Reading level: 8-12
Pages: 176 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (January 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN: 031611426X , 978-0316114264

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Awards + Reviews
The Year of the Rat

•2007 CCBC Choice
•Washington Post Kid's Book of the Week (2/4/08)

Paper Tigers
The Year of the Rat, the much-awaited sequel to Grace Lin's The Year of the Dog, opens, once again, with the family celebration of Chinese New Year, this time joined by Pacy's best friend Melody and her family. As they sit round the table, Dad tells "The Story of the Twelve Animals of Chinese New Year or How the Rat was First," which explains how the rat became the first animal of the Chinese Zodiac and is therefore associated with new beginnings.

Pacy is very happy with her life as it is and is not sure that she wants there to be any "new beginnings". She becomes absolutely certain of this when the reality of Melody's move to a new city hits home. To make matters worse, her schoolmates expect her to be friends with the new boy in class, simply because they share the same skin colour. She resents them for that. And even more so she resents him, for having moved into Melody's old home.

Pacy learns some valuable lessons as the year progresses, from the importance of remaining true to herself and doing her best to putting herself in other people's shoes and trying to understand a situation from their perspective. Indeed, Grace Lin writes incredibly convincingly in the voice of a young girl who finds herself in the throes of growing up. The first-person narrative means that readers become caught up in her highs and lows, through class projects and family celebrations. The book follows the format of The Year of the Dog. 'Pacy's' drawings scattered throughout the book are as charming as ever; and, still serving as reference points to Pacy when she has to make up her mind about what to do in different situations, there are more of the stories that Mom and Dad tell about their own lives when they were young.

Girls will love this book and some of Mom's stories such as "Canned Meat" and "Mom's School Lunch", would stand alone as a class readaloud to introduce a discussion about being considerate and not making assumptions about other people. This book is a real gem, and we would welcome seeing Pacy again one of these Chinese Zodiac years. -Marjorie Coughlan, March 2008

School Library Journal
Gr 3-5- This compact sequel to The Year of the Dog (Little, Brown, 2006) charts an eventful year, based on the author's own childhood. As the story opens, Pacy (who uses an American name, Grace, at school) is celebrating Chinese New Year with her family and friends. Their gatherings always center on food and the delightful stories her parents tell of their lives in Taiwan and of coming to America. As Pacy's dad relates the story of the rat and the Chinese zodiac, her mother notes that the Year of the Rat is a time for making changes. Change quickly becomes the hallmark of the protagonist's year: her best friend moves to California, and Pacy must adjust to a new teacher and new relationships. When a boy from China arrives at her school, her classmates tease him for being different. Pacy watches guiltily until she finds the courage to speak up for him. Lin's handling of the situation as related through a child's perspective is graceful and sensitive. Young readers will find this episodic, character-driven short novel appealing and relate to its authentically childlike Pacy, whose family's Thanksgiving feast includes both huo guo (Chinese hot pot) dishes and a small turkey. Lin's plentiful detailed line drawings add to the story's appeal. This heartwarming sequel will leave readers hoping for more about this engaging heroine and her family.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Being rude on Chinese New Year can bring bad luck. After Pacy teases her older sister at the New Year's dinner, a series of bad things happen. Her best friend Melody moves to California and a Chinese boy, "fresh off the boat," moves into Melody's house. Pacy's elementary-school classmates make fun of Dun-Wei and she's embarrassed by the connection. Former friends make her uncomfortable, and school doesn't go as well. Still hoping to be an author and illustrator, Pacy can't figure out how her personal talents will fit into the class talent show. Just in time for the Year of the Rat comes this follow-up to Year of the Dog (2006), which introduced Pacy's Taiwanese-American family. As before, Lin liberally illustrates self-contained short chapters with small line drawings. From time to time relatives tell stories from their own earlier lives, recalling Chinese folklore, growing up in Taiwan and Pacy's infancy. Readers of this gentle, appealing sequel will appreciate the way the engaging protagonist discovers she can survive the changes a new year brings