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The Year of the Dog

by Grace  Lin

Published by Little, Brown, 2006
134 pages
ISBN: 0316060003

Ages 7-10

A breezy novel for middle grade readers is about Grace, whose life is an exuberant blend of home and school, family and friends, and Chinese and American traditions. On Chinese New Year, Grace learns that the upcoming Year of the Dog is supposed to be a good time to find out what you want to do with your life and sheís eager to figure it out. Stories and art play an important role in author/artist Linís strongly autobiographical narrative, which features many spot illustrations. Young Grace enters a writing and illustration contest. (Her entry is a story called "The Ugly Vegetables," which was the title of Linís first published picture book, although Lin did not really write it as a child.) Graceís mother often tells family stories that make for amusing and sometimes enlightening connections between present and past for Grace and her sisters. Graceís family easily blends their Chinese/Taiwanese heritage and traditions with contemporary American life. But there are occasional moments of doubt and confusion for Grace, such as when she eagerly signs up to try out for the role of Dorothy in a school production of The Wizard of Oz, only to be told by a classmate that Dorothy isnít Chinese. In an authorís note, Lin states that she set out to write the kind of story she would have loved as a child, in which the magic comes in reading about the regular lives of the characters. She deftly infuses that magic into her own narrative, which is grounded in lively, authentic details of childhood. (MS) (Ages 7-10)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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