Monday, July 8, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The Year of the Book

Today’s Pick: The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2012

From Amazon:

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world. Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

My Take:

I got hooked on this chapter book through the character of Anna and her love of books. I can definitely relate to turning to a “bookworld” as an escape. Anna has some difficulties with her friendships, and they are portrayed in a realistic way. I like how she stays true to herself and gradually makes some friends. Anna had a very caring personality and this quiet story was a nice change from books where there are “villains” or “mean girls”.

I love it when characters in novels have interesting hobbies, and I liked Anna’s hobby of sewing, since I haven’t seen that in many middle grade novels. She also likes to paint and it’s fun to see some of her drawings through the story.

The writing style is very simple and direct, but there is a lot of subtext about Anna’s issues with her friends. I enjoyed all the references to the books Anna read or remembered - there was one in almost every chapter.

Favourite Quote:

“I always wished I had a mom who spoke perfect English and who got her driver’s license when she turned sixteen. But if Mom wasn’t the way she is, she wouldn’t be my mom and I wouldn’t be me.”

Opening Line:

“Ray, the crossing guard, is waiting at the curb in his orange vest that catches the sunrise.”

Other Info:

Andrea Cheng lives in Cincinnati. She started writing stories when she was in elementary school, and had a sixth grade teacher who was very encouraging about her writing.

On her website, she talks about her route to publication:  “Many times I decided not to write anymore, or to stop submitting stories to publishers, but I always went back to it, mostly because I love writing the stories.”

She also says: “Writing is like doing exercise. If you don't do it a lot, you can't do it well.”

Other Books Include:

The Year of the Baby
The Lemon Sisters

Goldfish and Chrysanthemums
Grandfather Counts

The Key Collection
Tire Mountain

Where the Steps Were

When the Bees Fly Home
Shanghai Messenger

The Lace Dowry
Honeysuckle House


The Bear Makers
Brushing Mom’s Hair

For more info, visit Andrea Cheng’s website.

For an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books on Middle Grade Monday, visit author Shannon Messenger's blog.



  1. This sounds so fantastic~ just the kind of book I love for middle grade! And the cover is so cute~ it must be the same illustrator that did the book Penny Dreadful~ love that style of drawing! This one is definitely going on my TBR list :)

    1. The cover caught my eye too, along with the title!

  2. I will get this one. Thanks for featuring this book and the author as I was not familiar with her!

    1. Deb, I wasn't familiar with her either, until I found this book! I'll have to look for some of the others.

  3. Sounds interesting. I can relate to a girl escaping into books. And the title is very intriguing. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. When I was a kid, books were my escape too!

  4. Even though this one seems a little young for my middle school students, I have it on my list to read. Maud Hart Lovelace is one of my all time faves, and I'll read any book that is mentioned in the same breath!

    1. I did find it a little young, but it would be especially good for kids whose first language is not English. Nice direct writing style.

  5. I adored this book! And not just for the character, but for all those wonderful mentions of great children's books. Like you, I wasn't familiar with the author before this. I should definitely read something else by her.

  6. I need to get my hands on this books. I love how it sounds.



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