Tanaka, Shelley. Nobody Knows.
7 August 2012, Groundwood Books
Based on the film by Hirokazu Kore Eda
Akira and his mother move into a new apartment, meeting the elderly landlords and assuring them that Akira will be no problem because he is too old to make noise and run around. In the family's suitcases, however, are two younger siblings, Yuki and Shigeru, andanother girl, Kyoko, is snuck in later. The children all have different fathers who don't support them, and the children must hide from the landlords or risk being kicked out. This means that they can't go to school or go outside. The mother works, but has a boyfriend who doesn't know about the children, and frequently leaves the children to fend for themselves for extended periods of time. She usually comes back, but after Christmas leaves the children for so long that the money runs out, utilities are shut off, and Akira doesn't think he will be able to keep the family together. He does find an unlikely ally in a lonely school girl, but even her help is not enough to keep tragedy from occurring.
Strengths: This has lots of good details about life in Japan. Meeting the landlords, the small stores, the school outfits-- all very interesting. I'm curious to see the movie, which won several prizes at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. This will appeal to students who like books about children who have been abandoned or abused (books like Bruises, Don't Hurt Laurie, Rules of Survival, etc.)
Weaknesses: The ending, which probably worked well in the movie, doesn't work as well in the book, and really made me debate purchase. Still, the details of the children's experiences are so good that I think I will buy it.