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Orchards    by Holly Thompson order for
by Holly Thompson
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Kana Goldberg and her friends are forced to face their responsibility and guilt when a fellow student hangs herself after being harassed by a group of cliquish eighth graders. Kana, who is half Japanese and half Jewish, is sent to Japan to contemplate her actions before Ruth's suicide and to get to know her Japanese heritage better.

Kana's grandmother is still bitter that her youngest daughter chose to marry an American and live in New York. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins are more accepting. Kana grows to love Japan and its traditions.

Ruth died in an apple orchard. In Japan, Kana's family owns a mikan orange orchard where Kana works each day, spending hours thinking about how things might have been if someone had taken the time to know Ruth, who was bipolar. Kana realizes that an education about mental health would have been beneficial to them all.

Another disaster at home has her Japanese family hurrying to protect Kana. Her grandmother's love for her 'big butted' American grandchild is at last apparent to Kana.

This free verse lacks punctuation, making it difficult to read, but when you get into the rhythm of the story, it's worth the effort. Kana speaks to Ruth throughout the story. This quiet, moving book tackles many issues and will leave you much to think about.

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