The Year of the Book: Anna Wang, Book 1

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
The Year of the Book: Anna Wang, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Charming story of lonely, book-loving girl who finds friend.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byalyssad1 August 29, 2015
Adult Written bykateh November 6, 2014

Great book for 3-5th graders

This book is appropriate, fun, funny and descriptive, and in some parts kid-friendly dramatic

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Anna loves to read more than just about anything. She almost doesn't even mind that she has no friends at school, because she can always count on her books and her adult friends -- the crossing guard, her teacher, the elderly man in a wheelchair whose apartment Anna's mother cleans. But when her former friend Laura reaches out to her, Anna learns that taking a chance with people her own age is important, too.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Anna thinks of the characters in the books she reads as if they're friends. Are there any characters you've met in a book that you would like to have as a friend?

  • Anna says that she and her little brother remind her of the main characters in A Wrinkle in Time. Have you ever recognized yourself in a character you've met in a book?

  • Is there something you've worked really hard to master, the way Anna masters making a lunch bag?

Book details

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For kids who love fiction

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