for Under the Broken Sky
by Mariko Nagai
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)
CCBC Choices 2020. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020. Used with permission.
"Necessary for all of humankind, Under the Broken Sky is a breathtaking work of literature."-Booklist, starred review
A beautifully told middle-grade novel-in-verse about a Japanese orphan's experience in occupied rural Manchuria during World War II.
Twelve-year-old Natsu and her family live a quiet farm life in Manchuria, near the border of the Soviet Union. But the life they've known begins to unravel when her father is recruited to the Japanese army, and Natsu and her little sister, Cricket, are left orphaned and destitute.
In a desperate move to keep her sister alive, Natsu sells Cricket to a Russian family following the 1945 Soviet occupation. The journey to redemption for Natsu's broken family is rife with struggles, but Natsu is tenacious and will stop at nothing to get her little sister back.
Literary and historically insightful, this is one of the great untold stories of WWII. Much like the Newbery Honor book Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Mariko Nagai's Under the Broken Sky is powerful, poignant, and ultimately hopeful.
Christy Ottaviano Books
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.