All posts filed under: Books

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

Writing Somewhere Among

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 …

Heiwa no Daitō, The Great Pagoda of Peace

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.

Peace Doll

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.

Story Calendar with Links

Somewhere Among  takes place in Japan 2001. Anniversaries, holidays, solstices, and historical events that Japan and the United States share were woven throughout the story. For verification and further study, I have included links to English sources. Links to other sources are included in each post on this website. It is important to note that Sea Day and Respect for the Aged Day now fall on the third Monday of July and September respectively. That was not the case in 2001. Also note that moon-viewing is traditionally mid-September but it depends on the year  Check here for the holiday calendar for 2001. Space/moon data and weather charts for west Tokyo were used as reference for the scenes. For Japan 2001 Thurs. June 21, 2001 summer equinox                                  Sun. July 1, 2001 Hawaii raising Ehime Maru, Star Bulletin         Thurs. July 5, 2001 12 pm Japan; …

Story Playlist

Many songs influenced the writing of Somewhere Among. I have included links to some of them. I listened to these four songs almost daily: two songs, “Inochi no Namae” (the Name of Life lyrics) and “Itsumo nando demo” (lyrics Ghiblink) from Hayao Miyazaki’s movie Spirited Away, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, were played on TV and radio so often after the release of the 2001 movie in Japan, U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” (2000), was a filler between shows on Japanese cable in the weeks before September 11, and this solo version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  was quiet, reflective comfort during the months after September 11. The up-tempo version came out in 1968 when I was eleven, the age of the main character, Ema. Those song titles became poem titles or influenced poems along with two Beatles’ song,  “With a Little Help from My Friends” (1967) and “Let It Be” (1970). The Beatles’ “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” (1968) provided the title and structure for the poem about the Sports …

Numbering Dickinson, Knowing Stevenson

Emily Dickinson did not number her poems. She didn’t give them titles. My college anthology of American literature (1978) presented her work using Thomas H. Johnson’s numbering notations in his 1955 edition, The Poems of Emily Dickinson. He used a J. plus a number. The Academy of American Poets uses the first line and a number for the Dickinson poem mentioned in Somewhere Among;  “There is a certain slant of light” # 258. The Poetry Foundation uses the first line as a title and (320). Other anthologies use combinations or variations of the title, number and  J.  Mom and Nana in Somewhere Among had an anthology that used Johnson’s numbering. If you google Emily Dickinson 258 you will find the poem: There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons – That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes –  Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –  We can find no scar, But internal difference, Where the Meanings, are –  None may teach it – Any –  ‘Tis the Seal Despair –  An imperial affliction Sent us of the Air –  When it comes, the …