Texas Bluebonnet Award 2014-2015

Resources for the TBA Nominees

Year of the Book

YearoftheBook_hres (1)

The Year of the Book
by Andrea Cheng

Scroll down to find Related Activities & Resources, Book Talk Teasers, Read Alikes, and Book Reviews.

Readers Theater Script – Year of the Book (PDF)


Background Information

About the author, the illustrator and the book:
Author Andrea Cheng’s website:

NPR audio interview with Andrea Cheng (9:26):

The Year of the Book Back Story (courtesy of Andrea Cheng)

The Year of the Book Book Blog about “Readwalking” (courtesy of Andrea Cheng)

Illustrator Abigail Halpin’s website:

Book trailer for The Year of the Book:

A short article on Chinese schools in non-Chinese speaking countries:

Includes links to the Chinese zodiac, Chinese food, Chinese festivals,, Chinese writing and more:

Related Activities

Assignments given to the children in the book that you could assign to yours:
Write a paper or give a talk in front of the group persuading someone of something.

Write or tell of a time that you persevered.

Write a short biography of George Washington Carver.

Make a timeline of your life.

Write or talk about what you are thankful for.

Try to get the class to guess a word you have been given by writing a sentence on the board with your word left out.

Lesson plans and discussion questions:
Contents: “The Year of the Book 4th Grade Common Core Curriculum,”  “Across the Curriculum” and “Discussion Questions.” All excellent guides for implementing The Year of the Book in the classroom. (Scroll down):

The Year of the Book Activities and Questions (courtesy of Andrea Cheng)

Anna Wang Series Information (courtesy of Andrea Cheng)

Discussion questions (Scroll down).:

Creating a double rainbow:

Activities involving aspects of Chinese culture:
Note the “Pronunciation Guide” in the front of the book which gives Chinese words that appear in the book with their pronunciations, Chinese characters, and how they would be correctly spelled using our alphabet. Perhaps the teacher or librarian could prepare a “match game” using these, or perhaps the children could learn to make these Chinese characters.

Your local Chinese restaurant or Chinese organization might be willing to provide you with a speaker on Chinese culture or supply you with chopsticks, Chinese zodiac charts, or fortune cookies.

Chinese exercise: Invite someone who does Tai Chi or Qi Gong to come demonstrate or teach specific moves to your class.

Printable Chinese activity pages: Chinese zodiac, Chinese New Year, Chinese characters, etc.:




Learn to speak Chinese (videos):

Includes a video on how to hold chopsticks (1:50):

Power point for kids on Chinese New Year:

Chinese New Year: recipes, crafts, printables, etc.:


http://alex.state.al.us/lesson_view.php?id=12612 (Elementary lesson plan)

http://www.create.cett.msstate.edu/create/classroom/lplan_view.asp?articleID=129 (7th grade lesson plan–adaptable to younger children)



http://www.abcya.com/tangrams.htm (Online activity)

http://www.museumofplay.org/flash-games/tangrams/ (Online activity)

Crafts that Anna made:
Making Anna’s lunch bag (video: 3:27):
Part of the book is read aloud followed by a demonstration of making the bag Anna makes in the book.

How to make a crossing guard vest:

Making greeting cards:

Making a paper airplane that loops:
http://vimeo.com/36839781 (Video: 2:04)




Making a wearable sandwich board sign like Anna’s and Laura’s Halloween costume:

Watercolor painting for kids:


Read what the publisher printed on the back of the paperback version or on the front flap of the hardback version:
“In Chinese, peng you means ‘friend.” But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. Since her best friend, Laura, started hanging out with Allison and Lucy, fourth grade has been lonely.

When Anna needs company, she turns to the pages of her favorite books. Whether she’s traveling through A Wrinkle in Time or peering over My Side of the Mountain, Anna looks to her books to provide what real life cannot–constant companionship and insight into her changing world.

But books can tell Anna only so much about how to find a best friend. This is the year that Anna will have to discover on her own what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.”


Other books by Andrea Cheng (Author appeal):

Other books in this series:

Cheng, Andrea. The year of the baby. Fifth-grader Anna is concerned that her baby sister Kaylee, adopted from China three months ago, is not thriving so she and her best friends, Laura and Camille, create a science project that may save the day. (WorldCat.org)

Cheng, Andrea. The year of the fortune cookie (release date: May 6, 2014). Eleven-year-old Anna takes a trip to China and learns more about herself and her Chinese heritage. (WorldCat.org)

See additional books by Andrea Cheng on her website:

Books mentioned in The Year of the Book (Content appeal):

George, Jean Craighead. My side of the mountain. In his diary, Sam Gribley tells of a year spent living alone in a tree house in the Catskill Mountains learning about plant and animal life during the changing seasons. (WorldCat.org)

