Year of #1. HMH Books for Young Readers (May 2012) Library
In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world. Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.
I thought this would be the most appropriate first read of 2014 and it didn't disappoint. Anna's been feeling out of sorts lately. Her best friend Laura has been hanging around a new group of friends including the popular and overbearing Alison. Anna resigns to hang out with her friend when she can or not at all. She actually prefers to have her head stuck in a book reading greats like My Side of the Mountain and A Wrinkle in Time. What Anna soon discovers is that Laura actually needs her but like the older gentleman (which is what my mother would call him) her mother cleans for, Mr. Shepherd, her friend doesn't ask for help.
This was a really sweet story about friendship. Anna was very relatable because I could see her do what I do - get lost in a book and tune everyone out if she felt uncomfortable (of course I do it when I'm comfortable as well). There's a whole list of books she reads or mentions and she even had a book inspired Halloween costume so this is a great book for booklovers. Anna was also always making things and the book provided nice little images for how she created them like a drawstring lunch bag for example so this book is also good for those who like to be creative.
Anna struggles with identity. She looks Asian yet she isn't able to speak her cultures language. When she has to go to Chinese school she can't comprehend a word and understandably feels distant from what is supposed to be her roots. There were moments when her mother would say something about her in Chinese and she assumed the worse. I come from a Hispanic culture and most of the time I do understand what people are saying but sometimes I don't and even if I do I can't respond. I know how it must have felt for her to feel lost in finding her identity in her culture and with family members.
Anna could come off a bit selfish or distant like when she didn't see how much people need help or how her friend needed her. Sometimes people get trapped hanging out with the wrong friends so you need a real friend to get you out of it. I'm happy that she started looking around and noticing that she needed to be more of a friend and a better person. The Year of the Book was very synonymous with what it means to be a true friend especially when that friend is dealing with personal or family issues.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
My Louisiana Sky by Kimberley Willis Holt
Hush by Jacqueline Woodson
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain