Review of Somewhere Among

donwerth-chikamatsu_somewhere amongSomewhere Among
by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Intermediate    Dlouhy/Atheneum    441 pp.
4/16    978-1-4814-3786-8    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-3788-2    $10.99

Japanese fifth-grader Ema and her pregnant mother must move to the other side of Toyko to stay for several months with Obaasan and Jiichan, Papa’s parents: Mom is weak with debilitating morning sickness, and Papa works long hours. No one is happy with the situation — Ema will miss her usual summer visit to Mom’s parents in California; stern Obaasan is overly controlling and critical; and Ema must deal with new schoolmates — and a bully. The one bright spot for Ema is Jiichan, who enjoys spending time with his granddaughter. Ema’s narration in this free-verse novel is quiet and thoughtful. The year is 2001, and the news is filled with heartbreak: the tragedy of the Ehime Maru, the Japanese ship sunk by an American submarine; the commemoration in August of the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (where Jiichan lost his whole family); and then September 11th, especially traumatic for Ema’s American mother. The word heart appears throughout the poems, leading gradually to the climax, as Jiichan’s heart lands him in the hospital and a stranger gives Ema an origami doll with a heart on it and a message of peace — a message that awakens in Obaasan a change of heart. When the baby arrives, Ema comes up with the perfect name for her new sister — leaving her family and readers feeling full of hope for the future. Though Ema sometimes sounds older than eleven, that’s a small caveat in an otherwise well-crafted, deeply absorbing novel.

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Jennifer M. Brabander
Jennifer M. Brabander is former senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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