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The Year of the Dog
By Grace Lin
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- ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 1, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of The Year of the Rat
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A Sweet New Year
"HAPPY NEW YEAR!" DAD LAUGHED INTO THE phone. "Gong xi-gong xi! Xin–nian kuai le!" The phone had been ringing all night with relatives calling to wish us a happy Chinese New Year. If we had lived in Taiwan, we would be having a big dinner with all of our relatives—aunts, uncles, and cousins. But since we lived in New Hartford, New York, they called us instead.
"Yes," Dad said over the phone to Uncle Leo, "happy Year of the Dog!"
"What does it mean when it's the Year of the Dog?" I asked. Our kitchen was full of rich, heavy smells because Mom and Lissy were cooking the special Chinese New Year dinner. I was teaching Ki-Ki how to draw a dog for our decorations. "I know every Chinese New Year is a different animal, but is something special supposed to happen because it's the Year of the Dog?"
"Yes," Lissy told me, nodding her head so hard that her black hair swung back and forth. Lissy always thought she knew everything. "You know how they say a dog is a man's best friend? Well, in the Year of the Dog you find your best friends."
"That's true," Mom said, her hands mixing speckled brown meat, "because dogs are faithful. They say the Year of the Dog is the year for friends and family. But there's more to it than that. The Year of the Dog is also for thinking. Since dogs are also honest and sincere, it's a good year to find yourself."
"Find myself?" Ki-Ki said. "Why? I'm not lost."
We all laughed and Mom tried to explain.
"No," she said, "finding yourself means deciding what your values are, what you want to do—that kind of thing."
"Like deciding what you want to be when you grow up?" I asked.
"Yes." Mom nodded her head.
"Well," Lissy said, "I've decided I'm definitely NOT going to be a chef, because I'm tired of cooking. We still have to make the shrimp, the pork, and the vegetables. We're never going to eat!"
"We will, we will," Mom said, and she looked at the clock. "Pacy, stop drawing and go fill the New Year tray."
I went to the cabinet and took out the New Year tray. We had polished it so much that I could see myself shining in the red and black wood. I also took out a bag of the special Chinese New Year candy. It's very important that the New Year tray is filled with candy. If it's full of sweet things, it means your year will be full of sweet things.
Ki-Ki hung up our drawings and then came over to help me, though she didn't really help much. All she did was eat the candy. She loved New Year's candy. I don't know why. It isn't real candy like chocolate or lollipops. New Year's candy is sticky taffy melon candy, the color of the moon.
Ki-Ki kept eating the candy, so I couldn't fill the whole tray. I looked in the cupboard for more, but there wasn't any more. But there were rainbow-colored M&M's. I loved M&M's. That's real candy. So I filled the rest of the tray with that.
When Lissy saw the tray, her mouth made a big O.
"You can't fill the tray with M&M's," she told me. "It's a Chinese tray; only Chinese candy is supposed to go in it."
"But there's not enough Chinese candy to fill it," I told her.
We both looked at the tray. We couldn't decide if it was better to have the tray be half empty with only Chinese candy or full with Chinese and American candy.
Mom was frying food, so we took the tray to Dad. He scooped up a big handful of Chinese candy and M&M's and ate it.
"This way is good," he said. "We should have both Chinese and American candy for the new year. It's just like us—Chinese-American. I think it's going to be a very sweet year!"
How to Get Rich
"TIME TO EAT!" MOM CALLED.
In the dining room, there was so much food. There was a whole fried fish—crispy and brown, meat dumplings fried golden, vegetables shining with oil, steamed buns that looked like puffy clouds, shrimp in a milky sauce, and pork colored a brilliant ruby pink. The fish's eyes stared at me. I didn't like it, so I turned that plate around so it would look at Lissy instead. She turned it back toward me. And I turned it again. Finally we had it look at Ki-Ki. She didn't notice.
"Everything we eat tonight has a special meaning," Dad said. "These vegetables mean wealth."
"How about the shrimp?" I asked.
"That means wealth, too," Dad said.
"What does the pork mean?" Lissy asked.
"Wealth, too!" Dad said.
"Everything means wealth," Lissy said. "All we care about is money!"
"Well, don't you want to be rich?" Mom asked.
"Yes!" Lissy and I said at the same time. Ki-Ki nodded her head.
"I want to be a millionaire," I said.
"I want to be a gazillionaire," Lissy said.
"Me, too," Ki-Ki said. "Me, too."
"Well, eat these," Mom told us, passing us the fried dumplings. "They say these symbolize gold coins, so if you eat them you'll be rich."
"I don't know how they're going to make me rich," I said. "They don't look like gold coins to me."
"Maybe that's what coins looked like in the olden days," Lissy whispered to me.
"I'm going to eat all of them," Dad teased, "then I'll have all the money and you'll have none."
"That's not fair," I said, trying to grab some dumplings off his plate. "Give me some."
"I'll sell you one for a dollar," Dad said. "That's how you get rich!"
The phone rang again and this time it was Grandpa calling to say Happy New Year.
