This site is a resource for teachers and librarians for my middle grade novels, Somewhere Among (2016) and Beyond Me (2020) Caitlyn Dlouhy Books Atheneum , Simon & Schuster. My 25 years as a foreign wife in a multi-generational home in Japan inspired Somewhere Among and my experience of the 2011 earthquake and aftershocks was the basis for Beyond Me. My bicultural children helped when I started my photoblog for children, Here and There Japan, in 2006. Teachers follow me on Facebook at Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu and Twitter at AnnieDonwerth_C
Set in west Tokyo during The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. Maya, 11, is finishing fifth grade, preparing for choir performances and going to cram school when the earthquake knocks Japan off its feet. She and her family are unharmed. Earth keeps moving, but life comes to a halt. Everything is up in the air. Maya grounds herself by watching and helping her Great-grandfather farm. She finds other ways to calm herself and to hep others. Based on my experience of the aftershocks in west Tokyo. Simon & Schuster, Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Atheneum, June 2020.
Set in Japan 2001. Ema is an eleven-year-old American-Japanese girl; bi-cultural, bilingual and bi-national with an American mother and a Japanese father. Ema has lived in Japan all her life, has attended Japanese public school, has done well and has friends that she has to leave for a few months because of her mother’s difficult pregnancy. She and her parents go across Tokyo to stay at her grandparents’ house. Ema’s grandmother takes care of them and makes sure that Ema knows the finer points of Japanese culture. Ema is miserable trying to keep peace between her grandmother and mother, to keep cool in the summer heat, and to keep up her studies. She finishes the schoolwork for the semester under her grandmother’s nose and in front of the television. It is always on; her grandfather never misses the news. Things heat up even more for Ema when a bully at the neighborhood school that she has to attend in the fall makes her life miserable as well. Waiting for the sibling she has always wanted, …
I didn’t set out to write about 9-11. At the time of the earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011, I was working on a middle grade prose novel set in Texas, my home state. The earth rocked our Tokyo house for months afterwards. The damaged nuclear plant threatened Japan’s air, food, and water. Leaving Japan was not an option. We were rooted here. We had lived with my Japanese in-laws for over twenty years, one child was in university, and the other was about to start Japanese high school. Who could leave and come back? Health issues, an ageing mother-in-law, and pets made it impossible to go to the area to volunteer. I tried working on the Texas novel and sent out a lifeline by paying for a critique for it. Survival mode took its toll and I eventually had to put it aside. I needed to ground myself in Japan. Gardening and photographing nature and our neighborhood farmer had always been grounding. Writing, too. I wasn’t able to write about the aftershocks, the fleeing …
Over the years, I have seen this building rising from the treetops on our way to and from the Narita airport. Though it does not appear in the story of my middle grade novel, Somewhere Among, a rendering of it by Alessandro Gottardo made its way onto the cover. Its Japanese name is Heiwa no Daitō and its English name is The Great Pagoda of Peace. The two-roof building is a tahōtō, a Japanese structure called a unlike pagodas in other Asian countries. It stands 190 feet high and sits on top of a hill on the grounds of Shinshoji Temple in Narita City. Underneath the ground floor of The Great Pagoda of Peace, a time capsule, scheduled to be opened in 2434, holds messages of peace from 11 world leaders. A Peace Festival is held each May.
Over twenty years ago, as I was getting off the train at my station, a Japanese woman handed me the paper doll encased in a plastic sleeve. A slip of paper on the outside says,”May Peace Prevail on Earth.” We have used it as a Christmas ornament ever since. I was surprised by the English and have always wondered about it. Was the woman handing out dolls to foreigners she saw on the train? Did she have dolls with the Japanese translation to give to Japanese people? I once found a link to a Japanese group who was giving peace dolls away. I cannot find it now, but it may have been linked to the group who created Peace Poles and Masahisa Goi of Japan. When I started writing for children, I searched for a way to use this doll in a story. After the 2011 earthquakes and tsunami of Japan, a story found me. It turned out to be a story set in Japan 2001. SOMEWHERE AMONG, my first novel, debuted in April 2016.
My blog of this and that from here and there in Japan is written especially for children. It was started in 2006 while my children were in Japanese public school.