Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Annie. Beyond Me. Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-43789-9. 291 p. $17.99. Grades 4-7.
This novel written in verse is about eleven year old Maya who lives in Japan with her American mother and Japanese father. Follow Maya as she lives through the events of March 11, 2011, the day a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. Maya and her family are among the lucky ones who live outside of Tokyo, far enough away from the center of the earthquake, tsunamis, and subsequent radiation leaks. As Maya sits by and watches her family do things to help, Maya feels helpless. Rescuing a cat that she finds out was abandoned after the quake, planting radiation absorbing sunflowers, and making 1,000 paper cranes with her friend Yuka help to give her a purpose as she waits for the next aftershock to hit.
THOUGHTS: This book is told from an eleven year old’s point of view and really highlights the stress and worry kids feel when a natural disaster happens. I like that Maya’s mother helps her find ways she can help in a crisis.
Historical Fiction Krista Fitzpatrick, Upper Dublin SD
Wagner, Laura Rose. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go. New York: Amulet, 2014. 978-1-41971-204-3. 272 $17.95. Gr. 7 and up.
Fifteen-year-old Magdalie is living with her aunt and cousin, Nadine, in Port-au-Prince when her world is shattered by the devastating earthquake of 2010. Her aunt is killed, and Nadine moves to Miami shortly thereafter to live with her father. Magdalie must adjust to life with her new caregiver, her uncle Elie, and come to terms with the fact that she can no longer afford to go to school. Although she hopes that Nadine will one day send for her, that dream is eventually squashed as well. Just when all hope seems to be lost, Magdalie travels with her uncle to the countryside where she is introduced to some of her ancestors. Here she finds love and comfort among relatives and new friends and is finally able to find peace for the first time since losing her family. This is an honest, emotional story about the struggles of rebuilding a country and restoring hope in the wake of a natural disaster.
Realistic Fiction Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School
I could see this novel being paired with a nonfiction title about the earthquake in Haiti. The author paints a very vivid picture of the conditions in Haiti following the disaster. Living conditions in the refugee camps are unsanitary, cholera runs rampant, and prostitution and peddling are prevalent in the streets. Given such descriptions, the reader is really able to get a feel for the struggles experienced by victims of the earthquake.