Did you know about the Russian occupation of Manchuria during WW2? Do you know about the ramifications of that occupation on the Japanese inhabitants of Manchuria? I had NO idea. Under the Broken Sky introduced me to this heart-breaking time in Japanese history.
What I am Reviewing
Under the Broken Sky.
Christy Ottaviano Books.
Reviewed for Raincoast books.
304 pages, Ages 10-14 years, trade paperback
Asia, Military fiction, middle school, poetry, history, stories in verse, Japan, WW2, Occupation, refugee,
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.
This video below gives some of the history behind this story.
The Details of Under the Broken Sky
Mariko Nagai does an excellent job of telling the story of Natsu and her family. I was amazed at her determination.
The poetry isn’t done in a classic rhyming verse, it reads like a real story. Just written in a verse format. Each chapter is very readable length. If you were to read one poem/chapter a day it could easily last 2-3 months.
When I finished reading this story I told my son it would be a great part of his studies in WW2. He was hesitant since I had mentioned the book was a poem. When I read him one page of it he said: “oh, that’s like a real story, I could read that!”. 🙂 It’s gone onto his bookshelf for later reading.
I love that at the close of Under the Broken Sky we learn what happens afterwards. How these Japanese-Chinese refugees would come home looking for relatives. We learn why they were there in the first place. Factual information that also ties into why the author wanted or rather needed to, write this story.
Thoughts and Recommendations
Oh my… I read this book while on vacation, and while I can’t say it was an easy book to be absorbed in, I can say it was a good read. The poetic form breaks up the story really well so you don’t get overloaded by the pain and angst found within these pages. It was a VERY hard time for these Japanese citizens. Stuck in a hostile, foreign land and not being sure of their future. Such a difficult time.
Author Mariko Nagai does an excellent job of bringing us this story, showing us life before and life after. Providing lighter moments mixed in very hard moments. Seeing the pain, and yet being able to pull back and see the people involved.