Holt, Kimberly Willis. My Louisiana sky. Growing up in Saitter, Louisiana, in the 1950s, twelve-year-old Tiger Ann struggles with her feelings about her stern, but loving grandmother, her mentally slow parents, and her good friend and neighbor, Jesse. (WorldCat.org)

Joyce, William. George shrinks. Taking care of a cat and a baby brother turns into a series of comic adventures when George wakes up to find himself shrunk to the size of a mouse. (WorldCat.org)

Konigsburg, E. L. From the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Having run away with her younger brother to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, twelve-year-old Claudia strives to keep things in order in their new home and to become a changed person and a heroine to herself. (WorldCat.org)

L’Engle, Madeleine. A wrinkle in time (and others in her Time quartet series:  A wind in the door, A swiftly tilting planet, and Many waters). Meg and Charles Wallace set out with their friend Calvin in a search for their father. His top secret job as a physicist for the government has taken him away and the children search through time and space to find him. (NoveList)

Lionni, Leo. Little blue and little yellow. A little blue spot and a little yellow spot are best friends, and when they hug each other they become green. (WorldCat.org)

Twain, Mark. The prince and the pauper. Edward Tudy, prince of Wales, changes places with Tom Canty, a poor London boy. (WorldCat.org)

Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. On a day when everything goes wrong for him, Alexander is consoled by the thought that other people have bad days too. (WorldCat.org)

Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush. Twelve-year-old Toswiah finds her life changed when her family enters the witness protection program. (WorldCat.org)

Other books about Chinese-American children (Subject appeal):

Lin, Grace. The year of the dog (#1 in Pacy Lin series). Frustrated at her seeming lack of talent for anything, a young Taiwanese American girl sets out to apply the lessons of the Chinese Year of the Dog, those of making best friends and finding oneself, to her own life. (WorldCat.org)

Look, Lenore. Ruby Lu, brave and true (#1 in Ruby Lu series). “Almost-eight-year-old” Ruby Lu spends time with her baby brother, goes to Chinese school, performs magic tricks and learns to drive, and has adventures with both old and new friends. (NoveList)

Yee, Lisa. Millicent Min, girl genius. In a series of journal entries, eleven-year-old child prodigy Millicent Min records her struggles to learn to play volleyball, tutor her enemy, deal with her grandmother’s departure, and make friends over the course of a tumultuous summer. (NoveList)

Yee, Lisa. Stanford Wong flunks big-time. After flunking sixth-grade English, basketball prodigy Stanford Wong must struggle to pass his summer-school class, keep his failure a secret from his friends, and satisfy his academically demanding father. (NoveList)

Other realistic fiction books that are character-driven and/or angst-filled:

Estes, Eleanor. The hundred dresses. In winning a medal she is no longer there to receive, a tight-lipped little Polish girl teaches her classmates a lesson. (WorldCat.org)

Haworth, Danette. A whole lot of lucky. When twelve-year-old Hailee’s family wins the lottery, her life changes in unexpected–and not always good–ways. (NoveList)

McCafferty, Megan. The (totally not) guaranteed guide to popularity, prettiness & perfection (#1 Jessica Darling’s it list series). The day before seventh grade begins, twelve-year-old Jessica Darling gets a list from her sister, whose popularity and beauty made her a junior-high standout, but when she tries to follow it, all goes awry, including losing her best friend. (NoveList)

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Starting with Alice (#1 prequel of Alice McKinley series). After she, her older brother, and their father move from Chicago to Maryland, Alice has trouble fitting into her new third grade class, but with the help of some new friends and her own unique outlook, she survives. (NoveList)

Spinelli, Jerry. Jake and Lily. Beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee and Wringer, addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying in this humorous and heartfelt novel about twins. (from the publisher’s website)

Vail, Rachel. Justin Case: school, drool, and other daily disasters (#1 in the Justin Case series). Relates the daily worries and problems of Justin Case as he struggles to survive third grade. (NoveList)


The Year of the Book. By Andrea Cheng. Illus. by Abigail Halpin. 2012. 160p. Houghton, $15.99 (9780547684635). Gr. 2–4. (Booklist, May 1, 2012).

A slim but solid novel about friends and family issues, Cheng’s latest follows an Asian American girl through most of fourth grade. At the start, Anna Wang finds companionship in books, partly because last year’s best friend, Laura, has become less friendly. Despite the title, and the author’s numerous references to other books (ranging from picture books to A Wrinkle in Time), Anna’s bookishness is only one of the themes of this story. More important are the active adjustments she makes in her own life to reach out to others, including a widower, the kindly crossing guard, a girl with learning difficulties, and Laura, whose parents are undergoing a grim separation. Cheng also describes Anna’s challenges in learning Chinese—she is resistant at first, since her American-born dad has done fine without knowing the language. Halpin’s illustrations offer sweet scenes and images of Anna’s life, including her growing interest in Chinese characters. — Abby Nolan

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Cheng, Andrea. 2012. The Year of the Book. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. New York: Houghton Mifflin. Hardback: 9780547684635, eBook: 9780547684574, Paperback: 9780544022638.

