I’m always on the lookout for diverse books for my kids, especially my daughter Rachel. She goes through more books each week than my mother, who I thought was the most voracious reader I knew. So I’m always excited when I see a new book by Andrea Cheng, one of my favorite middle grade authors.
Although The Year of the Fortune Cookie (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015) has been out for a while, I only recently found it at our public library. The story features Anna Wang, the main character in Cheng’s middle grade series. Anna is the older sister of Ken and Kaylee and has started middle school in Cincinnati. One of her best friends goes to another school and her other best friend is stressed out with homework.
But Anna has other worries. She’s not sure how she fits into her new school. There aren’t many Asian students. When an opportunity for a trip to China arises, she’s not sure if she should go. Her former teacher, Ms. Sylvester, has been waiting to adopt a baby from China, and when she and her husband learn the baby is ready to be taken home, they ask Anna to join them. Anna can speak a little Chinese and understands the culture.
The trip lasts two weeks and takes place in Beijing. Anna becomes friends with a waitress at her hotel, a girl who is only a few years older. She also recently made friends with a girl back home who is half Chinese. Andee gives Anna an envelope filled with fortune cookie fortunes for her to open on her trip, one each day while she’s away.
While she’s in Beijing, she tries to visit the orphanage where her sister Kaylee lived before Anna’s parents adopted her. It’s a lot for a middle school student to take on, but Anna has a lot going on: figuring out her identity, fitting into a new school, being the older sister of two siblings, and helping the Sylvesters with language and culture issues on their trip to China.
Rachel and I really enjoy this series and look forward to the next one, The Year of Three Sisters.