Lin, Grace. The Year of the Dog. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: New York, 2007. ISBN 9780316060028.
Pacy Lin is excited for the new year, the Year of the Dog, where she is supposed to find wealthy and strengthen relationships. This funny book is about a young Taiwanese-American girl who is discovering who she is and fostering her relationships with her parents, her friends, her sisters, and her cultural identity.
I thought this was a very good book. It is well written, especially for children transitioning from early readers to middle grade. The language is simplistic and easy to follow, yet descriptive and well written enough to keep their attention and increase their imagination.
The story is one that will most especially resonate with children from immigrant families. The cross between cultures, and feeling as though there are two parts of you, or more.
“But I’m not really Chinese either. It’s kind of confusing. My parents came from Taiwan. Some people thought Taiwan was part of China. So then calling me Chinese was kind of correct. Other people thought Taiwan was a country all by itself, so then I should be called Taiwanese. It didn’t help that my parents spoke both Chinese and Taiwanese. ‘So when people ask me what I am, what am I supposed to tell them?” I once asked Mom. “You tell them that you’re American,” Mom told me firmly. But my friend didn’t call me Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. They called me Grace, my American name.” pg. 18 & 19
The focus on culture is really well done. The story centers around the Chinese new year, being the year of the dog, it indicates celebrating friends and family and self discovery.
“‘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.” pg. 2
The sense of community is also very present in this book.
“What’s TAC camp?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a camp for Taiwanese-Americans. We all get together and do things,” she told me. “We go every summer. We spend a week there and then we go see my Aunt Alice the next week.”
“That sounds boring,” I said.
“No, it’s fun!” Melody said. “We sing songs and go to art class- all the usual fun camp things, except everyone is Taiwanese. Maybe you should come!” pg. 90 & 91
It also brings to light challenges our young kids have to face, like friendship and relations between parents and siblings. Even extended family.
The book is dotted with cute little black and white drawings and the who layout of the book is good. Several stories that were told by herself or family members interrupt the narrative.
This is a great middle grade book that kids will love.
From School Library Journal:
“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 Graces 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.”
“When Lin was a girl, she loved the Betsy books by Carolyn Hayward, a series about a quintessentially American girl whose days centered around friends and school. But Lin, a child of Taiwanese immigrants, didn’t see herself in the pages. Now she has written the book she wished she had as a child. Told in a simple, direct voice, her story follows young Grace through the Year of the Dog, one that Grace hopes will prove lucky for her. And what a year it is! Grace meets a new friend, another Asian girl, and together they enter a science fair, share a crush on the same boy, and enjoy special aspects of their heritage (food!). Grace even wins fourth place in a national book-writing contest and finds her true purpose in life. Lin, who is known for her picture books, dots the text with charming ink drawings, some priceless, such as one picturing Grace dressed as a munchkin. Most of the chapters are bolstered by anecdotes from Grace’s parents, which connect Grace (and the reader) to her Taiwanese heritage. Lin does a remarkable job capturing the soul and the 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.”
From Kirkus 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.”
Other books by Grace Lin:
Dumpling Days ISBN: 9780316125895
Dim Sum for Everyone ISBN: 9780385754880
The Ugly Vegetables ISBN: 9781570914911
Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look ISBN 9781416913894
Apple Pie Fourth of July by Janet S. Wong ISBN 9780152057084
The Dragon’s Child: A Story of Angel Island by Laurence Yep ISBN 9780060276928
Find out what the animal is for the year you were born. What is the characteristic for that year?