By Annie Donerth-Chikamatsu
New York: Atheum Books for Young Readers, 2016.
Grades 6 and Up Pages 433
This is the story of Ema, told in verse. She is the daughter of an American mom and Japanese father. There is a lot going on in this story maybe too much for the younger readers.
Ema’s mom is expecting but has miscarried in the past and is now on bedrest at the childhood home of her father. Ema is binational, bilingual and bicultural. But being between two very different countries and cultures is very difficult for 11 year old Ema. She often talks of the difference between the grandparents—the ones from California are loving and giving and the ones from Japan who are very stoic, strict and simple. The lifestyles couldn’t be any farther apart. As Ema tries to make sense of her world—her mom’s difficult pregnancy, the events of 9/11, the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the current sinking of a Japanese ship, being the new kid at school and being bullied– she tries to blend the two cultures together to understand the tragic events. Although, I think there was way too much going on in this book—I enjoyed the journey. Experiencing the Japanese holidays, the cultural differences, family structure and education helped me to appreciate how difficult it is to be different and to be more understanding of those who are culturally trying to fit in.