An accessible account about a dark—and still too-little-known—moment in American history.

GAIJIN

AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR

After the United States enters World War II, a half-Japanese teen and his white mother find themselves interned at the Alameda Downs Assembly Center.

Everything changes for 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His schoolmates accuse him of being a “Jap spy,” and streetcars refuse to stop for him on the street. It doesn’t help that his father has returned to Japan; Koji worries that his father may be fighting for the Japanese in the war. When Koji receives a summons to a “relocation” camp, his mother, Adeline, chooses to accompany him. The living conditions at Alameda Downs are deplorable, but Koji struggles even more with his outsider status. The other camp teenagers call him gaijin, involve him in brawls and spread gossip about his mother. Inspired by the true story of Faulkner’s great-aunt, the graphic novel features gouache illustrations that deftly capture Koji’s anger and frustration when he’s rejected by his peers and treated as an “enemy alien” despite his citizenship. The simple text provides enough historical context to help young readers who may be unfamiliar with the history of Japanese-American internment to understand Koji’s story.

An accessible account about a dark—and still too-little-known—moment in American history. (author’s note, resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3735-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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Entrancing and uplifting.

STAY

A small dog, the elderly woman who owns him, and a homeless girl come together to create a tale of serendipity.

Piper, almost 12, her parents, and her younger brother are at the bottom of a long slide toward homelessness. Finally in a family shelter, Piper finds that her newfound safety gives her the opportunity to reach out to someone who needs help even more. Jewel, mentally ill, lives in the park with her dog, Baby. Unwilling to leave her pet, and forbidden to enter the shelter with him, she struggles with the winter weather. Ree, also homeless and with a large dog, helps when she can, but after Jewel gets sick and is hospitalized, Baby’s taken to the animal shelter, and Ree can’t manage the complex issues alone. It’s Piper, using her best investigative skills, who figures out Jewel’s backstory. Still, she needs all the help of the shelter Firefly Girls troop that she joins to achieve her accomplishment: to raise enough money to provide Jewel and Baby with a secure, hopeful future and, maybe, with their kindness, to inspire a happier story for Ree. Told in the authentic alternating voices of loving child and loyal dog, this tale could easily slump into a syrupy melodrama, but Pyron lets her well-drawn characters earn their believable happy ending, step by challenging step, by reaching out and working together. Piper, her family, and Jewel present white; Pyron uses hair and naming convention, respectively, to cue Ree as black and Piper’s friend Gabriela as Latinx.

Entrancing and uplifting. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283922-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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