The Year of the Dog

yearofthedogthumbnailThe Year of the Dog

by Grace Lin

  • publisher and date: Little, Brown, and Compan, 2006
  • genre: from the author’s website: The book is fiction, but almost everything had a real life inspiration.
  • age/grade: ages 8-12

Synopsis: from
Grace’s first middle grade novel! This exhuberant novel follows a young girl’s adventures during the Chinese Year of the Dog. As Pacy celebrates with her family, she finds out that this is the year she is supposed to “find herself.” As the year goes on, she struggles to find her talent, makes a new best friend, and discovers just why the Year of the Dog is a lucky one for her after all. Universal themes of friendship, family, and finding one’s passion in life make this novel appealing to readers of all backgrounds. This funny and profound book is a wonderful debut novel and has all the makings of a modern classic.

Author’s Perspective: Grace Lin writes with an insider’s perspective. From the author’s note in The Year of the Dog:

Growing up Asian in a mainly Caucasian community was not a miserable and gloomy existence. But it was different. I wrote The Year of the Dog, because I felt that it was important to have a book that addressed those differences in a real and upbeat way. I wrote it because it was the book I wished I had had when I was growing up, a book that had someone like me in it.

Literary Elements:

Character -Grace, the main character in The Year of the Dog, is full of life. We follow her life for an entire year. She struggles with integrating many parts of her life (Taiwanese versus Chinese, Chinese versus Chinese American) but in a humorous way. We also see her deal with aspects of growing up (finding her talent, wanting to fit in with others).

Theme – Fitting in, cultural differences, finding yourself are themes that weave throughout the story. They are dealt with in humorous yet truthful ways.

Tone and Style-The author adds her own illustrations to the novel which add humor and detail to the story. Throughout the story, there are also anecdotes told by the main character and other members of the family. We get glimpses of the Taiwanese culture through the stories told by mom and dad.

Curriculum Connections:

Web Resources:


From School Library Journal (from
Grade 3-5–A lighthearted coming-of-age novel with a cultural twist. Readers follow Grace, an American girl of Taiwanese heritage, through the course of one year–The Year of the Dog–as she struggles to integrate her two cultures. Throughout the story, her parents share their own experiences that parallel events in her life. These stories serve a dual purpose; they draw attention to Graces cultural background and allow her to make informed decisions. She and her two sisters are the only Taiwanese-American children at school until Melody arrives. The girls become friends and their common backgrounds illuminate further differences between the American and Taiwanese cultures. At the end of the year, the protagonist has grown substantially. Small, captioned, childlike black-and-white drawings are dotted throughout. This is an enjoyable chapter book with easily identifiable characters.–Diane Eddington, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly (from:

Lin, best known for her picture books, here offers up a charming first novel, an autobiographical tale of an Asian-American girl’s sweet and funny insights on family, identity and friendship. When her family celebrates Chinese New Year, ringing in the Year of the Dog, Pacy (Grace is her American name) wonders what the coming months will bring. Her relatives explain that the Year of the Dog is traditionally the year when people “find themselves,” discovering their values and what they want to do with their lives. With big expectations and lots of questions, the narrator moves through the next 12 months trying to figure out what makes her unique and how she fits in with her family, friends and classmates. Pacy experiences some good luck along the way, too, winning a contest that will inspire her career (Lin’s fans will recognize the prize submission, The Ugly Vegetables, as her debut children’s book). Lin creates an endearing protagonist, realistically dealing with universal emotions and situations. The well-structured story, divided into 29 brief chapters, introduces traditional customs (e.g., Hong Bao are special red envelopes with money in them, given as New Year’s presents), culture and cuisine, and includes several apropos “flashback” anecdotes, mainly from Pacy’s mother. The book’s inviting design suggests a journal, and features childlike spot illustrations and a typeface with a hand- lettered quality. Girls everywhere, but especially those in the Asian-American community, will find much to embrace here. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.


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