A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata [in Booklist]
From ages eight to 12, Hanako lived in prison: She was one of 120,000 majority Americans of Japanese descent imprisoned during WWII by Executive Order 9066. “[N]ow that she was kind of free … [a]ll she could hope was that from now on, and maybe forever, she would never be in jail and nobody would ever point a gun at her again.”
Robbed of their civil rights, Hanako and her family sail to Japan – where’s she’s never been – as expatriates to live with Hanako’s father’s elderly parents who work as tenant farmers just outside devastated Hiroshima. Her grandparents’ open-armed welcome is a soothing balm against the destruction, starvation, and desperation that remain all-too-visible remnants of war.
Cynthia Kadohata (Newbery Medaled for Kira-Kira, 2004) spectacularly confronts the grey areas of right and wrong, of impossible choices, of feeding family by denying emaciated strangers, of survival over human kindness. Narrator Jennifer Ikeda, who shares Japanese ancestry with Kadohata and her characters, makes an ideal aural partner, delivering an extensive emotional range from children to seniors with effortless ease. Like her grandfather’s kintsukuroi – broken pottery repaired with gold that both acknowledges and honors the history of the damage – Hanako perseveres through darkness with empathy and love.
Readers: Middle Grade