HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Year of the Baby
Author: Andrea Cheng
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013
Related websites: http://www.andreacheng.com (author), http://www.patricegbarton (illustrator), http://www.hmhbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 6 – 9
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Cheng, Andrea. The Year of the Baby (published in 2013 by Houghton Mifflin, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Ave. S., New York City, NY 10003). What can you do when your baby sister won’t eat? Almost-eleven-year-old Anna Wang, who was first introduced in The Year of the Book, is a Chinese-American fifth-grade girl. She has two problems. Her parents have adopted a baby girl, whom they named Kaylee, from an orphanage in China, but the doctor warns that the little sister isn’t thriving because she isn’t eating enough and gaining weight. Also, Anna and her best friends, Laura and Camille, must come up with a science fair project for school. What will happen to Kaylee? And can the three girls come up with a project that might help the baby?
There are few possible negatives to this story. Anna’s friend Laura continues to deal with a divorce situation from the previous book between her parents. A couple of references to the fact that “Kaylee poops” are found. And another schoolmate, Allison, has her skirt accidentally blown up by the wind at recess so that a couple of boys end up seeing her pink underwear. These are relatively minor incidents, but some parents might want to know beforehand. However, there are many positives. Anna’s devotion to her loving family, her new sister, and her friends is commendable. Another benefit is the portrayal of the scientific method to show how an experimental process can produce a solution to a real-life problem. Education is elevated and appreciated.
Also there are good pictures of adoption, Chinese culture (including a pronunciation guide for Chinese words in the front and a recipe for steamed red bean bao zi in the back), and generally having proper attitudes. Several other reviewers remarked how the thoughtful, kind, and respectful characters model beneficial coping skills with a lack of bad attitudes. Yet, they are real. Anna is occasionally resentful at the responsibilities of being the oldest, and Camilla struggles academically, while Laura deals with her divorce situation. But they all try to do their best and learn many lessons along the way. The Year of the Baby gives readers an entertaining story that explores problems and situations to which both kids and their parents can relate, with a focus on the value of family, hard work, education, and friendship.