The Year of the Fortune Cookie

Eleven-year-old Anna heads off to sixth grade, leaving the comfort and familiarity of elementary school behind and entering the larger, more complex world of middle school. Surrounded by classmates who have their roots all in America, Anna begins to feel out of place and wonders where she really belongs.  When Anna takes a trip to China, she not only explores a new country and culture, but finds answers to her questions about whether she is more Chinese or more American.
     This young illustrated chapter book is the third in the series that includes The Year of the Book and The Year of the Baby. For grades 1-4.

Author perspective

This third book in the Anna Wang series combines many experiences of my daughters.  When my older daughter, Jane, was eleven, we went to China and she befriended a waitress at the hotel in which we were staying.  Every day the waitress and Jane would sit together in the lobby, trying to communicate in a mixture of English and Chinese.  The relationship between Anna Wang and Fan is based on watching Jane and the waitress over the three weeks that they were together.  The thoughts that Anna has while she is in China are similar to what I think Jane might have been thinking and feeling.  

The character of Andee is in some ways taken from my younger daughter, Ann.  In ninth grade, Ann became the leader of the Community Action Team at her school.  I watched as she tried to find her identity by working with others to help her community.


A two-week trip to China allows sixth-grader Anna Wang to reflect on her Asian-American identity.

At the end of The Year of the Baby (2013), Anna’s teacher, Ms. Sylvester, invited Anna to come with her to Beijing to help her take home an adopted Chinese baby. In this third title in the series, Anna does just that, leaving for an unfamiliar country almost before she’s adjusted to middle school. Anna’s journey provides an opportunity to consider the question “Who am I,” raised in her social studies class. Very aware of differences of skin and hair color, she appreciates that in China she doesn’t stand out. It’s a strain to speak a language she doesn’t know well, and she misses her family. Her narration clearly conveys the experience of foreign travel from a sixth-grade point of view; it’s light on famous sights and heavy on personal encounters. A friendly hotel waitress invites Anna to her family’s one-room home. She even gets to visit the Lucky Family Orphanage where her own sister once lived, bringing the money she and new middle school friends raised with a fortune-cookie bake sale and baby caps they knitted.

Similar in subject to the author’s Shanghai Messenger (2005) but different in approach, this is just right for middle-grade Anna fans ready for new experiences. (Fiction. 7-11)

- May 2014

School Library Journal

In this pitch-perfect sequel, Anna juggles the usual “starting middle school” trials in addition to trying to fit into both her Chinese and American cultures, spurred by her trip to China with her former teacher. Anna’s new friend Andee helps her with this big step by sending her fortune cookies with personalized notes. Barton’s winning illustrations continue to delight.

Bulletin Center for Children's Books

As Anna Wang (of The Year of the Book, BCCB 7/12, and The Year of the Baby, BCCB 7/13) begins sixth grade at the local middle school, life becomes increasingly complicated. Best bud Laura is now going to Catholic school, leaving Anna with only Camille (who is, like Anna, Chinese American) as her only close school friend. Because of Anna’s knowledge of Chinese and familiarity with international adoption (Anna’s little sister was adopted from China), she has also been asked by her former teacher Mrs. Sylvester to accompany her and her husband to China as they adopt a baby girl. Anna continues to thoughtfully spread her wings in this title, joining a school service club and making a new friend, traveling to China with the Sylvesters and improving her Chinese, and further exploring what her heritage means to her as a Midwestern Chinese-American kid. Complex issues of international adoption and cultural and racial identity are age-appropriately introduced and respectfully considered within the context of Anna’s experiences, and Anna’s introspective young adolescent voice continues to ring with authenticity. Quieter tweens just beginning to examine their own identities will relate to Anna’s narrative, and fans of Anna’s previous adventures will definitely want to keep following her as she journeys toward young adulthood. JH

Book type: 
Chapter book
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Patrice Barton
Publication date: 
Jun 2014
Interest level: 
Junior Library Guild Selection, Aug 2014