The other fourth-graders make a big deal out of Anna’s Chinese heritage, but she doesn’t even speak or understand much Chinese; in fact, she’s sometimes embarrassed by her Chinese-born mother’s cultural missteps. Additionally, she’s hurt by what she sees as her former friend Laura’s abandonment, since Laura has started hanging out with the more socially dominant Allison. Her solution to these worries is to lose herself in a book, and, increasingly, her books become her protection whenever she feels vulnerable. However, Laura eventually realizes that friendship with queen bee Allison is a complicated undertaking, and as she and Anna rekindle their friendship, Anna becomes more willing to set aside her books in order to interact with people. This is a remarkably pithy and nuanced portrait of a fourth-grader and her world, and the streamlined simplicity of Cheng’s writing and the brief page count make it accessible. Anna’s embarrassment about her mother, couched in disdain, is spot on, for example, as is her mother’s resultant frustration with her prickly daughter. The friendship drama is also well played, and many girls will recognize their own relationship struggles in these pages. This would make an excellent choice for a mother-daughter book group, and classrooms and libraries may want to stock multiple copies as well. Halpin’s monochromatic illustrations portray the characters with a warm, wide-eyed amiability tempered by crisp lines and a slight angularity that keep the scenes interesting as well as attractive.

Review Code: R — Recommended. Grades 3-5. Jeannette Hulick (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, July/August 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 11))

Horn Book:
The Year of the Book

by Andrea Cheng; illus. by Abigail Halpin
Primary, Intermediate     Houghton     145 pp.
5/12     978-0-547-68463-5     $15.99     g

Before the first chapter begins, we already know something about narrator Anna Wang: she always has her head stuck in a book. Nine-year-old Anna reads for all the right reasons (“Soon I am with Sam [in My Side of the Mountain], hollowing out a stump to make my own little house”), but she also uses reading as a shield against social exclusion (of the specialized fourth-grade-girl kind) and her own lack of confidence (“her face looks friendly, but I don’t know her so I’m afraid to go over to the group. Instead I open my book and read standing up”). At school, Anna’s friend from last year, Laura, now hangs out with the popular girls; at home, Anna is ashamed of her mother’s English and fights with her about attending Chinese language school. But she keeps reading—specific children’s books, from Leo Lionni’s picture book Little Blue and Little Yellow to Jacqueline Woodson’s Hush, which are integrated into the narrative. Sometimes a book helps illuminate Anna’s own life (as when thinking about My Louisiana Sky helps her feel less critical of her mother’s imperfections); sometimes a book is part of the external plot (as when Laura and Anna, beginning to be friends again, dress up as Little Blue and Little Yellow for Halloween). As the year progresses, once in a while Anna even puts a book down. Cheng’s telling is as straightforward yet sympathetic as her self-contained main character; and Halpin’s often lighthearted pencil-and-wash sketches both decorate and enrich this perceptive novel. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO – Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
Cheng, Andrea. The Year of the Book. 144. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68463-5. Tr. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-547-68457-4. spiral. $15.99. Fiction Grades 5 & Up LC number unavailable.

Gr 4-6—There is nothing quiet and self-conscious Anna Wong would rather do than lose herself in a book. Cheng weaves a simple story of how the child’s inner world, built around the pages of books, shifts outward to include her family, a kind crossing guard, a widower, and a beloved teacher. Most of all, Anna gradually learns to open her heart to the joys and challenges of friendship. The writing is gentle and engaging. Cheng gives readers glimpses into the heart of a girl without the allure of action or adventure. The story doesn’t need them. Readers are led to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary, and to witness how kindness can draw trust and create confidence in a hesitant child. Dialogue is natural and uncontrived. Details of Chinese culture are interwoven throughout the story. Anna’s mother works hard to acquire English-language skills, learn to drive, hold down a job, and give her children the opportunity to learn Chinese. Her struggles contrast with those of her American-born Chinese husband. Anna’s friend’s sad tale of family breakdown is also a part of the story, and children experiencing similar difficulties will relate to Laura’s grief and fear. Anna creates hand-sewn lunch bags, and she and Laura make bags for all the people who are special to them. (Instructions are on the book jacket.) Readers will not find chills and thrills in this book, but they will discover the value of empathy and compassion, and the rewards of tolerance and friendship. —Corrina Austin, Locke’s Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

One thought on “Year of the Book

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