The Year of the Dog


Grace Lin

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If you’ve been to a Chinese restaurant you may have seen a placemat about the Chinese Zodiac. It’s the Asian calendar that uses 12 animals to describe what the year will be like. This book is about the Year of the Dog and a Chinese-American girl named Pacy.

While helping her mother prepare for the Chinese New Year dinner party, Pacy learns what the Year of the Dog means. It’s a good year to find a best friend because dogs are man’s best friend. Dogs are faithful, so during this year friends and family will be important. And dogs are also honest and sincere, so it’s a good year to decide what you value and want to do with your life. In other words, learning what talent you have.

Pacy immediately starts to search for that her talent, the one thing that will set her apart from everyone else. Is she able to sleep standing up like her mother did when she was young? Could she be the first Chinese Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz or become a great scientist and win the science fair? Or maybe she could write a book and become rich? To find out which of these possibilities might be true for Pacy read The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. When does the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) occur? Is it the same day every year? How is it different from New Years Day?
  2. What are some of Pacy’s family traditions? What traditions are important to you and your family?
  3. Pacy and Melody become best friends. What is similar about their backgrounds?
  4. What did Pacy and Melody learn from their science fair project, even though it was flawed?
  5. Pacy decides not to try out for the part of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz because she’s Asian. Do you think it was a good reason? How you feel if you were Pacy?
  6. What was your favorite story about Pacy’s family? Do you have a favorite story from your family?
  7. Do you know in what lunar year you were born? What are the characteristics of that year? Does it describe you well?
  8. Pacy doesn’t speak Taiwanese or Chinese and girls at camp made fun of her. Why do you think they did? Was this right? How would you feel if you were Grace?
  9. What did Pacy decide was her talent? What is your talent?

If you liked this book, try

  • The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin
  • Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
  • Dragonwings by Lawrence Yep
  • The Key Collection by Andrea Cheng
  • Yang the Eldest and His Odd Jobs by Lensey Namioka

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.