rhcrayon: The Blog! - Happy, Happy Year of the Rat!! (Reading Recommendations for the New Year!)
Feb. 7th, 2008
08:28 am - Happy, Happy Year of the Rat!! (Reading Recommendations for the New Year!)
Just in time for Chinese New Year comes The Year of the Rat, by Grace Lin. My nine-year-old cousin should have received her copy by now!
Happy Chinese New Year! Of all the books I want to review, I have the perfect one to start!
Grace Lin's The Year of the Rat is the sequel to her debut middle grade novel, The Year of the Dog (which I was completely gaga about). Once again Pacy's modern-day, American, grade school experiences, triumphs, and discoveries are peppered throughout with little stories and anecdotes told by her family: of their childhoods back in Taiwan, of their earlier years in the U.S., and of a lot of Chinese fables familiar to my heart. Plus there are these delightful line drawings. The emotional stakes are raised this time when Pacy's best friend Melody moves away to California. Pacy's cultural self-awareness evolves, too, ever so gently and truthfully, when a new Chinese family (from China) moves into Melody's very home, with a boy Pacy's age whose grade-school experiences in the U.S. seem not so rosy as her own.
I also related to Pacy's growing concern over her family's attitude toward her ambitions an an artist. Her triumphs with the class poster. Her crush. Her experience of a Taiwanese American wedding. Her return to her pre-Melody friends. Her decision with Melody to share their beloved book collection by actually mailing their books to and from California every month. All the words I've seen other reviewers use for these books--"gentle," "engaging," "lively," "magical,"--I heartily echo, and I love the simple language, too. I can't wait to hear what my little cousin has to say.
I sent my little cousin The Year of the Dog last fall, by the way, and this was her review (via e-mail):
Thanks for the book The Year of the Dog. I finished it in the first two nights. It was a great book except for one editing mistake.
What! Luckily, I saw my cousin a couple weeks later and got to find out exactly what she was talking about. First she said, "Oh, it was more just like a typo." Then she explained that a certain Chinese fable mentioned in it had been titled one way, when really it was another.
I've heard that story told a few different ways, so this wasn't a "mistake" in my book. But I was glad to see her treating the content with such authority. (She's this genius whose reading/writing progress knocks me out every next time I see her. I've no doubt her next review will be several pages long.)
The Year of the Rat has gotten me thinking this is going to be an excellent year for making Changes. Just as I was pondering the possibilities, my husband said, “Let’s resolve to make one piece of art each, this year, and put it up."
Cool! I'm up for anything!
Just one piece of art? That’s such a small goal. (An excellent, doable, lovely goal.) Maybe I’ll make five. But maybe I’ll start with just one (and maybe four more will follow).
I was going to end this book review here, but Year of the Rat actually gives me an unintentional transition to the next book on my list:
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien. Winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!! I recently revisited this classic when Sara reminded me of its awesomeness.
Read this, read this, you must re-read this!
Oh, those poor rats of NIMH. Oh, oh. They never even said what NIMH stood for. You have to make it up [edit: or figure it out for yourself]. And that is just one tiny example of the genius at work here, because even though these pages are jam-packed with informative, evocative, smartly written details (on locations! Action!! Story! Backstories! The goals of the rats of NIMH!), everywhere you look, there is room for your imagination to fill in more. What Jonathan Frisby saw in Mrs. Frisby (she was clearly a remarkable mouse). The hints at Justin’s future. The fact you don’t know . . . so many things you want to know. What you think you know. What you hope you know. You’re left wanting to go there, to find out the rest for yourself.
Oh, oh, oh.
I was aware as I was reading that some of my intense bond with these rats (and mice!!) was underscored by association with my equally intense love for Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes--a book I pushed on my brother when he was in 7th grade (and I was in 10th) that he read all in one night. (I'm actually reading The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, right now, and there are rats in that book, too. Goodness!)
I have a lot more books to review, but I like this beginning to the Year of the Rat. We now return to our regular posting schedule of (maybe) once a week.
With love for books!
I urge you to read these books.
It is my hope, once you’ve read these books, that we can talk about them in-depth. Preferably in person!