Lin, Grace. 2006. The Year of the Dog.
Call me prejudiced, but anytime the word “dog” is in the title of a book, I tend to regard it with suspicion. Is this another tragic dog story that is designed solely to make you weep??? Fortunately, the reviews (not to mention the cover and flaps) soon persuaded me that this was not that kind of ‘dog’ book. No, THE YEAR OF THE DOG is clearly a book about a Chinese-American family (or to be more precise a Tiawanese-American family). The bookend events of this book is Chinese New Year. The book follows the life of a young girl, “Grace” (or Pacy) through the course of a year. Along the way she makes new friends, learns some important lessons, and learns more about who she really is. The highlight of the book for me was the character’s transformation as she begins to take pride in who she is and embraces her culture by writing and narrating a book for a contest at school. Another highlight for me--that I absolutely loved--was the storytelling nature of the book. Chapters would be interrupted as family stories were shared. I loved the whole atmosphere of this book.
The author, Grace Lin, has written several picture books. This is her first novel. “I wrote it because this was the book I wished I had growing up.” I consider The Year of the Dog an essential must-have for any collection, and a must-read for every child. It really doesn’t get better than this. And the good news??? I just discovered that there will be a sequel THE YEAR OF THE RAT coming in 2008!!!!