After expressing how death affects a child in her acclaimed first novel, The Friends, Yumoto offers a different variation on the theme, in this sensitively wrought story. Her language, musically translated once again by Hirano, is quiet yet foreboding, much like the calm before a storm. Through a first-person narrative, readers learn the secret fears and recurring nightmares of Tomomi Kiriki, who is about to enter junior high. The guilt Tomomi feels for thinking that ailing Grandma "would be better off dead," and Grandma's subsequent death, plagues the girl until she confides in her grandfather toward the close of the novel. Her guilt combines with other anxieties: changes going on in her body, her parents' arguments, her dilapidated house and her family's ongoing dispute with a neighbor. Then, one day, Tomomi's little brother, Tetsu, takes her to his special place, a junkyard that is home to a mob of stray cats. Here, in the company of Tetsu and an eccentric woman who feeds the cats twice a day, Tomomi finds a refuge. Tomomi's expression of hatred, then immediate act of compassion toward an old enemy mark a turning point in the story and in the heroine. Signs of rejuvenation that follow are as welcoming as gentle spring rain. Yumoto's story offers remarkably wise and deeply personal insight into the pains of growing up. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After graduating from elementary school, Tomomi suffers from chronic headaches and nightmares. Her young life has become complicated by the strange behavior of her younger brother (who feeds stray cats and is always on the lookout for cat corpses to toss into the backyard of his obnoxious next-door neighbor), by her grandmother's recent death, and by the growing tension between her parents. Her kind grandfather helps mitigate against these problems, but even his attention cannot prevent Tomomi from feeling overwhelmed. Hirano's translation from Japanese retains enough of the original style, tone, and setting to give readers an accurate glimpse into one girl's Japanese life, but some readers may be put off by this novel's narrative style. The characters are original and their conflicts are unusual and interesting. Careful readers will care about Tomomi and her efforts to find peace in her turbulent and confusing life. This novel would work well with students who like stories that feature characters struggling with emotional problems, such as Zibby Oneal's A Formal Feeling (Puffin, 1990) or Bruce Brooks's The Moves Make the Man (HarperCollins, 1987). Readers with an interest in contemporary Japan or in multicultural literature will also enjoy this book. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9).
Although it's set in Japan and everything about Tomomi's life is very different from an American teen's, this basic coming-of-age novel has universal appeal. Tomomi and her younger brother, Tetsu, have the usual teen problems-an uncommunicative mother, a too-communicative grandfather, a father who leaves one day and doesn't come back, a mean neighbor, school-but they also visit a dump and make friends with the old lady who feeds stray cats there. We're also told a little about the Japanese school year (beginning in April, with a longish vacation in June) and family life. The reader can picture Tomomi and her family very clearly and can understand a little more about this very different country. A wonderful picture of Japan.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Gr 6-9-Tomomi's spring break before she starts junior high is filled with anxieties. Her grandfather is coping with his wife's recent death far better than Tomomi can; her younger brother, Tetsu, seems to have become obsessed with sickly cats; her father has deserted the family-she believes-emotionally as well as physically; and she cannot dispel a recurring nightmare that she is becoming a monster. Yumoto deftly works these leitmotivs of early adolescence into an engaging encounter with a cast of well-differentiated child and adult characters. Tomomi cannot understand Tetsu's obsession but finds herself compelled to aid him in his efforts as they become friends with a woman who feeds strays abandoned at the dump. She is able to listen to her grandfather explain why his widowhood is not a tragedy, even though she herself cannot come to grips with her grandmother's final, pain-filled days or her absence. She finds Tetsu's outrageous acts against their mean-spirited neighbor bizarre but is quick to come to her brother's defense. Cultural differences between contemporary Japan and the U.S.-such as the rebuilding of the family house after several decades of wear-are folded into the narrative unobtrusively. Readers who are themselves caught in puberty's universal welter of feelings will not only be able to identify with Tomomi but will also share her dawning recognition of personal limits and powers.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In lyrical scenes, Yumoto (The Friends, 1996) traces the transformation of a Japanese girl to young womanhood. The summer before she enters junior high, Tomomi and her younger brother, Tetsu, try to escape their strained family life by wandering the streets, looking for dead cats with which Tetsu can torment their hostile elderly neighbor. They meet a woman whose mission in life is to feed abandoned cats and slowly develop compassion for the hungry animals. Dispersed throughout the novel are Tomomi's fearful dreams; she is angry that she must grow up and fights it all the way. Her grandfather, in his hobby of fixing broken things, understands that there is pain associated with growing up, and offers Tomomi refuge. Her epiphany comes when the hate-filled neighbor collapses in front of her, and sherealizing the dangers of such hatredcalls the ambulance that will save his life. The book's frequently shifting scenes reflect the confusion of young adolescence; from this disorientation Yumoto pieces together element after element, which eventually resolve into a portrait of hope. (Fiction. 12-14) .