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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Anna's reading list alone brings a good deal of educational value to this book, and readers will enjoy picking out the familiar covers of favorites like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Little House on the Prairie from the thumbnail-size illustrations on the cover. Anna also attends Chinese school on Saturdays, and a short glossary and pronunciation guide with Chinese characters is included. Anna enjoys making things with her hands, and Abigail Halpin's charming illustrations include directions and diagrams that show how to fold won tons, make pictures out of the geometric shapes in Tangrams, and sew a cloth lunch bag.
The healing value of a good book is emphasized, as is the importance of looking beyond the surface of who someone appears to be. Anna is kind to those in need, and her generosity is contagious, often inspiring others to go along with her.
Positive Role Models
Anna is a sweet and thoughtful girl who eases her loneliness at school by disappearing into the books she reads. Though Anna has been known to "read-walk," she isn't completely oblivious to the world around her: She befriends many adults and often offers comfort when they need it, such as when her teacher's mother is ill or when a man in a wheelchair needs help. Anna is initially mistrusting of Laura's friendly overtures, but readers will understand that this is because she has previously been hurt by the girl.
Violence & Scariness
There are hints that the father may be angry enough to get violent or abduct his children, but there are no graphic details.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Year of the Book is a story about a lonely girl who reads books as a substitute for companionship and as a protection against some of her classmates who are mean and manipulative. Anna's friend Laura's parents are getting a divorce, and there are hints that the father may be angry enough to get violent or abduct his children, but there are no graphic details. Some of the children in Anna's class have misconceptions about what it means to be Chinese.
Is It Any Good?
In simple and honest language, THE YEAR OF THE BOOK perfectly captures the comfort that books can bring to a lonely life. Though Anna wishes the girls in her fourth grade class were more accepting of her differences, she also wishes they would just leave her alone so she could read the next chapter.
Anna is an appealing character whose struggles to accept her family's Chinese culture are believable, as is her reluctance to trust Laura, who's let her down before. Anna's eventual embracing of some of the differences that make her stand out from her classmates is empowering and may inspire readers to recognize the strength that comes from standing up for who you are. Sweet line drawings break up the short text, making it a delightful and quick read.
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Our Editors Recommend
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