- Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Trade ed. IBN 978-1-4814-3786-8 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-3788-2 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 6-9
Tokyo native Ema feels keenly the stares of the Japanese who see her as a foreigner because of her white mother, and she’s uncertain about the plan for her to spend the summer with her father’s parents due to her mother’s difficult pregnancy. Her grandmother, Obaasan, is stern and formidable, and while her grandfather is sweet, he is ruled by his wife. Ema’s summer of discontent under her grandmother’s strict rules turns into fall at a new school where her biracial appearance makes her a target for the school bully. Meanwhile, her increasingly frail grandfather has become glued to the television, fretting over the simmering aggressions between North Korea, Japan, and China in the summer of 2001, and then devastated as the 9/11 attacks [End Page 462] are replayed over and over. This elegant and melancholy verse novel captures the sensibility of a culture haunted by repeated tragedy and grief; between the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the regular earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis, the people of Ema’s neighborhood live in a perpetual state of formal remembrance and resigned preparedness for the next disaster. A dangerous stranger lurking near the school, Ema’s mother’s false labor, and her grandfather’s heart attack add to the tension, which is relieved somewhat with the birth of the baby and the melting of some of the ice that has formed between Ema and Obaasan. The sense of foreboding and sorrow will resonate with many young readers, especially those who deeply feel the weight of their own sorrows.