Review of On the Horizon

On the Horizon
by Lois Lowry; illus. by Kenard Pak
Middle School, High School    Houghton    80 pp.    g
4/20    978-0-358-12940-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-12938-7    $9.99

In a poetry collection that’s as much structure as style and theme, Lowry considers two events: the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. In the book’s first section, poems about the author’s connections to Pearl Harbor (she was born in Hawaii and lived there before the war) are interspersed with others commemorating some of the sailors who served on the USS Arizona. (The presence of an appended bibliography seems to indicate that these sailors and their experiences are not fictional, but there’s no statement to that effect.) The second section, about Hiroshima, takes a similar tack, with poems inspired by Lowry’s postwar childhood in Tokyo included among others devoted to the experiences of those in Japan on August 6th, 1945. “She was a young girl with / a singed uniform, and / a lifetime / of nightmares.” A third section brings together the surprising link, discovered almost fifty years after the war, between the little Lois of the first section and a certain Koichi Seii introduced in the second. (We all learned about it at the 1994 Newbery-Caldecott Banquet.) There’s a lot of scaffolding for such a slim book, but the poems themselves, a mix of free verse and (sometimes questionable) rhyme, are agreeably spare; the best are the triolets that close each section: “We could not be friends. Not then. Not yet. / Until the cloud dispersed and cleared, / we needed time to mend, forget. / We could not be friends. Not then. Not yet…” Modest pencil sketches throughout reflect and enhance the elegiac mood.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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