Okay, so the book's way too old for an almost three year old. The small black ink drawings don't do much for a toddler mind. The most positive thing about the readalong experience was Sigourney falling asleep quickly on consecutive nights during story time. Clearly, our little one wasn't Grace Lin's intended audience. Neither am I, for that matter. But personally, I found the story delightful! I wouldn't hesitate to pick up Year of the Dog
again when Sigourney enters elementary school.
Lin's scattering of family stories throughout the text worked perfectly. If I were a Chinese/Taiwanese American struggling to fit in as one of only two Asian students at school, hearing stories about the similar struggles of my parents and ancestors would be helpful. There's something very meaningful about honoring ancestors and feeling a deep connection with the people who made our lives possible.
I also enjoyed the focus on personal identities. Should Pacy identify as Chinese, Taiwanese, American, or all three? Based on her appearance and family heritage, what identity does her community force on her? Is it okay to blend M&M's with more traditional candies in Chinese New Year platters? Should Pacy's dolls look more "American"? What is the cost of fitting in? All of these questions arose during reading.
There's plenty more to like about Year of the Dog
- the font and artwork making the book appear handwritten, the education on Chinese and Taiwanese cultural practices, the simple realism making the story relatable for young readers. Lin's story offers young readers an opportunity to deepen understanding of other cultures and grow in empathy for immigrant families. A good and worthy read!