“The Year of the Dog” and “The Year of the Rat” by Grace Lin

Well, well, well… My scanner is on the blitz (again!) so I don’t have any way of including new pictures on my blog – unless they’re already on my computer, or I can get them off the internet. So… I will be catching up on book reviews until the #@^%&* thing gets fixed. Which is something I needed to get done anyway.

At the SCBWI Conference last month it was my honor to be chosen for a face-to-face critique with author Grace Lin. Her comments on “Raspberry Girl, With Freckles” were thoughtful and helpful.

When I got home I checked out some of her books from the library. “The Year of the Dog” and it’s sequel, “The Year of the Rat,” are autobiographical stories about the author’s childhood, and her search for identity, friendship, and meaning in her life.

Well written and engrossing, I enjoyed both books equally and it didn’t make any difference to the enjoyment that I read the second book first and the first book second.

My favorite parts of the books were the stories that her parents tell about living in, and leaving Taiwan, and the stories (oh, I love stories!) she and her friend, Melody, tell to each other.

Melody tells Grace about her Aunt Alice, who believes in ghosts.

“…There were two chairs at the end of the table that were empty…There were big plates of food there… So I sat down in one of the empty chairs, ready to eat. Aunt Alice rushed over like a typhoon and hurried me out of the chair.”

Aunt Alice explained that those chairs were for the ghosts of her parents.

Melody’s parents told her that it was a way of honoring the dead, that the ghosts would be served their meal first, then what was on the plates would be taken back into the kitchen and reheated. Then everyone else would eat.

“I sat next to one of the ghosts for the whole meal. At least I think I did. Maybe they moved around,” Melody finished, “but they were pretty nice as far as ghosts go.”

“Do you know what that means?” I said. “You ate ghost leftovers!”

“Mmm,” Melody said, “and they were delicious.”

I also enjoyed her dad’s sense of humor.  Her mom tells a story about playing piano as a child, and how at the end of her performance everyone stood up and clapped.

“Grandma was so happy that she cried,” Mom finished.

“So, if I win the book contest, will you cry?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mom said. “Very hard.”
“We’ll all cry,” Dad said. “I’ll buy a box of kleenex just for the occasion.”

It really sounded like something my daddy would say.

I will be reading and reviewing more of Grace Lin’s books, but next week, I will be reviewing “Morning Star Horse” by Margarita Engle.