Hikaru No Go, Volume 3 by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (1998)
Graphic Book (Manga), 204 pages
In this third volume of the popular Hikaru No Go series, Hikaru Shindo is now in seventh grade and can officially join the Haze Middle School Go team and play the game, a complex Japanese board game using strategy to move glass chips to defeat opponents. Hikaru played in a tournament the year before for Haze Middle School and beat the champion Kaio Middle School team but got disqualified when it was learned that he was only in sixth grade. With the spirit of the Go master Fujiwara-no-Sai, still present within his consciousness from his encounter with his grandfather’s old Go board that the ghost haunted, Hikaru tries to find one more student to join Haze’s Go team so they can compete in the upcoming tournament. What he finds is cheating Yuki Mitani, a clever classmate who plays the game in Go salons and gambles to earn extra money. Yuki is Haze’s only chance to play in the tournament, so Hikaru and Sai do their best to convince Yuki to join the team and play ethically. Meanwhile, Akira Toya, son of the Go professional Toya Meijin, has joined the Kaio Middle School team to take on Hikaru, after he refused to play Akira previously. Akira’s teammates cannot understand why he has joined the team when he was meant to train with the Insei to go pro. Akira struggles with his teammates and his place on the team, but ultimately makes it to the tournament to challenge Hikaru. Hotta’s narrative is fairly easy to follow and with the competitive nature of Go and the teams, readers ages 9 and up with enjoy getting pulled into the fast pace of the storyline, personified by Obata’s captivating and slick illustrations. Manga lovers will appreciate this series’ dedication to traditional manga format reading (right to left) and will look forward to the next volume.
Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03 April 18, 2011
Hikaru No Go, Volume 3 by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (1998)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2007)
Graphic Book, 128 pages
In a book that looks like an old-fashioned photo album, the story of one man’s journey to emigrate to another country is documented wordlessly through illustrations that seem like photographs. In the beginning the man leaves behind his family in order to find his place in a new world and ultimately make enough money to send for them. On his arrival, he is met by bizarre creatures, customs, and text which he cannot decipher, echoing the experiences of new emigrants around the world. Without any text, the experience could represent numerous immigrant experiences; however, with the diverse faces on every page and elements of fantasy, Tan seems to be making a universal statement on the hardship and obstacles immigrants around the world face as they settle into a new home. The man’s story is captured in Tan’s exemplary pencil sketches that look like grainy photos. Slight variations in gray or sepia allow the reader to understand time and place for the protagonist, as he makes friends, hears their histories, and tries to make a living. Tan’s own imagination comes to life in the unique companion creatures that each resident attains, the grand architecture of the new country, and the impending doom from the oversized shadows and people who take over former homes. With multiple layers, younger readers will appreciate the basic story of one man’s strength to overcome hardship, while older readers will find elements of immigration, politics, war, and acculturation. As a great piece for visual learners, I would recommend The Arrival to ages 10 and up with more of an emphasis on the middle school years. Teachers may also find this book useful in portraying general settler experiences during an immigration unit of study.
Crossing Stones by Helen Frost (2009)
Novel in Verse, 178 pages
18-year-old Muriel Jorgensen is an opinionated young woman who begins to question the risks of war and the inequality of women. The Jorgensen’s live across from the Norman’s, and their properties are divided by Crabapple Creek, but the line is blurred as all the families use the creek’s crossing stones to see each other every day. Both mothers hope their children will marry within the families: Muriel and Frank Norman, Ollie (Muriel’s 16-year-old brother) and Emma (Frank’s 16-year-old sister). Muriel is not sure how she feels about Frank and is afraid to get caught up in the life of a housewife. However, before she can decide, Frank enlists and is sent abroad to fight in The Great War. Only Muriel openly expresses the risks American young men are taking while boys go away to war. However, Muriel and both families are not ready for the reality of war, its destructive nature, or the changes happening back home. Frost’s characters portray the common patriotic sentiment pre-WWI and the disillusionment after the war in their alternating verse narration. The poet’s form in particular is quite interesting, creating a flowing creek pattern in all Muriel’s poems, showing her developing thoughts and forming beliefs. Furthermore, Frost’s form for Ollie and Emma’s poems as “cupped-hand sonnets” connected through beginning and end rhyme shows their bond and the stepping stones they have been for one another. Crossing Stones would be an excellent supplement to a WWI study for any young adult, providing the experiences of people back home and touching on other major events occurring in the era, i.e. women’s suffrage, child labor, and women in the workplace.
