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Orchards Paperback – February 14, 2012

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; Reprint edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385739788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385739788
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In Manhattan, Kanako Goldberg says she is “Japlish,” part Russian Jewish, part Japanese, and she tries hard to make it into her eighth-grade’s in-crowd. Then Ruth, a bipolar classmate, hangs herself, and Kanako’s parents send her to spend the summer working on her grandparents’ fruit farm in a Japanese village, where she confronts her guilt about following her bitchy classmate’s behavior, and she talks to Ruth in her head. The story is purposive, and readers may be slowed by the long, detailed passages about local culture. But Kanako’s urgent teen voice, written in rapid free verse and illustrated with occasional black-and-white sketches, will hold readers with its nonreverential family story. Kanako’s bossy grandmother is no sweet comfort, always nagging Kanako about her big butt, but she does give good advice about comforting friends back home. The spare poetry about place (“silent / as the night shadow / climbs Mount Fuji”) mixes with jokes about giving spirits GPS-activated cell phones, and readers will want to talk about the big issues, especially the guilt of doing nothing. Grades 7-10. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Starred Review, School Library Journal, March 2011:
"Thompson has crafted an exquisite, thought-provoking story of grief and healing that will resonate with teen readers and give them much to discuss."

Review, Publishers Weekly, January 3, 2011:
“Eloquently captures a teenager’s anger, guilt, and sorrow after a classmate takes her own life. . . . Understated yet potent verse.”

Review, Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2011:
“A fast-paced page-turner that explores the rippling effects of suicide.”

Review, Booklist, January 1, 2011:
“Readers will want to talk about the big issues, especially the guilt of doing nothing.”
Review, VOYA,
“Compelling. . . . Teens who enjoy learning about other cultures will relish Thompson’s ability to evoke the sights, smells, and tastes of Japan, while poetry fans will enjoy the novel’s unique format.”

Review, The Winston-Salem Journal, March 20, 2011:
"This lyrical look at bullying and the afterschocks of suicide may be gut-wrenching, but Orchards is crafted with a sensitive beauty."

From the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Holly Thompson was raised in New England and earned a B.A. in biology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from New York University's Creative Writing Program. Longtime resident of Japan, she teaches creative writing at Yokohama City University. Holly's fiction often relates to Japan and Asia. Her YA verse novel The Language Inside (Delacorte/​Random House, May 2013) deals with language both spoken and unspoken and, through poetry that crosses boundaries, connects a Japan-raised American girl with a Cambodian-American boy and the patients they assist in a long-term care center. In her YA verse novel Orchards (Delacorte/​Random House, 2011), which received the 2012 APALA Asian/​Pacific American Award for Literature, Kana, a half Japanese and half Jewish-American girl, is sent to spend the summer with Shizuoka relatives after the death of a classmate. Her novel Ash (Stone Bridge Press, 2001), set in Kagoshima and Kyoto, has been recommended as a teaching tool in high school and university classrooms studying Japan, Asia and intercultural issues. Her picture book The Wakame Gatherers (Shen's Books, 2007) depicts a bicultural girl who goes seaweed gathering with her Japanese and American grandmothers. Holly edited, and wrote the foreword to, Tomo: Friendship through Fiction--An Anthology of Japan Teen Fiction, a young adult anthology of Japan-related fiction to benefit teens in the earthquake- and tsunami-affected areas of Tohoku. For more information about Tomo, visit the Tomo blog. Holly's short stories, poetry and articles have been published in magazines and journals in the United States and Japan and anthologized in The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan (Stone Bridge Press, 1997). She is a regular contributor to Wingspan, the ANA inflight magazine. Holly serves as Regional Advisor of the Tokyo chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI Tokyo).

Holly Thompson is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Follow Holly Thompson on Twitter: @​hatbooks

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
She is learning who she truly is as a person.
The story is deepened by Kana's experiences in Japan, and even the issues of bullying and suicide are addressed gracefully and without any sort of preaching.
This novel is written in verse style, and it works well.
Y. Scott

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Narcisse on February 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Orchards is an amazing little book about guilt, healing, family, and life, among other things. It is written entirely in free verse, so it reads quickly and easily even though it touches on some heavy subjects such as suicide and body image.

