Barbara Reynolds •
Emily San •
Emily Masters is thrilled when her family temporarily relocates to Japan. But the reality of adapting to a new country proves harder than she could have imagined. The language barrier would be daunting enough; seeing her brother treated like royalty just because he’s a boy is simply too much. Japan is famously baffling for newcomers, and Reynolds doesn’t try to gloss over the difficulties.
The other American children Emily’s age turn their backs on Japan’s fascinating shops, colorful festivals, and unique foods in favor of American movies, American hot dogs, American customs—just as if they’d never left the States. Her father likens them to giraffes in the zoo who will only associate with other giraffes.
Emily is torn between her own adventurous spirit and her desire to fit in. She learns to wear a yukata, make origami animals, and speak rudimentary Japanese, but also learns not to talk about these things in front of her peers. It’s a lonely, confusing time for her.
And then comes the earthquake.
Her father has taught Emily that her mind is a magic storehouse where she can keep whatever she chooses. “When something nice happens, you should polish it up and put in a special place where you can look at it often.” Each night before going to sleep, Emily does just that, and then sweeps out the less pleasant memories. By the book’s end, her storehouse is bursting with treasures, and her schoolmates have a newfound appreciation for the Land of the Rising Sun.
Emily’s experiences are based on the author’s own years in Japan; Reynolds lived there following World War II and became an outspoken advocate of nuclear disarmament. In both Japan and the United States she received honors for her humanitarian work.