The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin: Book Review

February 18th, 2018 by

The Year of the Dog_Grace LinHappy new year!

Confused? Yes, the Western world celebrates New Year’s as the clock strikes midnight between December 31st and January 1st. But this weekend marks the start of a new lunar year, celebrated in some Asian countries such as China and Korea. Each year is associated with a different animal — 12 in all. This is now the year of the dog, and in 12 years we’ll celebrate the year of the dog again! (Last year was the year of the rooster, and next year is the year of the pig.)

Just like with the Western zodiac that is based on your birth month, there are certain characteristics attributed to people born in each lunar year. For example, I was born in the year of the monkey, which supposedly makes me mischievous and clever.

Also, each year’s animal influences what happens to everyone during that year. In The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin, the main character, Pacy, learns about what to expect from the year of the dog: Because dogs are loyal, it will be a year dedicated to friends and family; and because dogs are sincere, it will be a good year for thinking hard and finding herself. Immediately, Pacy vows that she will discover her true calling before the year is over — and hopefully it’s tied to a way to get rich!

Over the course of the year, Pacy also makes a new best friend, navigates her feelings about being Taiwanese-American, and deals with the ups and downs of regular school stuff (like the Halloween costume contest and the science fair). In other words, the book is a snapshot of a pretty relatable year. But I love that it is all through the lens of Pacy’s Taiwanese heritage and what the year of the dog means to her and her family.

This book is aimed at younger readers than some of Grace Lin’s other novels (like Where the Mountain Meets the Sea and Starry River of the Sky). So if you’re a super fan of those books, then you might find The Year of the Dog doesn’t hold your attention in the same way. (Also, there are no fantasy elements in Pacy’s life!) But I’d recommend this book for fans of Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins and Andrew Clements’ school stories (like Frindle and Lunch Money).

And don’t just take my word for it — check out these positive reviews from Jackson (age 10) and Tammy (age 10)!

Do you celebrate lunar new year at home, or did you mark the occasion at school? Leave a comment about what you did to welcome the year of the dog!

— Karen

In addition to being quick-witted, people born in the year of the monkey are also supposed to have a competitive spirit. This seems to be true of Karen on board game night!

More about Karen »

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

May 18th, 2017 by

Submitted by Jackson, Age 10 from Connecticut

Rating: ★★★★½

This book includes fun stories, adventures, and funny moments. If you like these things, this book is right for you!

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

May 15th, 2017 by

Submitted by Tammy, Age 10 from Connecticut

Rating: ★★★★★

it is a girl who is chinese and the only one then another girl came in and she was chinese to and her new friend name was Melody. her sisters name one of them is Ki-Ki and lissy than her new friend said ” do you want to come over for Dinner” then she said ” yes” that is all I can say find out more to read the year of the dog.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

December 24th, 2015 by

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Submitted by Michelle, Age 10 from Connecticut

Rating: ★★★★½

I think that Grace Lin did a very great job on this book! I loved this book so much! And I bet you will too! If you read Where The Mountain meets the moon, then you’ll love her next book which is Starry River Of The Sky! And that book is AWESOME too! What I like about it is that, there are stories in it that the characters tell. I love that about it. It is also very interesting. In some parts I fell sad, happy, scared, bad, or even glad. We are going to meet her in February and I am so excited Be sure to read her books! Yay!

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

December 24th, 2015 by

The Ugly Vegetables Grace LinSubmitted by Viha, Age 9 from Connecticut

Rating: ★★★★★

The ugly vegetable was about a girl and a mother.
The mother said that we will grow vegetable.
The girl said OK but when they went outside the other people that lived near them were growing flowers. The girl was sad and said to the mother I want to grow flowers.

Starry River of the Sky: Book Review

November 13th, 2012 by

starry-river-of-the-sky-book-reviewI have a very important tip for you: the next time you have a cross-country flight and you’re looking for the perfect book to keep you entertained — make you chuckle, make your eyes well up with tears, make the time pass ridiculously quickly — choose Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin.

Of course, it’s always a risk to pack just one book for a long plane ride because what if you hate it from the first chapter and you’re stuck reading the Skymall magazine in your seatback pocket instead? Not to worry, in this case! I started reading the book as we sat on the runway and I was hooked right away. And once I started, I read it straight through until I finished. I couldn’t even put it down during the take-off when I usually close my eyes because I get a headache from the plane going at an angle!

The book tells the story of Rendi, a runaway boy who gets stuck in a teeny village, working alongside a family that owns the local inn. While he plots his departure, he gets to know the village residents and the mysterious woman staying at the inn — and so do you. And you’ll probably get to wondering: Could they all be connected to the fact that the moon is missing and the sky seems to cry? What in their history is coming back to haunt them? What secrets are they hiding? And what are they revealing in the stories they tell to pass the time?

Variations on Chinese folk tales play a big role in this book, but the story never feels dull OR overly fantastical. There’s an element of magic, but it’s really a story about the human heart — and how one boy changes the lives of everyone in the town.

So, what makes this book so good? That’s actually kind of hard to explain, because the book is a quiet sort of book and sneaks up on you. Maybe that’s part of it — it’s not loud and big and in-your-face, so it affects you in a much gentler way. Since I lurve food, I’d say it’s like a complex blended soup: comforting and easy to eat, but the more you consume, the more you start tasting and enjoying all the hidden flavors from the ingredients you can’t see.

If you’ve already read the book, leave a comment and let me know! Or have you read Grace Lin’s companion book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon? It’s totally going on my to-read list!

— Karen

Review copy from the publisher.

Having grown up with some Chinese folk tales, Karen recognized some of the characters as she read. Makes her want to rediscover even more!

More about Karen »

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