The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree
by Lucille Abendanon
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Pub Date 23 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 05 Jan 2024
North Star Editions, Jolly Fish Press
Batavia, Dutch East Indies, 1942.
Emmy has the voice of an angel but hasn’t sung a note since a family tragedy. With war looming, her father plans to ship her off to a singing school in England for safety. But all Emmy wants to do is stay in Batavia with her best friend, Bakti, even if it means putting up with her snooty classmate, Violet. Then the Japanese army invades—and as war erupts in the Dutch East Indies, Emmy’s world falls apart.
When her own actions sabotage her chance to evacuate the island, Emmy is captured and confined in the Tjideng prisoner-of-war camp with other women and children. Separated from her family and friends, and silenced by her grief, Emmy will need all her strength to survive the war, find her voice, and reclaim her freedom.
★ “Abendanon brings a whole new perspective for readers who clamor for WWII stories, such as Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life. . . . An absolute must-have in all middle grade collections.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
★ “Abendanon has written a searing story of captivity, based loosely on her own grandmother's life, that is notable for its verisimilitude and vivid setting. It brings history to life.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Steady pacing and well-developed characters with credible flaws round out this harrowing, high-stakes tale, based on Abendanon’s grandmother’s experiences.” —Publishers Weekly
“[E]ngaging narrative that broadens readers’ understanding of the geographic reach of World War II.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This is an astonishingly good book. I love the sounds and smells of Emmy’s life in the exotic Dutch East Indies, and I love her strength, passion, and determination facing the evils of a prisoner-of-war camp. I liked it even more when I found it was based on an extraordinary true story. The book is difficult, stunning, and compelling. You’ve got to read it!” —Karen Cushman, Newbery Award-winning author of The Midwife's Apprentice
“The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree is a triumph of a debut! It is so beautifully written and evocative, while also being quite a page turner. The rooting in the author’s family history is compelling, providing a less-covered perspective on World War II. The way this story negotiates race, privilege and the complex nuance of cultural identity is thoughtful and challenges white readers to question the unjust systems we’re knowingly and unknowingly a part of. This book is everything I want from historical fiction: shedding light on less-told stories from the past, while also speaking to our current world. Readers—especially third culture and multicultural kids—will resonate with Emmy and her journey to find her voice and what it means to ‘belong to many places.’” —Meg Eden Kuyatt, author of Good Different
“Abendanon’s rich descriptions will have kids pulling out maps to learn more about the world, and the action-packed sequences and powerful emotions will keep their attention as they follow Emmy’s brave journey through an internment camp of WW2. The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree introduces young readers to the darkness of war, the promise of light, and the spirit of a girl who won’t quit.” —Catherine Arguelles, author of Flip Turns
“The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree is one of those remarkable books where the writing is so lovely that I wanted to slow down and savor every word, but the story is so compelling that I had to turn the pages quickly to see what would happen next. This novel is a true gem and one that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sydney Dunlap, author of It Happened on Saturday
“The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree is a powerful story of finding courage and hope amid the brutality of war. Abendanon has shed light on a heartbreaking piece of history that will have young readers wanting to learn more long after finishing the book. Bravo!” —Lisa Schmid, author of Ollie Oxley and the Ghost: The Search for Lost Gold
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