cover image Beyond Me

Beyond Me

Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3789-9

On Mar. 11, 2011, an earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan, followed by a tsunami and an explosion at a damaged nuclear power plant, caused devastation throughout the country. Through the eyes of fifth grader Maya, who lives outside of Tokyo, this novel in free verse recounts the stressors of the event, its aftermath, and its ongoing reverberations. As the story begins, Maya plays freely in the wind and plans to perform a choir piece at school, but her daily life undergoes a dramatic change when the earthquake hits. After the event, the girl spends much of her time sheltering under a table and observing her parents, who try to help those affected, and her grandparents, who calmly tend their garden and vegetable stand. Donwerth-Chikamatsu (Somewhere Among) adapts font color, size, and word placement to reflect Maya’s physical experiences: one page includes only the enlarged phrase “Earth/ drops/ below me,” while others highlight times in the margin (“07:44 Earth shudders”), giving a feel to its passing. As the story shows the country’s unsteadiness and Maya’s creative strategies for overcoming her sense of helplessness, it offers a compassionate window into how adults and children cope with calamity. Ages 8–12. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (June)