Author: Andrea Cheng
Age Range: 7-10 (Kirkus Reviews)
Interest Range: 7-10
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Plot: Anna is having a rough time in 4th grade. Laura used to be her best friend, but is now hanging out with Allison- even though Allison is not the nicest of girls. Plus, Anna now has to attend Chinese school on Saturdays. Her mother, who is from China, feels it is important that she learn more about her heritage. On top of that, what would the other girls say if they knew that her mother cleans other people’s houses for a living? Or is currently going to school, and doesn’t even know how to drive? Being Chinese in Ohio is strange, so Anna finds comfort in her books. An avid reader, Anna almost doesn’t even notice the year going by around her as she makes friends with another girl from Chinese school, helps Laura through her parents’ separation, and manages to begin to learn Chinese and embrace what makes her so different and so special.
Review: Anna is struggling with being a minority in a not-very-diverse place. She is different from everyone not just because of her looks, but her mother is actually from another country. Chinese school, along with many other pressures and expectations from her parents that are not necessarily the same as her classmates’ experiences make her feel especially excluded. Also, her closest friend is searching to find meaning and support in a structure that is falling down around her- trying to become friends with girls that she perceives as important while her parents are experiencing a very messy split. Even though Laura’s actions hurt her feelings, Anna eventually comes around to appreciate the painful place her friend is living in and the two are able to somewhat repair their relationship. Even more inspiring, throughout her year Anna learns to embrace what it is that makes her different. She makes new friends and ends her school year really looking forward to the 5th grade.
Themes: Coming of Age, Building New Relationships, Trying to Fit In, Divorce, Race
Anna: A 4th grader who loves to read. Anna always has her nose in a book, even though the teacher told her that read-walking can be quite dangerous. Anna is struggling to figure out friendships and how to feel about what makes her different, her heritage.
Laura: Another 4th grader who used to be close friends with Anna, Laura is also trying to figure out what it means to be friends with someone. In her struggle to fit in with the more popular girl in their grade, Laura begins to shun Anna- often leaving her alone at school and calling her as a last resort when the other girls decide they don’t want her around. Laura’s parents are going through a very rough time and eventually end up separating. Anna’s family ends up being a refuge for Laura when things get too rough at home.
Allison: The popular girl in the 4th grade, who is not very nice. She often completely shuns Anna, shoots her down in front of others at school, and steals her ideas.
Cheng, A. (2012). The Year of the Book. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Being different can be hard, especially in the 4th grade. But lots of other hard things can happen in the 4th grade too, like making friends.