The Year of the Baby

illus. by Patrice Barton. 160p. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-547-91067-3; ebook $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-03568-3.
RedReviewStarGr 1–4—In this sequel to The Year of the Book (Houghton Harcourt, 2012), Anna Wang's parents have adopted a toddler from China. Kaylee's failure to thrive is being monitored by an unsupportive doctor, and Anna's mother is frantic about the child's low weight and resistance to food. Even Grandma Wang's herbs do not entice her to eat. Meanwhile, Anna cannot think of an original science project that "really matters" until she and her Chinese friend Camille stumble upon something. As Camille sings a Chinese song, Kaylee seems mesmerized and eats more than usual. Anna and her project partners design a controlled experiment that proves their hypothesis: listening to songs, especially those in Chinese, encourages Kaylee to eat. And indeed, she gains nearly a pound. The experiment is entered in the town-wide science fair. Anna learns to appreciate the wisdom of Camille, who struggles academically but possesses a serene emotional intelligence. This book deals deftly with a range of thorny adoption- and ethnic-stereotyping issues, such as the abandonment of female Chinese infants and the assumption that all Asians are gifted students, and it has special meaning for families touched by adoption. The delicate black-and-white drawings scattered throughout the straightforward text help make this a good choice for readers new to chapter books, and it will appeal to fluent readers looking for a compelling story.—Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Braintree, MA

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