"I bet Grandpa ate a lot of these dumplings," Lissy said. "Grandpa's rich."
"May be he charged two dollars for each dumpling!" I joked.
"Actually," Mom said, "Grandpa got rich by doing a job for free. Did I ever tell you the story about Grandpa's first patient?"
We all shook our heads and Mom started the story.
HOW GRANDPA GOT RICH
When Grandpa graduated from medical school and was officially a doctor, he was so proud! But he had a problem. He had no patients. It seemed like whenever people were sick, they went to someone else. No one wanted to go and see Grandpa, a young doctor with no experience.
Still, with the help of his parents he opened a small clinic in the neighborhood. Sometimes his mother would come over saying she had back pains so he could cure her. Sometimes Grandpa would use the stethoscope on himself, just to make sure it was working. But most of the time, Grandpa just sat there alone, like the last dumpling on a plate.
Then, one night, just when the sky began to darken with shadows, there was a frantic banging on the door. A street vendor had been robbed and was badly hurt. His clothes looked like dishrags of blood, and his wife begged for help. Grandpa jumped up and worked hard to save the vendor's life. He worked deep into the night, and he only stopped when the moon hung like a freshly peeled lychee in the sky. Finally, the patient was out of danger. Grandpa left him with his wife in the clinic and told them that he would check up on them in the morning.
But, when Grandpa woke up the next morning and went to check on his patient at the clinic, there was no one there. The bed was made and the room was as clean as an empty rice bowl. Had he dreamed it all?
Later, Grandpa found out that his patient was very poor. He and his wife had sneaked away after Grandpa had left because they knew they could not pay him. In fact, right after the accident the wife had brought the vendor to two other doctors before Grandpa; the other doctors had refused to operate because they knew he couldn't pay. Grandpa, on the other hand, didn't even think about asking for payment and had just hurried to save his life.
So it looked like Grandpa's first patient was going to be free of charge. Grandpa worried because he thought that it didn't look like a good start for his business. He had his family to support and they were counting on him to make money as a doctor. Was this first patient a sign of his future?
But he shouldn't have worried. Like the smell of roast pork, the news of Grandpa's good work spread around the village. People were warmed by the fact that Grandpa cared more for their lives than their money. They stopped seeing their other doctors and came to him instead. Soon he had more patients than he could handle.
"And that is how Grandpa became rich," Mom finished. Then she looked at the empty table. "Ai-you! There's no food left for me!"
Welcoming the New Year
AFTER DINNER, MOM GAVE US OUR HONG BAO—special red envelopes, the color of a fully bloomed poinsettia, with money in them. Mine had $5! That was a lot of money, but not enough to make me rich. Lissy got $10 since she was older.
Then, Mom got us ready for bed. Ki-Ki had her own room and her own bed, but she never slept the whole night there. She always got up in the middle of the night and went to go sleep with Mom and Dad. Lissy and I shared a room. Our room was buttercup yellow, with flowers dancing on the walls. The carpet was a bright blue, so I liked to pretend it was the ocean and swim to the bunk bed. Lissy slept on the top bunk because she was older and Mom was afraid I would roll off in the middle of the night. But I didn't like sleeping on the bottom. What if the bed broke and Lissy came crashing through? Lissy would be okay, because she'd be on top, but everything would crush me.
"Traditionally," Mom told us as she was helping Ki-Ki put on her faded sky-colored pajamas, "you are supposed to stay up as late as you can on Chinese New Year. The longer you stay awake, the longer your parents' lives will be. So I should try to keep you up all night! But tomorrow is school, so everyone goes to sleep."
"Aren't you worried?" I asked. "We should stay up so then you can have a long life."
"Yeah," Lissy said, "let's stay up late! We don't have to go to school tomorrow."
"No school!" Ki-Ki chanted. "No school!"
"Sillies," Mom said, "everyone is going to sleep early and everyone is going to school tomorrow."
But after she left, I worried. What if I went to sleep too soon and gave Mom and Dad a short life? If I stayed up an extra minute, would they live an extra year? Or just an extra day? "Don't go to bed yet. Let's stay up," I said to Lissy.
"Okay!" Lissy said. But I could tell she was thinking more about staying up late than Mom's and Dad's lives.
We turned on our bed lights and Lissy took out her book. She was reading Mary Poppins. It was very different from the Disney movie we saw. In the book, Mary Poppins is really grumpy. But the characters have better adventures. They even see a circus in the stars. I wondered why they didn't put that in the movie and Lissy said it was probably because it was too hard to make the animals glitter.
I opened my book. It was called B is for Betsy and it was about an American girl going to school. I liked it very much, but I couldn't stop thinking about what Mom said about the Year of the Dog and how it was the year I should think about what I wanted to do when I grew up.
"Lissy," I asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"I'm going to be a doctor," Lissy said, "like Dad and Grandpa."
"I don't know what I want to be," I said.
"You should be a doctor, too," Lissy said. "You can get rich by being a doctor."
- On Sale
- Jan 1, 2008
- Page Count
- 144 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers