Karen Hesse, . . S&S/McElderry, $16.95 (156pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86189-5

Hesse once again uses free verse to explore a historical period, but while the poetry of her Out of the Dust and Witness built a broad picture of events through the layering of a fully formed cast, here character development is sacrificed in favor of atmospheric details. Narrator Vera goes home to Kashega on the Aleutian Islands ("a necklace of jewels around the throat of the Bering Sea," as an elder describes them) for the summer of 1942, never dreaming that the older couple she looks after in Unalaska Village (also on the islands) would be bombed by the Japanese. The U.S. government then rounds up the Aleutians and transports them "safely out of the way" of the war, to relocation camps on Ward Lake, eight miles from Ketchikan, Alaska. There, surrounded by alien trees where "we find not a single leaf we recognize," Vera watches many die of disease (including her best friend, Pari), is abandoned by her mother, who moves to Ketchikan without her, and realizes she is in love with her childhood friend Alfred. The poetic images will linger in the minds of readers. Yet because the audience learns so little of Vera's interior life, her plight lacks impact, and her homecoming falls short of triumphant. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)