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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.--Nolan, Abby Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
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Anna Wang, the narrator of this tender novel, isn't having an easy time navigating fourth grade. Feeling left out when her friend Laura begins hanging out with another girl, Anna takes refuge in her beloved library books. She is proud of her Chinese-born mother, who is going to school to become a nurse, yet embarrassed by her mother's imperfect English and her part-time housecleaning job. Trying to balance her cultural identities, Anna is also conflicted about attending Chinese school and learning that language. Cheng (Only One Year) credibly portrays Anna's budding maturity, as she sets aside her resentment toward Laura and reaches out to her when her family hits a rough patch. Anna's warm rapport with her supportive teacher, a cheerful crossing guard, and a kind widower add emotional depth. Though Anna's musings can grow repetitious, the novel offers a well-rounded portrait of a sympathetic girl and her burgeoning sense of self. Halpin's (The Grand Plan to Fix Everything) tidy halftone pictures help flesh out Anna's world. Ages 6-9. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. Illustrator's agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.