Kana is an easily likable and sympathetic character. In the aftermath of a classmate's suicide, she feels guilt for things that she didn't do, things she didn't know, things that in hindsight she feels that she should have done or known. But at the same time that she is processing her own failures where this girl is concerned, she is also smart enough to recognize that she and the other kids should have been educated on depression and mental illness and warning signs of suicide, and that it is not fair for some of the adults who are quick to gossip or point their fingers at the girls in her class when they could just as easily point back at themselves for the things that they also didn't see or do or know.

Kana's time in Japan brings her a lot of distraction in the form of hard work, but not nearly enough. She is almost always burdened by her thoughts of her classmate's death. She goes through periods of sadness at the death and anger at the girl whose actions have disrupted her life. Her grandmother is hard on her and life in her family's Japanese town takes some getting used to for Kana.

The plot of this book moves along at a leisurely pace. There's not a whole lot of big things happening, but there are a lot of small things. The free verse helps with what might otherwise be a story with a slow and almost tedious pace, turning it instead into beautiful snippets, moments, and experiences - both happy and sad - that make up Kana's summer and reveal to the reader so many elements of life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Kamata on March 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
ORCHARDS has a ripped-from-the-headlines feel to it, but this story, about a biracial girl sent to Japan to reflect after the suicide of a classmate, is far from trendy. For one thing, it takes place in a Japanese farming community, as opposed to the mall. Thompson, a long-time resident of Japan, gets the details of mikan-growing and rural life down just right, and Kana's no-nonsense Japanese grandmother is especially well-drawn. She has also convincingly captured the voice of 14-year-old Kana, via verse, no less. As in her first novel ASH, which was published in the adult market, Thompson explores issues of guilt and grief. In the previous novel, which was set in Kagoshima, there is an Obon scene. There's another view of Obon in ORCHARDS. It's interesting to compare the two novels, as they are set in different parts of Japan, where the same events call for different customs.

After reading the cover flap of ORCHARDS, I thought I knew how this would turn out. I was wrong. Thompson doesn't go in for easy redemption, but she leaves the reader with a feeling of hope. This is a beautiful novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on March 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Kana Goldberg will be spending the summer in Japan with her mother's side of the family. A classmate in Kana's eighth grade class committed suicide. Kana's clique is broken up after discovery their bullying may have lead another girl to take her life.

The clique is mean to Ruth because she's always seen talking to a boy the main IT girl likes. Come to find out Ruth thinks she might be bi polar. The boy is only trying to be supportive because his younger sister is bi polar
The story alternates between, Kana getting to her family in Japan with memories of how she and her friends treated Ruth. I loved when Kana would remember and reflect on how her clique treated the other girl. Thompson doesn't over play the bad actions of the girls to grab the reader, she simply creates believable bullying situations.

The story's in verse, a style that's very hard to pull off. Some of the author's phrasing wasn't as sharp as I would've liked but she does a decent job of it. I would've preferred Orchards in a standard style because verse didn't enhance my emotional connection to the character.

In the beginning I thought I would hate Kana but I quickly realized, though her actions were bad she wasn't. Thompson manages to address two issues without making this feel like an issues book. Orchards was a good, well layered story. It would make an excellent book club selection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sunday VINE VOICE on January 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Surprisingly, this entire book is written in poetic form. Thus, even though it is 325 pages long, I read it in one sitting. I say that not because I feel it is the type of book one should read in one sitting, but because I think it is important for readers to know what a book is like when buying online. While some will certainly feel "Orchards" is written in a unique, lovely, haunting way, others would possibly be disappointed the story is not told in a standard narrative way.

"Orchards" is about a group of eight-grade girls who are involved in a "mean girl" incident, which results in the targeted girl hanging herself in an orchard. Kana Goldberg, who is half Japanese and half Jewish, is one of the involved girls, and is then sent away for the summer to her mother's family in Japan, to work on the family's mikan orange farm. Often while working in the orange groves, Kana thinks about Ruth, the girl who killed herself, and talks to Ruth in her mind. Since Kana has very limited access to e-mail, her thoughts are not being influenced, judged or manipulated by others--they are all her own thoughts. She is learning who she truly is as a person. In Japan, she also learns many family and community traditions. This gives her strong feelings of connection with others, including the deceased. She realizes how important both Japanese and Jewish traditions can be in helping one deal with one's mistakes and life's tragedies. Ultimately, "Orchards" is a poetic book about understanding and caring about others--both the bullied and the bullies.
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