By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya
By Nagaru Tanigawa
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
For the first time since Kyon met her, Haruhi Suzumiya seems content with her life. She’s not forcing the SOS Brigade (Save the World By Overloading It With Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade) to participate in any dangerous or potentially criminal activities or taking on impossible-seeming projects.
In this seventh installment of the Haruhi Suzumiya series, protagonist Kyon appears to be your typical high school student. That’s just fine with Kyon, but things get more confusing when he meets the brigade’s time traveler from eight days in the future, Mikuru Asahina. He learns that he is the one who sent her back.
With help from the brigade alien, Yuki Nagato, the three try to figure out why Mikiuru was sent back. We learn Haruhi’s unhappiness is not the only threat to the world. Yuki, Mikuru, and the brigade esper Itsuki Koizumi’s respective organizations work to keep Haruhi happy and the world safe. However, there are others who want the opposite.
This is a great twist in the series and will throw longtime fans for a loop. We begin to question not just who else in the world is aware of Haruhi’s powers, but also whether the brigade members we’ve come to know and love are really what they say they are.
Kyon begins to question the other brigade members’ actions as well. This is a refreshing change for him to realize Mikuru’s flaws, since he’s spent the last six books waxing poetic about her near perfection. There is still quite a bit of that in “Intrigues,” but Kyon is a teenage boy in high school. So I’ll give him that.
Speaking of teenage boys, we still haven’t learned much about Itsuki. One thing that we do know is that Kyon is not a fan and tends to see the other boy as competition in almost every aspect.
Kyon’s thoughts on Itsuki are as amusing as ever and I can’t wait to see what Tanigawa has in store for the two of them in the future.
The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families
By Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2011
In Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa, there is a little village called Hargigo. And in this village by the Red Sea, everyone — people and animals — was hungry.
But one day, a Japanese American scientist named Dr. Gordon Sato arrived with the idea of planting mangrove trees by the sea. These trees have roots and its leaves are hearty enough to survive through the dry conditions and salt water.
From there, the village of Hargigo begins to thrive. Planting and tending the mangrove trees gave the village women an income, the leaves gave the sheep and goats a source of food, the trees’ branches provided fuel for fire, and the tree roots attracted more marine life for the local fishermen.
“Mangrove Tree” is a fun book that tells the true story about how Sato spearheaded the planting project that turned life around for the African village.
Alternating between verse and prose, readers young and old will learn about ecology and how introducing a single tree could save an entire village. The verses build upon each other, describing the chain reaction caused by the trees in a manner reminiscent to Laura Numeroff’s “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” a childhood favorite of mine.
The afterword provides more background on Sato’s work planting mangrove trees, which he calls “The Manzanar Project.” This is based on his experiences growing corn in the Japanese internment camp. It is a great section for readers who want to learn more and offers information for anyone interested in helping. Which is wonderful, because it’s never too early to get kids thinking about how they can help their fellow humans.
Roth created the collages in “The Mangrove Tree.” They are colorful, wonderfully detailed in a way that will make readers want to touch the pages to feel each different texture. I’ll admit, I did this. You’d think I’d know better. But there it is.
Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary
Written by Keshni Kashyap, Illustrated by Mari Araki
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Tina M. is a sophomore at Yarborough Academy. She is in an honors English class and currently studying existentialism. For her big project this semester, she is keeping an existential diary to figure out who she is and who she is becoming.
Although the diary begins as a class assignment, Tina uses her entries to deal with the drama in her life, which includes getting dumped by her best friend and having her first kiss stolen by an opportunistic cast mate in the school play. We also see Tina try to figure out the male species as she begins to speak more than one-word sentences to Neil Strumminger, the cute skateboarder whose locker is next to hers.
“Tina’s Mouth” is a combination of a 15-year-old Indian American girl’s deep introspection about her life and the comic highs and lows that is high school. With her dry sense of humor and insistence on not becoming one of those girls whose life revolves around a boy, you can’t help but love seeing her fall to the trappings that come with teenage romance.
The secondary characters in the story are just as fun and enjoyable. A personal favorite is Tina’s Urvashi Auntie, who grew up with Tina’s mother. Urvashi Auntie’s advice and words of wisdom are great, but her sometimes drunk delivery will have you chuckling as you read.
Before coming across “Tina’s Mouth,” I didn’t have much experience with graphic novels. But reading Kashyap’s debut book made me a fan of the unique form of storytelling. Araki’s work captures Tina’s life as effectively as Kashyap’s words. There’s a pivotal scene in the story that is shown only through illustrations, and no words are needed to describe how Tina feels. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.