Beyond Me – Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 9781481437899, 2020
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review): 3
Genre: Historical Fiction/Novel in Verse
What did you like about the book? Told in verse, this is the story of eleven-year-old Maya and her experience during and after the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Shaky and varied-shaded text helps the reader feel the motion and worry. The text is also time stamped (16:10, 16:12, 16:13) which initially lends a sense of urgency and breathlessness.
I really liked that this book takes recent historical events and puts them into context for young readers. Donweth-Chikamatsu conveys what a child might experience during a natural disaster. The main character and her best friend are likeable; people are shown helping one another in the wake of disaster, sharing food and water, and looking out for one another. And the story ends with hope.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The time-stamped delivery of the text eventually becomes ineffective and makes the narrative drag.
Readers who are especially interested in Japan, earthquakes, and the Fukushima nuclear power accident will enjoy this. Otherwise, parts of it are very slow and I think some young readers will abandon it.
To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a good accompaniment to a classroom study of Japan, earthquakes, tsunamis, or nuclear power.
Who should buy this book? Elementary schools and public libraries.
Where would you shelve it? Middle grade fiction.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Robin Shtulman, Athol Public Library, Athol, MA
Date of review: 14 January 2021
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