The Year of the Rat , Author/ Illustrator- Grace Lin
Here is a tribute to the children of today- coming from a certain origin, making homes in a different culture. What happens when parents hold on to old traditions which may not be of much significance/ appeal to them. How much of the current new context do the children / parents adopt to be part of the mainstream?
The Year of the Rat, a sequel to the book - The Year of the Dog, is a chapter book that works even if you have not read its predecessor. It is a semi autobiographical work by Grace Lin who very subtly prods young readers to be tolerant of other cultures and be proud of your own heritage.
The protagonist, Pacy Lin, is a typical American kid- going to school and field trips, trying to complete projects, celebrating Christmas and New year and even having her first secret crush. But she is of Taiwanese origin. Does that make her odd or exotic? Neither. The author keeps her normal and therein lies the beauty of the tale.
New years are about wishes and resolutions. The Year of the Rat in Chinese mythology is about change. Pacy Lin faces separation from her best friend who moves to California. She suffers from self doubt in her ambition to become an author illustrator. She makes mistakes too. She sees prejudice against a new comer, who is different from the rest of her class because he is Chinese and barely speaks English but also similar to her for the very same reason.
But Pacy has the love and support of her family. She learns life lessons through
Chinese myths/ folklore and her family anecdotes. And we too learn a bit more about Chinese customs, festivals and food as an intrinsic part of any culture and every celebration.
The black and white illustrations by the author add to the narrative and keep it engaging for the younger reader.
********Here is wishing all readers a Happy Year of the Dragon!!