Himawari House
Himawari House
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Annotation: Living in a new country is no walk in the park-Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challenges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.
Catalog Number: #315778
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Special Formats: Graphic Novel Graphic Novel
Copyright Date: 2021
Edition Date: 2021
Pages: 374 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-250-23557-X Perma-Bound: 0-8000-1561-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-250-23557-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-8000-1561-9
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 22 cm
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
A shared house in Tokyo brings five young people together.After moving to the U.S. as a child with her Japanese mother and White American father, Nao has returned to Japan for a gap year before college to explore the language and cultural heritage that she deliberately shed—at great emotional cost—in an effort to assimilate. She moves into Himawari House, which she shares with Korean Hyejung and Chinese Singaporean Tina, girls who are attending the same Japanese language institute as Nao. Also resident are two Japanese brothers, outgoing, friendly Shinichi and taciturn, broodingly handsome Masaki. Blending English, Japanese, Korean, and Singlish, the group bonds over meals, excursions, K-dramas, and never-ending conversations about life, love, and family. Becker perfectly captures the heady roller coaster of feelings that accompanies cross-cultural immersion, with ordinary activities serving as barometers of successful adaptation in a new country. The personal stakes of each encounter with Japanese life are even higher for Nao, throwing into relief her internal struggles over her identity. Nao is the focal point, but Hyejung and Tina are well developed, with complex, heartstring-tugging backstories. Most of the text is bilingual, but the occasional use of Japanese or Korean alone effectively mirrors the dislocation of language learners. The predominantly photorealistic art is enhanced with a range of stylized techniques that masterfully communicate emotion. Altogether, this work exemplifies what the graphic novel format can achieve.An unforgettable story of personal growth in an exquisitely rendered setting. (note on accents) (Graphic fiction. 13-adult)
School Library Journal Starred Review
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 roommatesbouncy Tina, who is Chinese Singaporean, and homesick Hyejung, who is Koreanand interacts with two male Japanese roommates, Shinichi and Masaki. Together, the fast friends experience touchstones of Japanese lifecombini, 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
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A shared house in Tokyo brings five young people together.After moving to the U.S. as a child with her Japanese mother and White American father, Nao has returned to Japan for a gap year before college to explore the language and cultural heritage that she deliberately shed—at great emotional cost—in an effort to assimilate. She moves into Himawari House, which she shares with Korean Hyejung and Chinese Singaporean Tina, girls who are attending the same Japanese language institute as Nao. Also resident are two Japanese brothers, outgoing, friendly Shinichi and taciturn, broodingly handsome Masaki. Blending English, Japanese, Korean, and Singlish, the group bonds over meals, excursions, K-dramas, and never-ending conversations about life, love, and family. Becker perfectly captures the heady roller coaster of feelings that accompanies cross-cultural immersion, with ordinary activities serving as barometers of successful adaptation in a new country. The personal stakes of each encounter with Japanese life are even higher for Nao, throwing into relief her internal struggles over her identity. Nao is the focal point, but Hyejung and Tina are well developed, with complex, heartstring-tugging backstories. Most of the text is bilingual, but the occasional use of Japanese or Korean alone effectively mirrors the dislocation of language learners. The predominantly photorealistic art is enhanced with a range of stylized techniques that masterfully communicate emotion. Altogether, this work exemplifies what the graphic novel format can achieve.An unforgettable story of personal growth in an exquisitely rendered setting. (note on accents) (Graphic fiction. 13-adult)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*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.
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Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal Starred Review (9/1/21)
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 9-12

A young adult graphic novel about three foreign exchange students and the pleasures, and difficulties, of adjusting to living in Japan. Living in a new country is no walk in the park--Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challenges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.


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