Nobody Knows

It’s autumn in Tokyo, and twelve-year-old Akira and his younger siblings, Kyoko, Shige and little Yuki, have just moved into a new apartment with their mother. Akira hopes it’s a new start for all of them, even though the little ones are not allowed to leave the apartment or make any noise, since the landlord doesn’t permit young children in the building. But their mother soon begins to spend more and more time away from the apartment, and then one morning Akira finds an envelope of money and a note. She has gone away with her new boyfriend for a while. Akira bravely shoulders the responsibility for the family. He shops and cooks and pays the bills, while Kyoko does the laundry. The children spend their time watching TV, drawing and playing games, wishing they could go to school and have friends like everyone else. Then one morning their mother breezes in with gifts for everyone, but she is soon gone again. Months pass, until one spring day Akira decides they have been prisoners in the apartment long enough. For a brief time the children bask in their freedom. They shop, explore, plant a little balcony garden, have the playground to themselves. Even when the bank account is empty and the utilities are turned off and the children become increasingly ill-kempt, it seems that they have been hiding for nothing. In the bustling big city, nobody notices them. It’s as if nobody knows. But by August the city is sweltering, and the children are too malnourished and exhausted even to go out. Akira is afraid to contact child welfare, remembering the last time the authorities intervened, and the family was split up. Eventually even he can’t hold it together any more, and then one day tragedy strikes…

From North To South/Del Norte Al Sur

José loves helping Mamá in the garden outside their home in California. But when Mamá is sent back to Mexico for not having citizenship papers, José and his Papá face an uncertain future. What will it be like to visit Mamá in Tijuana? When will she be able to come home? Award-winning children’s book author René Colato Laínez tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation with exquisite tenderness. Joe Cepeda’s bright and engaging illustrations bring this story of hope to vivid life.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 4, Issue 2

The Samurai’s Daughter

A Japanese folk tale about the brave daughter of a samurai warrior and her journey to be reunited with her exiled father. When Tokoyo’s father, a samurai nobleman, is sent into exile on a lonely island in a distant sea, his young daughter is determined to join him. Despite her noble birth, Tokoyo has spent much time with the amas, the agile women divers of Japan who harvest shellfish from the sea, and she is strong and brave as any samurai herself. Setting out on her journey to join her father, Tokoyo encounters many terrors and trials, including bandits in the mountains, a ghost ship on the high seas, and finally a monstrous sea serpent. Finally, she reunite with her beloved father.

Robert San Souci retold a medieval Japanese legend.

The Braid

Two sisters, Jeannie and Sarah, tell their separate yet tightly interwoven stories in alternating narrative poems. Each sister–Jeannie, who leaves Scotland during the Highland Clearances with her father, mother, and the younger children, and Sarah, who hides so she can stay behind with her grandmother–carries a length of the other’s hair braided with her own. The braid binds them together when they are worlds apart and reminds them of who they used to be before they were evicted from the Western Isles, where their family had lived for many generations.

An author’s note describes the poetic form in detail.

The Scarves

What can you do when the people you love don’t think they love each other anymore? When one little girl learns that her grandparents are separating, it’s hard for her to understand. Grandpa explains that Grandma steals his chocolate pudding, and her favorite color is blue. Grandma says that Grandpa watches too much TV, and his favorite color is red. But when the little girl realizes they really do still love each other, she devises a plan she hopes will bring them back together. Perhaps blending two lives together can be just like knitting two colors together to make a beautiful scarf.