The Year of the Book

Written by: Andrea Cheng

Illustrated by: Abigail Halpin

For parents of independent readers, we provide a set of questions that should give you insight into what your child is reading and help you engage him/her in meaningful conversations about literature. We recommend using the questions provided here as a springboard for deeper conversation about The Year of the Book and what your child takes away from the book. Enjoy!



Anna is a thoughtful, caring girl who loves to read. She's crafty, creative, and a good student, but figuring out friendships and feeling comfortable with her Chinese heritage are another story. Her old friend, Laura, is spending more time with Queen Bee, Allison, and that leaves Anna feeling kind of lonely. She's feeling more comfortable with the adults in her life, like Ray, the crossing guard, and Mr. Shepherd, an older widower she visits when her mom cleans his apartment. Anna feels even more isolated because of her background. She's embarrassed that her mom cleans houses, and she's annoyed that her mom still doesn't understand all the nuances of the English language. She sees her brother joining in with other kids, but Anna seems to feel happiest in the company of a good book. Friends like A Wrinkle in Time and My Side of the Mountain are very special, but can Anna gain the confidence she needs to allow some real friends into her life? (Sweet on Books)


Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Create a K-W-L Chart and have your child fill in the first two columns with information that s/he knows and wants to find out about the story. S/he can fill in the last column, "What I Learned", once s/he has finished the story.

What I Know

After reading the summary of the story, let your child think about what s/he already knows about the story. Consider questions like "What do you notice about the cover? Which girl do you think Anna is on the cover? What will the story be about? Why is this story called "The Year of the Book"?"

What I Want to Know

Include questions that your child might have about the plot, characters and setting. Think about including questions like, "Will Anna be able to make friends? Who is the girl with Anna on the cover?"

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Vocabulary Words

There are several Chinese words used in this story, so the author includes a Pronunciation Guide in the beginning of the book to help you pronounce them correctly. Take a moment to read it over, and as you and/or your child read, you can refer back to it if need be. Your child can also keep track of other words that s/he may come across that are unfamiliar in a Vocabulary Journal for reference later on. 


Discussion Questions

  1. What does Anna's mother do for a living? Why is Anna embarrassed of her mother in the beginning of the story?
  2. Anna has a difficult time fitting in at school. Why is that? Have you ever felt left out or had a hard time fitting in? What do you do when you feel that way?
  3. How does she feel about Chinese school in beginning of the story? How does she feel about it at the end of the story?
  4. What is an ABC? If you can't remember, refer to page 26. Why did this make learning Chinese more difficult for her than for the other children in her Chinese class?
  5. Why is reading so important to Anna? What is she able to find in these stories that she can't find in real life?
  6. Discuss what a theme is (the subject matter that a book addresses). What are some of the themes that this story addresses (Examples: friendship, perseverance, etc) and what lessons is the author trying to teach?
  7. What is Anna's relationship with Lauren like? Why did they drift apart as friends?


Extending the Story

There are several ways that you and your child can extend this story. Firstly, you can do a hands-on craft by making a drawstring bag like Anna does in the beginning of the story. There are clear instructions on the inside cover of the book, and all you need are two pieces of fabric, a needle and thread, string and a safety pin! Discuss what this drawstring bag meant to Anna and what your child can use his/hers for.


You can also start having your own Word of the Week, or even Word of the Day. Anna's first word of the day in this story is PERSEVERANCE. What will yours be? You can buy a Word of the Day calendar or just check in to Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary for their Learner's Word of the Day. Try using each word in a sentence at least once on their designated day.