Under the Broken Sky

by Mariko Nagai

In this novel-in-verse, Natsu and her younger sister Asa become refugees after fleeing... read more

In this novel-in-verse, Natsu and her younger sister Asa become refugees after fleeing their Japanese settlement in Japan-occupied Manchuria during the final year of World War II. Loyal to Japan and the Emperor, the community is kept in the dark about Japan’s changing fortunes in the war, but a hint comes when Natsu and Asa’s father and other men are drafted. After their father leaves, their neighbor, “Auntie,” cares for the two girls. Soon forced to flee the settlement, they journey on foot—deadly for many—to reach a train to a city where they take shelter in a school. Physical conditions are poor, and food is scarce. Auntie dies of illness. When Natsu becomes ill herself, she worries about what will happen to Asa if she dies; in desperation, she turns her over to a Russian woman. When Natsu recovers, she is determined to get Asa back so that the two can travel to Japan in search of their father. The story, excruciatingly sad at times, is also full of moments of love, care, and compassion. Natsu’s voice is compelling and distinct; she tells her tale with wonderful and horrible detail. An author’s note elaborates on the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, the displacement of Chinese, and the lives of the Japanese children and women sold or left behind. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020

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