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ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson

ORCHARDS

By Holly Thompson (Author) , Grady McFerrin (Illustrator)

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-73977-1
Publisher: Delacorte

After a friend hangs herself, biracial 14-year-old Kana Golberg is shipped out to her family in Japan to work in the sweltering heat tending to their mikan orange groves. There, Kana is immersed in the world her mother left behind for her Jewish father, but still she remains haunted by her friend’s death—could she have prevented it? Thompson composes simple, neat lines of verse that drive the plot perhaps more than they appeal to the senses. At times the individual poems begin to feel formulaic, as the first three quarters of many poems recount Kana’s thoughts and the day’s events, and the last fourth finds her wondering about her dead friend. This isn’t always the case, however, and the author finds moments to meld the two trajectories, especially when Kana ventures off the farm with her family. That said, the imagery of Kana’s surroundings threatens to overwhelm characterizations: “we / walk along other docks / following the high tide line / to where the shore gets wider / and sit down in an arc of shade / made from a rise of sandstone cliff ...” Nevertheless, this first young adult outing is a fast-paced page-turner that explores the rippling effects of suicide. (Fiction. 12 & up)