Grace, or Pacy as she’s known to her family, the Taiwanese American equivalent of all the feisty little girl characters who are trying to figure out the world in children’s literature, is back. Last year’s The Year of the Dog (Semicolon review here) had Grace thinking about whether she was American or Taiwanese or Chinese and about who she is and who she wants to become. That story ended with Grace’s making a new friend, Melody, who was Chinese like her and deciding that she wanted to become an author and an illustrator.
But Pacy’s dad tells her, “The Year of the Rat is the time to make a fresh start and to change things.” Grace/Pacy is not so sure she like changes. Why can’t things stay the way they are?
Stories within the story, told mostly by Grace’s mom and dad, showcase Taiwanese culture and teach subtle lessons about thankfulness, consideration, diligence, and other important values. Because it’s not preachy and not overused, these stories-within-the-story about “when I was a little girl” or even”when you were little” become some of the most memorable parts of the novel.
Grace/Pacy is a thoughtful little girl, rather serious, but with a happy close-knit family to help her understand the things that puzzle her and to help her celebrate both her American-ness and her Chinese heritage. Most of the issues Grace deals with in the book are the same ones that show up in other books for children this age: what to do when your best friend moves away, how to treat others at school and in the family, how to remain true to who you are without losing friends who may not understand. But Pacy/Grace draws on her family’s cultural strengths and her own “tiger strength” to not only survive the changes of The Year of the Rat, but also to surprise herself with how she can shape her own destiny.
Bloggers on The Year of the Rat:
Matt at The Book Club Shelf: “From the dedication to the reader to the Author’s Note at the end, I loved every minute of this book (a sequel to The Year of the Dog) and am certain that young readers would as well.”
Cloudscome at A Wrung Sponge: “I love that this friendly, engaging story has the depth to show a regular kid dealing with every day meanness and racism to find a satisfying, peaceful result. So often kids are left alone to process the bullying they encounter. Here’s a story where a girl finds a way to stand up to it and her so-called friends grow beyond their pettiness to be better friends.”
Fuse 8: “Grace Lin’s semi-autobiographical stories of Pacy and her life in New Hartford contain just the right balance of sweetness and story. Without ever becoming trite or saccharine, Lin hits gold yet again with The Year of the Rat.”