All the Ways Home

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 May 2019

Member Reviews

Wow, just saw my number for May and it was bleak.  I did actually read more than that but didn't blog about all of them.  With summer vacation on the near horizon my pace with definitely pick up.
In this book Kaede is being given an option.  Since the death of his mother he has been angry.  He has taken it out on the driver whose inattention cost his mom her life, he took it out on his best friend, and his grades have suffered greatly.  His assignment for the summer is to write about home.  But, in order to do that, he needs to discover what that is for him now which means going to Japan and trying to connect with his father.  
But when he gets to Japan his brother meets him, telling him that his father is off on a photo shoot.  As the weeks go by and his father doesn't show Kaede decides to take matters into his own hands.  What he learns helps him to finally put the past behind him and come to terms with his present.
I liked the cultural aspect and the focus on different meanings of home but some things were resolved too easily or not at all.
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Kaede is twelve years old and his life has been in a downward spiral since his mom died in an accident. His summer extra credit assignment is to fill up a notebook and define "home." Kaede only remembers Vancouver as home, but he was born in Japan. He flies from Vancouver to Japan to spend the summer with his older half-brother and dad -- family he has not seen for nearly a decade. He is impressed by how cool his brother is and how effortlessly he absorbs Kaede into his busy life. As the weeks go by, their father is still away on a photography assignment. Kaede desperately wants to connect with his father to finish his assignment and acts out of that urgency in the poignant climax of this middle grade novel. Readers will empathize with Kaede and appreciate the strong sense of place as they go along on his journey to find "home." We can all learn a thing or two from young Kaede.

Thank you to Macmillan Children's and NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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All the Ways Home is a moving story of family and searching for belonging. The insights into and portrayal of Japanese culture were fascinating and enriched the story. Young readers will need to be prepared for a character-driven book rather than a plot-driven one as most of the story takes place in the main character’s head. This is certainly an example of a ‘quiet’ book. But readers who are looking for an exploration of what it means to have a home featuring a unique and relatable main character will enjoy this book.
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Kaede Hirano had a fairly comfortable life in Canada with his mother, but when she dies in a car accident which he thinks is his fault, he must live with his cold and distant grandfather. Luckily, he gets a message from his estranged father, who lives in Japan, that Kaede can visit him for several weeks. This works out well, since Kaede has created a lot of trouble for himself since his mother's death, and his school will only allow him to go on to the next grade if his summer project on the concept of "home" goes well. When Kaede arrives in Japan, he is met by his half brother, Shoma, who is much older and writes articles on the music scene for a magazine. Their father, a famous photographer, is off in a far flung region of Japan inaccessible to cell phones most of the time, so Kaede crashes with Shoma at his tiny apartment and does some sight seeing. He enjoys being with his brother, but longs for his father, as well as for his mother. In working on his school project, he has to reexamine his life, including an incident where he hurt his best friend, Jory. Eventually, wanting to see his father very badly, he sells Kaede guitar, buys a ticket, and heads out, only to find that both his father and Shoma are more complicated than he realized, and that family relationships aren't easy under the best of circumstances. 
Strengths: Summer in another country, especially one to which the main character has cultural ties, always makes for a good story. The sights, food, and living conditions in Japan are all very different from Canada or the US, and were great fun to read about. Shoma is caring but somewhat detached, and has his own complicated personal history. Kaede is a very angry middle grade character who makes some progress toward a healthier outlook on life.
Weaknesses: This is on-trend with the death of the mother; regular readers know how very tired of this trope I am. While I know that real life lacks answers, it's nice if we get a few in fiction. The way that the father treats Kaede and Shoma is almost unbelievably bad, and it would have been nice to have more insight into this treatment. Also, I would have liked to see more exploration of Kaede's relationship with his grandfather. We have inklings that there is more to the man, but it's not explored.
What I really think: I loved the details of daily life in Japan, but this was soggily sad and rather message heavy. Will debate over the summer before my fall order goes in.
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Outstanding MG about long-term grief and parental loss. Kaede is struggling with the death of his mom a year earlier. It's led to unfamiliar and uncomfortable living situations with a grandfather he barely knows, who's stepped in to care for him in the absence of his parents. His father lives in Japan and has been estranged for nearly a decade. But when Kaede's struggles at school and in his community lead to trouble, he's invited to spend the summer with the family he hardly remembers. Hoping for a thread of stability, Kaede hops on a plane to Tokyo with a small backpack and a school project on the topic of "home" that will determine whether or not he promotes to grade 8. In a city that holds ghosts of his past, Kaede gets to know his big brother and wonders about the father who is mysteriously still absent. Can he put together enough pieces to define home, and himself?
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Completely and utterly perfect. Sign me up, I'm now officially an Elsie Chapman fan. I expect this book to be big news in the 2019 awards slates.
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This book was received as an ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. 

This book will really open minds for children across the world and will in my opinion introduce them to the important concept of self discovery. The struggles throughout the story Kaede goes through after loosing his mom is so inspiring and really exemplifies the importance of self dependence and self discovery. This book really makes you reflect on the question where is home and will open your mind and really examine what do home and family mean to you and where do you feel you belong? 

We will definitely consider adding this title to our JFiction collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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