The Year of the Dog
The Year of the Rat
By Grace Lin
Expected publication January 2, 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
I received an ARC of the third book in Grace Lin's debut series at ALA in June, so I picked up the first two and read all three in one weekend. I was looking forward to them because I had been enchanted by Lin's Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I'm happy to say that this series did not disappoint, though it is very different from Lin's other title.
This series follows Grace/Pacy Lin (her American and Chinese name, respectively), a young Taiwanese-American middle child growing up in New York State. In the first book, Grace strives to find her talent and discover what she wants to be when she grows up. She is also thrilled by the arrival of another Chinese-American girl her age in her neighborhood (throughout the series, Grace tries to understand whether she is Taiwanese or Chinese - an issue fraught with very adult political implications). In the second book, Grace is devastated to discover that her best friend has to move to California. She must struggle with the inevitable changes we all face. In the upcoming third title, Grace and her family visit Taiwan for her grandmother's sixtieth birthday. Pacy discovers her heritage and the endless variety of dumplings she can enjoy. This series is really engaging and simple - it's really written in an easy way that I think is easy for children to comprehend and relate to. It's also pretty clear that this series is at least loosely autobiographical (Pacy, after all, decides she wants to be an author/illustrator when she grows up). Lin inserts family tales throughout the main action of the novel which usually serve to illustrate a value or proverb and which are generally quite effective. I think what I like most about this series is that it's pure - it's very realistic in its depiction of being a child of a minority ethnicity. I believe Lin wrote the series for children like she was, to fill a hole in the literature for kids. All kids need to read about people like themselves and Lin's simple yet illustrative and engrossing series is perfect for this. Very enjoyable.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.