Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2012
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.
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.
“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.”
“Ray, the crossing guard, is waiting at the curb in his orange vest that catches the sunrise.”
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 BabyThe Lemon Sisters
Goldfish and ChrysanthemumsGrandfather Counts
The Key CollectionTire Mountain
Where the Steps Were
When the Bees Fly HomeShanghai Messenger
The Lace DowryHoneysuckle House
The Bear MakersBrushing 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.