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The Year of the Dog

Last updated Monday, December 18, 2006

Author: Grace Lin
Date of Publication: 2005
ISBN: 0316060003
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2007

Synopsis: (From School Library Journal) 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.

Note to readers:
•  This is a chapter book. Read as far as you can until 11:00.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know what is meant by the Year of the Dog?
•  Do you know anything about Chinese New Year? What other animals are represented? How is the New Year celebrated?
•  How is Chinese New Year different from your New Year? [It’s not celebrated on 1/1 but usually late January or in February, which coincides with the lunar calendar. This year it is on February 18th and it is the Year of the Pig. Each year is named after an animal (2006 was Year of the Dog).]
•  What good qualities do dogs have?
•  What kind of year do you think Year of the Dog will be in the book?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you have a family name and a school name like Grace? Which do you like to be called?
•  Are there special foods you eat during special holidays?
•  Pacy’s mom frequently stops to tell her stories about her family. How do you learn stories about your family traditions or history? Who tells stories in your family?
•  Find Taiwan and China on the map.
•  On pages 3-4, Pacy mixes the candy on the candy dish. Her father likes the idea of mixing Chinese and American. In what ways do you and your family mix traditions?
•  What special things do you do for your New Year? Do you have any special foods or traditions?
•  Do you do any sorts of things to bring special kinds of good luck?
•  How have your holidays been changed by living in the United States?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a dog following the instructions on page 2. (Note: red paper is used for making New Year decorations.) Cut the picture out and attach string to hang it as decoration. Draw the other animals (pig is this year) of the year and make decorations to hang.
•  Write the Chinese Lucky Symbols (will be provided) on red construction paper, attach string, and hang as decoration on Chinese New Year (February 18, 2007)!

Special activities:
•  Determine the year you were born and find out what animal is your year. The Chinese name each calendar year an animal. According to custom, people born during that year will have characteristics of that animal. (Calendar w/animals will be provided.)

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!