Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Year of the Dog

A novel by Grace Lin

Lin, Grace. The Year of the Dog. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. ISBN 9780316060004

Plot Summary
Grace, aka Pacy, is a Taiwanese American girl living through the Year of the Dog, the Chinese New Year tradition. For Grace this means that this is the year for family, friends, and to find herself. She is determined to decide what she wants to be while discovering new talents this year. Throughout the school year Grace gains friends and participates in school activities, like the science fair and the school play. In her quest, Grace overcomes stereotypes, obstacles, and learns more about herself.

Critical Analysis
In this novel, Grace Lin presents a beautifully written humorous and touching story. Her inspiration for writing her first novel comes from wishing there was a book like this when she was a young girl. The Taiwanese American culture that Lin writes about helps educate others on this culture that many people may not be familiar with. It also gives Taiwanese American children a glimpse into a life that may be similar to theirs.

The text flows nicely which makes for an easy read that is very descriptive. Readers will be able to sympathize and/or empathize with the characters' emotions, especially Grace's. I was able to feel Grace's frustration, disappointment, excitement, and hope through Lin's words. The main character is a Taiwanese American girl who has two names. Her name is Pacy, but everyone except her family calls her by her American name, Grace. This story has many cultural connections with names and traditions. One experience Grace has with her culture is when her grandma paints Chinese symbols on her neck to help with her neck pain. In the story, Lin provides readers with the actual Chinese symbols for tiger and pig. The tiger is believed to chase the pig which will massage the neck muscles. Grace is amazed when it actually works. There is a section of the book where Grace and her friends go to the library to search for a Chinese book. To their disappointment, they come across The Seven Chinese Brothers, which is not a true representation of Chinese people. Grace also gets told that she can't be Dorothy in the school play because "Dorothy's not Chinese." Even though she is dealing with prejudicial people and situations, Grace shows strength in her will to keep on pushing and trying.

Throughout the story, Lin has cute little sketches and drawings that provide visual entertainment for readers. Each chapter starts with a title arced over a sketch to represent the content in the chapter. In the back of the book there is an Author's Note from Grace Lin, a Reader's Guide, and a sneak peek at the book sequel, The Year of the Rat.

Children will be able to relate to this light-hearted story. I highly recommend this book for public and school libraries to enhance their collections through multicultural literature.

Review Excerpts
  • "A lighthearted coming-of-age novel with a cultural twist." -School Library Journal 
  • "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." -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
More books with Chinese and Chinese American culture for elementary school age children.
  • Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look
  • The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin
  • The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

No comments:

Post a Comment