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (2008)
Novel in Verse, 158 pages
A Newberry Honor Book and the winner of the Pura Belpré Award, The Surrender Tree captures the struggles of Rosa Castellanos Castellanos, or Rosa la Bayamesa, the former slave turned herbal healer who takes care of the sick and wounded during Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. Broken into five parts, the story begins around the time Rosa is freed from her owner but still must run from slavehunters who work for the Spanish Crown which does not recognize the slaves’ freedom. The slavehunter Lieutenant Death, as evil as his name implies, has an eye out specifically for Rosa because of her ability to slip out of his sight right before her capture. The poetry documents the next fifty years of Cuba’s history, most of which Rosa and the other rebels must hide from Spanish rule and slavehunters in makeshift hospitals in caves and the jungle. Rosa’s empathic soul and commitment to her oath of healing shine through all she does, including treating Lieutenant Death and injured enemy Spanish soldiers. Peasants who were not able to escape were forced to leave their homes and move into the world’s first “reconcentration camps,” a decree by Captain-General Weyler. In alternating voices, the reader hears the perspective of Rosa, her husband José, Captain-General Weyler, Lieutenant Death, and Silva, a reconcentration camp escapee. To avoid confusion, each poem is titled with the name of its speaker. In her short but stirring verse, Margarita Engle draws on the emotions of a war-torn country through the hearts of all those involved, exemplifying the pain, courage, frustration, determination, and exhaustion war brings. While the author takes some liberties with characters’ words since there are holes in the recorded history of Cuba’s Wars for Independence, The Surrender Tree is a great addition to young adult lessons on the history of Cuba with its more personal accounts of guerilla warfare.
Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembiki (2010)
Graphic Book, 231 pages
In a compilation of work from over 40 storytellers and artists, Trickster shares a diverse collection of trickster tales from various Native American cultures and regions. In some the crafty coyote plays the trickster who ends up being taught a lesson, in others it is the sly raven who gets away, while in some it is the rabbit or the raccoon, depending on the cultural origin. Many of the tales share a reason behind a natural landform (“Moshup’s Bridge”) or an animal’s appearance/ways (“How the Alligator Got His Brown, Scaly Skin”), while others teach a lesson about behavior to learn from (“The Wolf and the Mink”). The novel’s true success draws from its diverse collection of tales and the art that captures them. Each tale highlights a different artist’s style that sets the tone of the story. Specifically, the composition in “Coyote and the Pebbles” is to be lauded with its strong storyline by Dayton Edmonds and amazing illustrations by Micah Farritor. Trickster not only creates an anthology of trickster tales but creates an anthology of artist’s interpretations of the cultural stories, a unique gem in both Native American and graphic novel publications. This book could add so much to various units of study within folklore, illustrations, and cultural anthologies, as well as provide plenty of stories for anyone looking to read about wily characters. I would recommend Trickster to anyone ages 11 and up, especially those drawn to graphic novels.
Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell (2005)
Novel in Verse, 243 pages
In heart-wrenching dual free-verse narratives, Carvell crafts the voices of two Mohawk sisters, Mattie and Sarah, who are sent to an off-reservation school after their mother dies. Doing what he thinks is best, their father sends his children away to go to school, where they have lessons, march, and do domestic work. In their alternating voices similar to diary entries, the girls share their stories of leaving home on a long train ride and receiving a slap in the face by the head mistress, Mrs. Dwyer, because they are too afraid to let go of one another on their first day at the school. While the girls soon find a few friends and kindness in some of the school’s employees, both just want to return to the land and culture they call home. While Sarah cries all the time from homesickness, Mattie begins to be more headstrong and refuses to cower like the other girls under Mrs. Dwyer’s strict hand. When Mattie is wrongfully accused of stealing Mrs. Dwyer’s silver brooch, she refuses to admit she is guilty and attempts to escape the school. Carvell’s poetry embodies the broken souls of both sisters and does not skip a beat when the narration switches voices. Painting a painful but often true story of misunderstood culture and emotional child abuse, Sweetgrass Basket portrays the experiences of many Native American children who went to the boarding schools so far away from their homes, their families, and themselves. I would highly recommend this book to ages 11 and up.
All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg (2009)
Novel in Verse, 218 pages
In brilliant verse, Ann Burg shares the experiences of Matt Pin, a Vietnamese refugee who was adopted by an American family. Airlifted out of war-stricken Vietnam when he was 10, he still remembers it all, and the memories haunt him: the mother who made him leave her to come to America, his younger brother’s limbs lost to war, the American father who never returned for him or his mother. Now in seventh grade, Matt has a loving new little brother and has become the star pitcher for his baseball team; however, some teammates refuse to accept him, taking out their pain from the war on Matt (“My brother died / because of you”). Matt’s adoptive parents decide to take him to a Vietnam vet support group to hear their stories and find a way to help him let go of some of the broken pieces that cut into his soul like shards of glass. Matt’s poetic narration shows the reflection of a child who is learning to grow up with post-traumatic stress and who does not yet understand the causes of war or its destruction. Heartbreakingly, Matt must learn to stop blaming himself for his brother’s injuries, the Vietnam vets’ pain, and the numerous shattered lives in order to shed his fear and embrace his life, both past and present. While Burg touches on many heavy issues within the book (the nightmares of PTSD, the destruction of war, the guilty feeling of loving a new family, the sting of racism, and the need to belong as a child), her simple prose poetry allows YA readers to relate and understand a life that might be very different from their own. Burg’s beautiful metaphor of the game of baseball and life winds itself through the story as Matt and his teammates accept each other and help one another grieve. While an amazing stand alone read, All the Broken Pieces would be an excellent supplement to a unit on war and its effects on soldiers and civilians.