Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Only One Year, Amazing Faces

Only One Year, Andrea Cheng, Lee & Low Books, Inc. 2010
chapter book, recommended by the publisher for grades 2-5.

In Only One Year, a Chinese-American family makes the difficult decision to send their youngest child to spend the year with grandparents in China when his mother goes back to full-time work. Told by Shannon, his fourth grade sister, Only One Year is a lovely story about cultural values and family strength.

As an mother, it was very hard to wrap my head around the idea of sending a child away. The author included a helpful note in the book that explains that this decision is "not as uncommon as you might think," and that immigrant parents, particularly from Asia or Africa, facing this choice may feel that it is just better for the child to be cared for by extended family than to spend the day in daycare with strangers.

I could relate to the portrayal of resilience (having moved a few times, we are no strangers to change). I liked Shannon's voice in the book - caring, honest, and capable. The story talks very openly -but without undue drama- about the siblings' feelings about the changes in their family: missing their brother, feeling different and sometimes embarrassed because of their unique arrangement, the challenge of readjustment when he returns home. We see that the brother's transition, while difficult, is not damaging to him or to his sisters.

This would of course be an excellent resource for a family making such a choice, but it is also a positive story in and of itself. I gave it to my daughter to read (she is the same age as the narrator) and she really liked it as well.

Amazing Faces, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Lee & Low Books Inc. 2010
illustrated by Chris Soentpiet
recommended by the publisher for grades 2 and up

Amazing Faces is a wonderful poetry collection for children featuring works from noted authors such as Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, Joseph Bruchac, Langston Hughes, and others. The poems cover a wide range of themes kids can relate to: family, friendship, culture, heroes, nature, and sports, and all are accompanied by beautifully expressive illustrations.

I liked this this collection both because it is truly multicultural (including African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Native American, and European American authors) and because the poems have universal appeal. What kid hasn't ever felt alone on a playground? Hasn't admired a firefighter or a soldier? Hasn't been awed to look up into the sky and see the stars? I also loved it because the quality of the poetry itself is good:
I am wind,
I am wall,
I am wave,
I rise, I fall
- from Jane Yolen, Karate Kid

Her face, a lacework of courage;
Her brow, brown as settled earth;
Her chin, worn thin, a point of pride;
Her cheeks, soft antiques of the sun;
- from J. Patrick Lewis, Abuela
In addition to reading these two books, I spent some time browsing through the Lee & Low catalog. Lee & Low has a wonderful selection of books - if you are a parent or educator in search of quality multicultural reads for children, including books in Spanish, absolutely check them out.

Only One Year and Amazing Faces were complimentary copies provided to me by the publisher. The opinions expressed in these reviews are mine alone.


  1. These both sound charming. I like the premise of Only One Year, and can certainly identify with the cultural upheavals. Funnily enough, I lived in China as a young child - though with my family.

  2. Deborah- that must have been a wonderful experience! Where in China? I love traveling to other countries with our kids, I think it encourages their appreciation of all kinds of things. Do you think it influenced you in wanting to live in other countries as an adult?


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