Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Only One Year

Only One Year Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Nicole Wong

The summer before 4th grade, Sharon’s parents send her little brother Di Di to China for an entire year. In China, Di Di will live with his grandparents, surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins. He will learn Chinese and a year isn’t that long.

Sharon and her younger sister Mary eagerly await the weekly photographs that Nai Nai sends, but as the year goes on, their own lives take over. Then, a year is over and Di Di is back. He doesn’t remember English or his sisters. Just as they learned to live without him, they have to once again learn to live with him.

This is a short book aimed at younger end of books that I talk about here (about 3rd grade and up.) We are shown, rather than told, how Sharon and Mary deal with life without (and with) Di Di. Their play shifts from looking at photographs to playing school and adding rooms to their toy house. By showing through action instead of telling us with extensive internal dialog, Cheng perfectly balances the emotional tone-- it doesn’t diminish the pain of when Di Di leaves or the confusion when he returns, but it also doesn’t turn to wistful poignancy.

An ending author’s note explains that Di Di’s story is based on practice in some immigrant families and further goes into the details of how and why parents might send their young children abroad.

Book Provided by... my local library

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