Monday, January 22, 2007

The Year of the Dog

Lin, Grace. 2006. THE YEAR OF THE DOG. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 0316060003 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-5]

Grace Lin has created an autobiographical family story reminiscent of the classic Carolyn Haywood “Betsy” tales that influenced her own childhood reading. With short chapters and engaging characters, the everyday experiences of Pacy (Grace) and her school friends and close-knit family come to life. Grace is worried about “finding herself” and about deciding what she will become when she grows up. The question bubbles up repeatedly as she filters through each adventure to decide what it reveals about her destiny.

Although Lin is better known for her picture book art, she is also adept at capturing childhood foibles and parental love— sprinkled with tiny black-and-white sketches throughout the story. Humor grows naturally out of familiar situations and childhood calamities and readers of all cultures will relate to them. This is an added bonus: Pacy/Grace is a young girl struggling with a dual identity, being both Taiwanese and American. Details of her root culture are an important part of the story, but also remind readers to consider the uniqueness of their own families and traditions. Told with child-like innocence, this friendly story is also a fast-moving read aloud and is also available as an unabridged audiobook.

Children may enjoy exploring some of the Taiwanese customs described in the story, such as New Year’s celebrations, the gift of red eggs for newborns, etc.

Lin’s story is full of dialogue that lends itself to a readers theater performance. Adapt the first (or a favorite) chapter for a readers theater presentation.

Other humorous, heartwarming family stories:
Cleary, Beverly. RAMONA QUIMBY FOREVER. ISBN 0380709600
Fleming, Candace. LOWJI DISCOVERS AMERICA. ISBN 0689862997
Haywood, Carolyn. “B” IS FOR BETSY. ISBN 015205099X

By Sylvia M. Vardell

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