The Year of the Baby

Last year, Anna learned how to be a good friend. Now that her family has adopted a baby girl from China, she wants to learn how to be a good sister. But the new year proves challenging when the doctor warns that the baby isn't thriving. Can Anna and her best friends, Laura and Camille, create a science project that saves the day? In this heartwarming sequel to The Year of the Book, readers will be just as moved by Anna's devotion to her new sister as they will be inspired by her loving family and lasting friendships.

Author perspective

The Year of the Baby draws from many parts of my life.  My cousin adopted a baby from China, and at first, she was very thin and a picky eater.   This became the basis for the situation with Kaylee.  In addition, our three children did several science fair projects, and like Anna, they wanted to do something meaningful and real.  

But most of this second book in the Anna Wang series grew organically from the first book, The Year of the Book.


Worried that her newly adopted baby sister isn’t gaining weight, fifth-grader Anna Wang and her friends Camille and Laura make the toddler the subject of a successful science-fair project. Anna, who became a better friend in The Year of the Book (2012), proves to be a capable older sister as well. Three months have passed since her family brought Kaylee from China to the United States. She looks fine to Anna, who enjoys taking care of her, but she doesn’t want to eat. Camille gets her to swallow a few bites by distracting her with a song, planting the seed of an idea that blooms into an easy-to-follow experiment involving both Chinese and American nursery songs and a silent meal as a control. Laura’s moves between her parents’ two households complicate their activities, but, though she’s not Chinese, she has joined Anna and Camille at language school, providing continuity. All three use occasional simple Chinese phrases (translated in the opening pronunciation guide). As in the previous title, there are also frequent references to familiar children’s books. An ending that has their teacher also considering adoption from China seems an unnecessary embellishment, but the recipe for Grandma’s steamed bao zi is welcome. Middle-grade readers will find many ways to connect with Anna and her friends in this warm family and school story. (Fiction. 7-10) - Apr 2013

School Library Journal (starred)

(star) Preschool to Grade 4 | June 2013 CHENG, Andrea. The Year of the Baby. illus. by Patrice Barton. 160p. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-547-91067-3; ebook $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-03568-3. Gr 1-4–In this sequel to The Year of the Book (Houghton Harcourt, 2012), Anna Wang’s parents have adopted a toddler from China. Kaylee’s failure to thrive is being monitored by an unsupportive doctor, and Anna’s mother is frantic about the child’s low weight and resistance to food. Even Grandma Wang’s herbs do not entice her to eat. Meanwhile, Anna cannot think of an original science project that “really matters” until she and her Chinese friend Camille stumble upon something. As Camille sings a Chinese song, Kaylee seems mesmerized and eats more than usual. Anna and her project partners design a controlled experiment that proves their hypothesis: listening to songs, especially those in Chinese, encourages Kaylee to eat. And indeed, she gains nearly a pound. The experiment is entered in the town-wide science fair. Anna learns to appreciate the wisdom of Camille, who struggles academically but possesses a serene emotional intelligence. This book deals deftly with a range of thorny adoption- and ethnic-stereotyping issues, such as the abandonment of female Chinese infants and the assumption that all Asians are gifted students, and it has special meaning for families touched by adoption. The delicate black-and-white drawings scattered throughout the straightforward text help make this a good choice for readers new to chapter books, and it will appeal to fluent readers looking for a compelling story.–Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Brain - Jun 2013

Book type: 
Chapter book
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Patrice Barton
Publication date: 
Jun 2013
Interest level: 
Junior Library Guild Selection, Jun 2013
Bank Street College Best Books of the Year, May 2014