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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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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