Bound To Stay Bound

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 Himawari House
 Author: Becker, Harmony

 Publisher:  First Second (2021)

 Dewey: 741.5
 Classification: Nonfiction
 Physical Description: 374 p., ill.

 BTSB No: 101230 ISBN: 9781250235572
 Ages: 14-18 Grades: 9-12

 Subjects:
 Friendship -- Fiction
 Universities and colleges -- Fiction
 Conduct of life -- Fiction
 Graphic novels

Price: $14.75

Summary:
When Nao returns to Tokyo to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, she books a yearlong stay at the Himawari sharehouse. There she meets Hyejung and Tina, two other girls who came to Japan to freely forge their own paths. The trio share meals, attend the same Japanese-language school, and become fast friends. Will they be able to hold one another up as life tests them with new loves, old heart breaks, and the everyday challenges of being fish out of water? In graphic novel format.


Reviews:
 The Hornbook (+) (00/01/22)

Full Text Reviews:

School Library Journal - 09/01/2021 Gr 9 Up—Living in a foreign country is an immersive and often rewarding experience, but grappling with a new language can also be a struggle to keep one's head above water. Becker, who illustrated George Takei's They Called Us Enemy, pinpoints this sense of discovery and disorientation in her debut graphic novel. Nao, a Japanese American teenager, arrives in Tokyo for a gap year and quickly befriends her roommates—bouncy Tina, who is Chinese Singaporean, and homesick Hyejung, who is Korean—and interacts with two male Japanese roommates, Shinichi and Masaki. Together, the fast friends experience touchstones of Japanese life—combini, izakaya, obaachans, cherry blossoms, and matsuri. But this is largely stage-setting for Becker's focus on language learning in context; speech bubbles written as subtitled Japanese become more complex as Nao's comprehension improves. There are countless intersecting modes of communication even within Nao's social circle: Tina's Singlish, Hyejung's thickly accented English, their paths to Japanese acquisition, and surly Masaki's fluent written but poorly spoken English. The ability to define oneself depends on the ability to communicate that self to others, and our heroes tackle language barriers head-on to articulate their identities in an exhausting, exhilarating year in Japan. Becker's art references manga and Japanese urban aesthetics playfully but not obsessively, reinforcing the book's themes of immersion and self-definition. VERDICT This lighthearted yet serious-minded journey of discovery will delight, educate, and challenge teens interested in language and cultural exploration.—Emilia Packard, Tokyo - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.

Booklist - 09/15/2021 *Starred Review* Becker, who brilliantly created the artwork for George Takei’s Eisner-winning They Called Us Enemy (2019), makes her stupendous solo debut in what will prove to one of the best graphic titles of the year. The narrative might initially seem simple: a mixed-race U.S. teen takes a gap year in Japan to reconnect with her heritage. To tell the story, Becker showcases her impressive polyglot facility, combining English, Japanese, Korean, and Singlish (including rewarding winks to fellow polyglot readers). To show the story, Becker’s exquisitely expressive black-and-white illustrations enable and encourage empathic responses to induce guffaws, sobs, and everything in between. Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a white American father, Nao moves Stateside where “people were always quick to point out that I was different.” Nao “adapted” by abandoning her first language and culture. Choosing to return to Japan between high school and college, Nao arrives at Himawari House, a student group home, where she quickly bonds with Hyejung and Tina, also studying Japanese. Hyejung is Korean, estranged from her parents, and hoping to enter art college. Tina, from Singapore, is currently taking a term off while waitressing. Brothers Shinichi and Masaki will prove integral coresidents, as well. As relationships become opportunities for deeper communication, Becker’s text bubbles ingeniously become indicators of better understanding. Audiences can expect absolute delight. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.

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