Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Year of the Three Sisters (An Anna Wang novel)

The Year of the Three Sisters (An Anna Wang novel)

Andrea Cheng
Illustrator:  Patrice Barton 
Fiction  Series
For ages 7 to 9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015   ISBN: 978-0544344273

Last winter Anna went to China, and while she was there she made friends with Fan, a girl who worked in the hotel where Anna was staying. Anna and Fan have been writing to each other over the months and one hot day Anna tells her friend Andee about the special friendship that she shares with the Fan. Andee suggests that they invite Fan to come to America as an exchange student. Fan could go to Andee’s school and even stay with Andee and her family.

Anna sends Fan an email and she and Andee have high hopes that Fan will agree to come and visit, but this is not what happens. Fan works in the city, but she is from the countryside and there is very little money to spare in her family. In fact, Fan had to leave school because her family needed her to start earning money. There is no way Fan can pay to come to America.

Andee’s family then steps in and they offer to pay for Fan to come to the United States. Anna’s mother also writes to Fan’s mother, explaining why such a trip would be a wonderful opportunity for Fan. If she can improve her English, Fan will be able to get a better paying job in a hotel when she gets home.

Thanks to the generosity of Andee’s parents, Fan’s parents agree to let Fan come to Cincinnati to stay with Andee and her family. Everyone is excited to have Fan come and visit, and Andee and Anna work hard to make sure that they do everything they can to make Fan feel welcome. Anna does worry a little about how Fan will feel staying in Andee’s large home. Fan has never seen such a large house, and has never slept in a room alone.

It turns out that Anna’s fears are well-founded. America is a strange place for a girl from China, and Fan and Andee do not hit it off. It doesn’t help that Fan refuses to do anything fun. Instead, she focuses all her energy on studying her school work and improving her English. She feels that she owes it to her family to work hard, and that doing things that are fun would be a waste of time. No matter what Anna says, Fan is stubborn and determined to “do things the way she did in China, the way she was taught.” Fan is not open to considering new ways of doing things, and Andee is not very flexible either. As the situation with Fan gets worse, Anna begins to think that perhaps inviting Fan to American was not such a good idea after all.

This is the fourth book in the wonderful Anna Wang series, and in it the author further explores how people from different cultures sometimes struggle to get along. Compromises have to be made, and we need to make the effort to understand each other and to learn about each other’s cultures and traditions.