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.
The Turtle of Oman: A Novel
By Namomi Shibab Nye
New York: Greenwillow Press, 2014.
Grades 4 and up 299 Pages
So during the Christmas Holiday I spent visiting my beautiful daughter in San Antonio, Texas. Any trip is not complete without a stop at a bookstore. I found this lovely book written by a local author, from San Antonio.
A young boy from Oman is preparing to come to the United States with his parents as they both get their masters degrees from a college in Michigan. Oman is in the Middle East—and sad to say that is about all I know about this country. But through the writing in this lovely story I can picture what life must be like.
It is a simple country, with simple homes and a simple lifestyle. Aref is seeing his father off to the airport when the story opens and next week Aref and his mother will follow. So now it is time for Aref to pack his belongings as they will be gone for three years. His aunt, uncle and two cousins will be moving in to his house while they are gone. Aref is struggling with the move—leaving his cat, his room, his school and most of all this grandfather, Sidi. Aref is angry and refusing to pack. Then Siti come to take him on some final adventures around Oman—helping him to create memories that he can take with him and gently encourages him to look forward to his new big adventure to Michigan.
You will go to a desert camp and pass camels, to the sea to fish and to the beach to see where the Turtles of Oman hatch, go to sea and one day come back home.
A lovely story that allows one to travel somewhere else without leaving home.