My Night in the Planetarium

Innosanto Nagara. Triangle Square, $17.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-60980-700-9
The title of this autobiographical picture book from Nagara (A Is for Activist) might suggest a child awakening to the wonders of the universe. Instead, the book’s revelations are darker and more local, as a planetarium becomes a refuge from political turmoil in the Indonesia of the author’s childhood. Narrating with candor and casual humor, Nagara opens with a swift, context-providing overview of Indonesian history, including its ethnic diversity, colonization by the Dutch (“We Indonesians are really nice, so we let them stay. They stayed for 350 years”), revolution, and strict rule by President Suharto, who is referred to simply as “the General.” Nagara’s father was a playwright, and after an allegorical play about (and critical of) the General gained popularity, Nagara and his parents narrowly avoided capture by soldiers by hiding overnight in a planetarium. Though softened by warm, brush-stroked textures, Nagara’s crisp-edged illustrations maintain a sense of danger and unrest throughout much of the story. It’s a stirring tribute to the power of the arts to challenge injustice, recounted with the confidence of a practiced storyteller. Ages 6–9. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/19/2016
Release date: 10/04/2016
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