This past October, I heard an author speak at the Plum Creek Literacy Festival who inspired me so much that I bought all three of her published juvenile books. When I returned home that Saturday, I felt eager to read my new purchases but had to wait. I already had a pile of other books to review. When I decided recently to review Grace Lin’s books, her publisher Little Brown Books for Young Readers graciously sent me an Advanced Reader Copy of her fourth juvenile book.
So, it’s with great delight that this weekend, I’ll finally feature a review of Grace Lin’s four juvenile fiction books: The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days, and the Newbery Honor Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Although I have already talked to Grace Lin in-person, I’ll also post an interview here at Allison’s Book Bag.
Save the dates: December 17-18!
What’s on your desk? If you check out Grace Lin’s blog, you’ll find she posts a few regular features such as On My Desk Monday. One of her books which I’ll review is Dumpling Days, a copy of which Lin had on her desk one Monday earlier this June. This third installment in her Pacy books is due to be released this upcoming January and so I feel myself privileged to also own an Advanced Reader Copy. If you were to see my desk this particular Monday, you’d find a stack of Grace Lin’s juvenile fiction and a few pages of notes about them.
What do you see on the way to the store? Grace Lin also posts a regular feature called On The Way To The Store. Given that I drive most everywhere, I sadly don’t often see much besides traffic and harried pedestrians. Still, I have managed to spot three new restaurants on my way to work. Years ago, a Vietnamese restaurant called The Green Papaya closed down. One day on the way to my teaching job, I saw it had opened up in a new location. My husband and I love their spring rolls! Also, on my way to school, I have seen an African restaurant. My husband and I recently tried out its food. Spicy is not my favorite adjective. We still need to check out another restaurant: Mexicali Bullfrog. With a name like that, how can we resist?
According to Grace Lin, she didn’t know her “real” name until she attended school. When her first-grade teacher asked for her name, Grace replied, “Pacy Lin!” The teacher looked on her roster and replied, “Your real name is Grace.” After years of her whole family, calling her Pacy, she turned into Grace and has been Grace ever since.
Cover of The Year of the Dog
Lin features her family often in her three semi-autobiographical chapter books about Pacy: The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days. Members of her family includes:
- Grace’s Mom:Her parents named her Lin-Lin. Then she married Grace’s dad, Jer-shang Lin. So now her name is
Lin-Lin Lin. Most people don’t believe her. When she signed report cards, her children also had a hard time convincing the grade school teachers that was her real name. Once a store wouldn’t accept her check, because they didn’t believe it was her real name.
- Grace’s Dad: He likes to play golf and to watch professional golfers on TV. Grace’s father apparently falls asleep in his easy-chair every time he watches a live broadcast of golf. Yet whenever someone turns off the TV while he is snoring in front of a golf game, he suddenly wakes up and says, “I was watching that!”
- Grace’s Older Sister: When Grace was a baby, Lissy was jealous of her. One day, their parents took the kids to visit their aunt. After Grace fell asleep, her mother tucked her into one of the bedrooms and then left to rejoin the rest of the family. Soon she heard Grace crying. She went to the bedroom and found it locked, but heard Lissy laughing and Grace crying even louder. By this time, everyone else was crowding around the bedroom door to see what the commotion was about. Grace’s mother looked through the keyhole and saw Lissy jiggling the bed so that Grace was bouncing. The louder the baby cried, the louder she laughed. The entire family laughs about this now.
- Grace’s Younger Sister: Before Ki-Ki was born, Grace’s parents sat Lissy and Grace down and told them there was going to be a new baby in the family. The next day the entire family, including the grandparents, sat in the living room trying to find a name for the new baby. There were piles of books all over the floor. Grace couldn’t read very well so she would just point out random words like radio and building and ask if they were good names.
- Grace’s Grandfather: Her grandparents once went on a bus tour of Europe with one hundred other Asians. The tour stopped at an Italian village where a flower vendor approached, confident of selling many roses. Unfortunately for the vendor, Grace’s grandfather was the only person in the group willing to part with his money for a pretty flower. He bought his wife a red rose from the vendor.
- Grace’s Grandmother: When Grace’s mother was a little girl, her mother (Grace’s grandmother) wanted her to learn how to play the piano. The family didn’t have enough money to buy a piano, but they did have enough to pay for lessons. So her grandmother took a long sheet of paper and drew all the keys of the piano on it. Grace’s mother practiced on that paper piano for years.
For other stories about her family and friends, visit Grace Lin’s blog or read her three semi-autobiographical chapter books: The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days.
Lin’s Favorite Bookstore
Did you grow up with a bookstore in your town? What are your favorite bookstore memories?
For Grace Lin, The Curious George Bookstore in Massachusetts changed her life. In the beginning of her children’s book career, when she didn’t even know if she would be able to make a livelihood from being an author, she was a bookseller at the Curious George bookstore. She encountered children’s books on a daily basis and developed a feeling for what makes a good book. While working there, she also met her first husband Robert who died of cancer in 1997.
- Image via CrunchBase
As for me, I don’t know if any one bookstore changed me life. Yet during my childhood, my dad and I regularly visited our local religious book store. I still remember many of the series books that I encountered there. A general bookstore came to our local mall during my young adult years. I still frequent it to regional fiction. Now that I live in a bigger town, secondhand bookstores are my haunts. When blessed with a gift card, I also love to explore the aisles of Barnes&Noble. Long live bookstores!
The Year of the Dog began as a sequel to Grace Lin’s popular picture book The Ugly Vegetables. However, as Lin wrote the intended sequel, it became apparent the book would not fit in a picture book format. There were so many memories, so many family stories that insisted on being written, they just couldn’t be contained in thirty-two pages. Finally, Lin let it become a full-length novel: The Year of the Dog!
Wonder how much of if it is true? Read Grace Lin’s Behind the Story.
Want to know even more about The Year of the Dog? Check out these student book trailers:
Besides writing three semi-autobiographical books, Grace Lin also wrote the Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Here, she talks about this fantasy inspired by Chinese folklore:
Lin plans on writing two companion books. They will not be sequels, in that they won’t continue the main character Minli’s story, but they will be similar and might include a crossover character.
- Cover of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
If you have been following Allison’s Book Bag over the past year, you’ll know that I have started to broaden my readings to include fiction by authors of different ethnicities and countries. Grace Lin’s parents are originally from Taiwan, but she grew up here in the United States. Lin writes about the struggles she faced over this dual identity in her three semi-autobiographical books: The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days. After she embraced her Asian background as an adult, she began writing books which reflected that heritage. Even her Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was inspired by Chinese folklore.
Lin’s blog also features a huge number of resources about Chinese culture. For example, Lin has created:
All of these can be accessed through the main menu on Lin’s blog.
By exploring her blog, you can also posts about how to make these Chinese crafts and foods:
You can also find out about these Chinese festivities:
Image via Wikipedia
Every Sunday, she features a Chinese word.
How does Lin feel about being a multicultural author? More than once she has blogged about this label: