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Orchards by Holly Thompson, illustrations by Grady McFerrin (Delacorte Press, 2011)

One week after
you stuffed a coil of rope
into your backpack
and walked uphill into
Osgoods’ orchard
where blooms were still closed fists

my father looked up
summer airfares
to Tokyo
I protested
it wasn’t my fault
I didn’t do anything!

my mother hissed
and made the call
to her older sister
my aunt
in Shzuoka

Thompson’s novel in verse is a first person narrative told from the point of view of Kana Goldberg, a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American teen. After the suicide of a classmate, Kana’s parents decide to send their daughter away from her clique of friends to spend the summer living at her mother’s ancestral home in Japan. Kana spends hours working in her family’s mikan orange groves and has time to process the pain and guilt she feels as she gets to know her Japanese family and participates in their daily customs and rituals.

In her guest post on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website, Cynsations, Holly Thompson tells the story behind her writing of Orchards.

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