Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Year of the Book

The Year of the Book

Andrea Cheng
Illustrator:  Abigail Halpin 
Fiction  Series
For ages 7 to 9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012   ISBN: 978-0547684635

Anna Wang is now in the fourth grade, in Ms. Simmons’ class. Last year Anna spent a lot of time with a girl called Laura, but this year Laura is always with Allison and Lucy and there is no room for Anna in the group. Not having anyone to spend time with anymore, Anna takes refuge in books. The stories engage her, and the characters become her companions.

   At home books continue to make Anna’s life richer. These days Anna and her mother are not always getting along. Anna cannot help feeling embarrassed by her mother, whose English is not perfect yet, who still does not having a driver’s license, and who cleans in an apartment building on Saturdays. Anna’s mother seems to expect things of her that Anna cannot or does not want to deliver.

   For example, Anna is not doing very well at the Chinese school that she attends on the weekends. The teacher mostly talks in Chinese and Anna has a hard time understanding what she is saying. Anna’s mother does not speak Chinese at home so Anna does not hear the language that much. She resents having to learn a language that she is rarely going to have to speak, and she tells her mother as much. Needless to say this does not do down too well.

   Anna and her mother also butt heads about Halloween. Halloween is not celebrated in China and yet Anna’s mother is making a big fuss over the special day, which Anna finds very annoying. Anna has no intention of dressing up and going trick-or-treating with Laura and Allison, which her mother clearly thinks is a bad idea. Why won’t Anna “give things a chance” her mother asks, and Anna insists that she does so “all the time.”

   An hour before trick or treating is supposed to start, Laura arrives at Anna’s door. She is clearly upset and ends up spending the evening with Anna. The girls end up making homemade costumes, and then they go treat or treating with Anna’s little brother and his friend. Even though Anna and Laura have a good time, Anna is not at all inclined to resume their friendship. After all, Laura will probably just go back to Allison and ignore Anna again. What’s the point?

   In this sweetly sensitive book the author explores how one girl learns what it means to be a friend. We also see Anna struggle to come to terms with her bi-cultural background, which at times she embraces and at other times she rejects.