An emotional, contemplative tale of risking and growing.

READ REVIEW

WHILE I WAS AWAY

In 1984, a 12-year-old Kansas girl spends five months in Japan with the intimidating grandmother she barely knows.

At school, Waka is used to being regarded as a brain—as well as the short kid. At home, her Japanese immigrant parents worry that in striving so hard to be American, she is losing touch with her heritage. The solution? Sending her to Japan to live with Obaasama and attend a local public school despite her strenuous protests. In her new Japanese school, Waka’s language struggles and cultural faux pas make her stand out—and not in a good way. On the other hand, she is considered tall and a jock. Breaking into established social circles presents another puzzle. But everything pales in comparison to learning to get along with her taciturn grandmother, whose traumatic history and emotional complexity come to light as their relationship deepens. Waka finds inner strength she didn’t know she had, cultivates greater self-awareness, and comes to truly love many aspects of Japan. The author shares her story in a conversational and accessible tone. Many facets of life in the 1980s will be as surprising as the U.S.–Japan cultural differences that readers unfamiliar with Japan discover alongside young Waka. International travel aside, the journey of coming to see oneself and others through more mature eyes is a universally familiar element of the middle school years, adding additional appeal.

An emotional, contemplative tale of risking and growing. (author’s note) (Memoir. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-301711-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A powerful resource for young people itching for change.

WOLFPACK (YOUNG READERS EDITION)

HOW YOUNG PEOPLE WILL FIND THEIR VOICE, UNITE THEIR PACK, AND CHANGE THE WORLD

Soccer star and activist Wambach adapts Wolfpack (2019), her New York Times bestseller for adults, for a middle-grade audience.

YOU. ARE. THE. WOLVES.” That rallying cry, each word proudly occupying its own line on the page, neatly sums up the fierce determination Wambach demands of her audience. The original Wolfpack was an adaptation of the viral 2018 commencement speech she gave at Barnard College; in her own words, it was “a directive to unleash [the graduates’] individuality, unite the collective, and change the world.” This new adaption takes the themes of the original and recasts them in kid-friendly terms, the call to action feeling more relevant now than ever. With the exception of the introduction and closing remarks, each short chapter presents a new leadership philosophy, dishing out such timeless advice as “Be grateful and ambitious”; “Make failure your fuel”; “Champion each other”; and “Find your pack.” Chapters utilize “rules” as a framing device. The first page of each presents a generalized “old” and “new” rule pertaining to that chapter’s guiding principle, and each chapter closes with a “Call to the Wolfpack” that sums up those principles in more specific terms. Some parts of the book come across as somewhat quixotic or buzzword-heavy, but Wambach deftly mitigates much of the preachiness with a bluff, congenial tone and refreshing dashes of self-deprecating humor. Personal anecdotes help ground each of the philosophies in applicability, and myriad heavy issues are respectfully, yet simply broached.

A powerful resource for young people itching for change. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76686-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Unfortunately, a great example of a book that adults think young people should read instead of one they want to read.

HIGH

EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT DRUGS, ALCOHOL, AND ADDICTION

After various books on addiction for adults and teens, here the Sheffs attempt to cover “everything” an early adolescent wants to know on the topic.

It’s a bold promise that, sadly, is not fulfilled. The book is divided into four main sections. The first summarizes Nic’s addiction and journey to sobriety before delving into a brief, general examination of drug and alcohol abuse. The second section surveys popular drug choices, and the third examines the road from drug use to drug addiction. The last section is a dialogue between the co-authors. Overall, the book does many things right: It never assigns blame to users, and it discusses such topics as marijuana legalization and opioid addiction without bias. Nic also periodically offers personal insights in separate text boxes. These points may not be enough to save the book, however. The overall tone is dry. Examples of adolescent addicts are discussed, but their stories are too brief to allow readers to find emotional touchstones. And though graphs and charts offer visuals, the clip art–like illustrations give the book the off-putting feel of a textbook. An “addictionary” confusingly arranges drugs by type instead of name (do readers know/care that PCP is a “dissociative drug” and GHB is a “club drug”?) and omits some current street names. A list of resources for recovery and further reading is appended.

Unfortunately, a great example of a book that adults think young people should read instead of one they want to read. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-64434-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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