mom does when she sews. But he probably doesn’t have paper to spare.

"Anna." Ms. Simmons is calling. "Hurry. It’s time for lunch."

There is nobody left out on the playground except me. I go to the back of the line behind the boys who are always messing around.

* * *

On the way home from school, Ray has five acorns for me. I put them in my empty lunch bag. "That bag comes in handy," he says. "I wish I had one."

"They’re not hard to make."

"I’m not so sure about that." He shakes his head. "Now you have a nice afternoon, hear?"

Laura and Allison are way ahead of me. Ken is talking and laughing with his friends. I take out my book and read-walk all the way home.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A gentle, affectionate take on familiar middle-grade issues and the joys of reading."—Kirkus

"Tender . . . Cheng credibly portrays Anna's budding maturity."—Publishers Weekly

"Cheng's telling is as straightforward yet sympathetic as her self-contained main character; and Halpin's often lighthearted pencil-and-wash sketches both decorate and enrich this perceptive novel."—Horn Book

"Readers are led to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary, and to witness how kindness can draw trust and create confidence in a hesitant child."—School Library Journal   "This is a remarkably pithy and nuanced portrait of a fourth-grader and her world, and the streamlined simplicity of Cheng's writing and the brief page count make it accessible."—Bulletin "The Year of the Book was a pleasure to read and more. This is a novel to treasure and share with every middle-grade reader you know."—New York Times Book Review

Customer Reviews

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The Year of the Book 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is on a special list for 3rd - 5th grade students for the 2013-2014 school year in Florida. While it is a simple read, this is not a model book for students due to many grammatical errors and sentence structure. Why were these things not caught by an editor before being published? Hopefully this occurs only in the digital version and not the printed copies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book!!! I am about the age of the characters (slightly older), and I think it's really true-to-life and relatable. Anna is very believable and has a very real personality. I can completely relate to her, because I too often space out into a book and don't notice when people talk to me (and "read-walk" as Anna calls it---despite many admonitions from teachers :P). Laura moving on to the popular girls is very realistic as well (at my school, we don't have a "popular clique" per se, but we do have girls who are prettier and more confident than other girls, and recently one of my friends joined them (not completely, but still).). And sadly, Laura's home situation is realistic as well. All in all, I think this book is very true-to-life and an excellent book for girls in grades 3-6.
bookwren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A sweet story of learning to be a good friend. Anna Wang's best friends are books: My Side of the Mountain, A Wrinkle in Time, My Louisiana Sky. Sometimes she feels like living in a hollowed-out tree like Sam, so she doesn't have to deal with people. She can disappear in them and ignore the fact that she doesn't have many friends her age. She's a bit embarassed by her Chinese mother's difficulty with English and references to Chinese ways. Her best friend is Ray, the crossing guard at school. When a neighbhor girl, Laura's parents, start fighting and separate, Anna realizes it feels good to help others. I loved Anna's friendship with Mr. Shepherd, the elderly widow whom Anna's Mom cleans house for. He notices Anna's interest in art and gives her his wife's paints. Anna's uses her art to communicate her caring to others, drawing pictures and cards for her teacher and friends and Mr. Shepherd. This story is not fast-paced or adventurous, but it is thoughtful and quiet, like me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have not read all of the book yet but I have read the sample and I feel like iI know I'm going to like it and I just think it is realy cool that they have chinese pronouncations beacause I go to a chinese school! thanks!, Joanne
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's asi-asi or in english so-so type of book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AWSOME book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it!!!!! ???¿?:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is ok...but i wasnt very interested in it. Theres also to many typos!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think its a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a great book but there were so many typos so if younger kids read this book I hope that they understand what the author was talking about. It may have typos but it was still a great book. If you don't know if you should buy it you should even though there are a lot of typos. ENJOY!!!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I feel bad for laura her parents are divorced anyway the book was good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is an awesome book but there are so many typos in it. Whoever the editor was, seriously failed. But other than that it is super goog :) :/