Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Wednesday--The Year of the Fortune Cookie

18222727Chang, Andrea. The Year of the Fortune Cookie (Anna Wang #3)
May 6th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher for Cybils consideration

In this third book in the series, Anna Wang is starting sixth grade and gets the exciting news that her former teacher, Mrs. Sylvester, is going to China to adopt a baby girl, and wants Anna to come with her and her husband! Anna is excited, because she hopes to visit the orphanage where her adopted sister, Kaylee, started her life. Before she leaves, Anna and her friends sell fortune cookies and knit hats so that they can give gifts to the orphanage, and Anna starts to write a project for school about her ethnicity and how it affects her life. Being in Beijing for two weeks is an interesting experience for Anna, since she suddenly looks like everyone else, but doesn't speak Chinese very well, so confuses strangers. She befriends a young waitress at the hotel, Fan, and even visits Fan's home. The Sylvester's baby, Jing, is a much happier baby than Kaylee was, but Anna is a help to the Sylvesters. This would be a great book to read alongside Grace Lin's Dumpling Days.
Strengths: I'm a sucker for any book about travel, and this has good descriptions on what it is like to be a tourist in Bejing. Anna is very thoughtful about what culture and country mean to her; it's interesting that her mother is from China, but her father is from an American Chinese family. Lots of points for diversity, including a short description of Mrs. Sylvester, whom Anna mentions might possibly be part African-American, and one girl in her class who is from Eritrea.
Weaknesses: When I read the first two books, I thought they were too young for my students. At the time, that was true, but I have an increasing number of struggling readers who really enjoy shorter books, like the Whitby Secrets of the Manor stories and Ruth Chew's books. These books are just adorable, and quick, pleasant reads. What's wrong with that? Who among us hasn't turned to some Nora Roberts books for comfort? Think I will buy the other three in the series now, and I have in mind just the readers for them.

15814549Cheng, Andrea. The Year of the Book. (Anna Wang #1)
May 22nd 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers

From my review in July of 2013:
Anna is experiencing a very common occurrence for fourth grade-- her best friend Laura isn't hanging out with her as much but IS hanging out with Allison and Lucy. Anna loves her family, but feels a little embarassed that they aren't like Allison and Lucy's families-- her mother, who was born in China, is just learning to drive and cleans apartments to earn money. When Laura's father becomes abusive, however, she takes comfort in staying with Anna's family for a while, and the girls reconcile a bit. Anna love to read and is very smart, so books that she enjoys are often mentioned.
Strengths: Nice, realistic book highlighting a variety of difficulties that young girls face-- nothing horrible, but some serious things. Told in a comforting way, with supportive adult characters, so that readers don't have to feel that Anna is alone. I would definitely recommend this series for elementary schools. 
Weaknesses: Many of the details make this seem too young for middle school, as do the illustrations and the small size of the books.

15814495Cheng, Andrea. The Year of the Baby. (Anna Wang #2)
May 28th 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers

From my review in July of 2013:
Anna's parents decide to adopt a baby girl from China, and Anna enjoys Kaylee fairly well, and she is certainly worried when Kaylee doesn't want to eat and isn't gaining weight as expected. When she and Laura fail to find another topic for their science project, they decide to see if singing to Kaylee while she is eating distracts her enough that she eats more, and therefore gains weight. Camille, from Anna's Chinese school, also gets in on the project, and Anna tries to learn some Chinese.
Strengths: There have been a couple of excellent books about older children being adopted from China, although summer has leached all pertinent information from my brain. I can't think of another one from a child's perspective about a baby being adopted. I thought that the way Anna was concerned and helped out in a productive way was very nice.
Weaknesses: Again, too young for my purposes, but since this one was set in 5th grade, perhaps I can reexamine the books as she gets older.

Coming in April 7th, 2015:

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