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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Year of the Baby, by Andrea Cheng, with illustrations by Patrice Barton. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Dad looks at his watch again. "Okay. Just play with her here in the living room, and Mom will be home any minute." As soon as Dad leaves, Kaylee starts fussing. I sing her the gumdrop song, and she listens, but when I stop, she whimpers and struggles to get down. I set her on her feet and she goes to the window."

 In this welcome sequel to The Year of the Book, fans of Anna and her friends will find much to enjoy. Anna's parents have returned from China with an adopted sister for Anna and Ken. Kaylee is a beautiful little girl and she is loved immediately by all.

There is, however, a problem and the whole family is worried. She looks fine to everyone, and seems happy. But, Kaylee is not thriving, according to her pediatrician. It's true that Kaylee doesn't appear to be interested in eating. She turns up her nose at the food that is presented to her. If it does make it into her mouth, she quickly spits it out. No one knows what to do!

At school, Anna is dealing with another problem. She can't think of a science fair project. Fifth grade is turning out to be a bit of a nightmare for her. Finally, with help from her friends Camille and Laura, Kaylee becomes the subject for their shared project. Camille has been able to distract Kaylee with her singing. They decide that they will try singing songs in two languages to see if they can distract the little one from her aversion to food, and the family's obsession with getting her to eat.    They scientifically record their observations, by singing songs in both languages and offering bits of banana and Chinese hamburger. Kaylee eats when she is distracted. Then, it's off to the doctor to see if their plan has had any effect.

Readers will like the simple Chinese phrases used in the telling, and the references to children's literature. With good luck and an interested parent, they might even try making Grandma's Steamed Red Bean Bao Zi. There is a detailed recipe at the end of the book. As well as that, in back matter, they will find the first chapter of the third book in this series. The Year of the Fortune Cookies finds Anna in middle school, and on her way to China to help her teacher adopt a baby girl. Will she be able to do what is needed?

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