Ema's life is in flux: her pregnant mother needs rest, so they've left Ema's father in Tokyo while they stay with her grandparents, Obaasan and Jiichan, in the country. Ema misses her home and friends, as well as visiting her maternal grandparents in California in the summer. Meanwhile, her American mother clashes with Obaasan frequently; Ema has trouble getting to know her stern grandmother, too, though she connects with kindhearted Jiichan. As fifth grade begins, sensitive Ema has difficulties at school, including a bully, but her main concern is the health of her mother's baby. Debut novelist Donwerth-Chikamatsu makes good use of the verse novel format to emphasize that "binational/ bicultural/ bilingual/ biracial" Ema is still learning English while revealing an intimate portrait of her daily struggles in an unfamiliar place. The novel is set over the course of several months in 2001, and while the 9/11 connection feels a bit tenuous, it provides a moving outside perspective on the tragedy and helps shape a universal message of "peace among nations/ peace among peoples/ peace in the heart." Ages 9–12. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2016 Release date: 04/12/2016 Genre: Children's
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