cover image A Place to Belong

A Place to Belong

Cynthia Kadohata, illus. by Julia Kuo. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4664-8

With trademark faith in her protagonist’s resilience, Kadohata (Checked) depicts an ugly chapter of history through the eyes of 12-year-old Hanako, whose parents were coerced into renouncing their American citizenship in a U.S. internment camp during WWII. After their release, they emigrate to her father’s family farm outside Hiroshima. Stepping off the train, Hanako immediately encounters bedraggled soldiers and people who barely survived the U.S. bombing, and she is embraced by her warm, good-humored grandparents. The push-pull between humanity’s best and worst and between acceptance and resistance are at the heart of this powerful and joyful work. Hanako’s philosophical awakening goes much deeper than the caught-between-cultures dilemma that the title implies. The girl forms her moral compass in an environment fraught with desperate decisions (should she give food to the bomb-scarred beggar boy or to her own little brother?), but in Kadohata’s confident hands, the drama is threaded with light, like the kintsukuroi—broken pottery mended with gold seams—that Hanako’s grandfather shows her. Kadohata’s plainspoken storytelling, in which small things, such as mochi cakes, inspire rapture, and moving halfway around the world is taken more or less in stride, will resonate with adults as well as young readers. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10–14. [em](May) [/em]