Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Nobody Knows

Tanaka, Shelley (Author)
Groundwood Books 2012. 144 pages
First published: 2012
ISBN: 9781554981182 (paperback)
9781554981403 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

conflict, language conventions, point of view, setting

Award

USBBY Outstanding International Books List – 2013

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Spare language builds a gripping story of abandoned children, inspired by real events in Tokyo, Japan. A neutral tone lays bare increasingly squalid details, leaving readers to project their own feelings onto 12-year-old Akira’s isolated world. He’s the sole caregiver for three younger siblings, hiding in an adults-only apartment building. The crushing effects of poverty are chillingly portrayed. “‘What are you eating?’ Akira said quietly. ‘Spit it out.’… ‘What is that?’ Shige lay back down.…‘Paper,’ he whispered. ‘I was eating paper.’”

This brief book is a powerful indictment of society’s inability to protect its most helpless. “‘I’m here about the… rent,’ she went on. ‘Where is your mother?’… she was already backing out of the apartment, as if she was afraid to hear or see any more.” When 5-year-old Yuki dies in a household accident, her body is carried out of the building in a suitcase—the same way she was smuggled in.

Readers will wish for adult intervention to stop this ordeal, but the story’s child-centred integrity remains strong. Still, the ending hints at renewal, as Akira leads his remaining siblings into the fresh air of the streets. “And they all smiled, before they turned and continued on their way.”

  •  

    The story has its origins in a lesser-known child abandonment case known as the “affair of the four abandoned children of Sugamo.” Characters and events are fictionalized in this novel, which is based on a film.

  •  

    During reading, discuss how the author’s craft (point of view, use of language, tone) are used to relay the tragic story. How does the author use language to create a sense of emotion in the reader?

  •  

    Use this and other stories of survival to explore issues stemming from the text. Explore the issues through an inquiry question and process.

  •  

    Watch the movie trailer for the 2004 film of the same name. Watch it again and take notes to help you discuss the storyline with a peer. Make a prediction about the story’s ending.

  •  

    In order to survive, Akira must lie, outright or by omission. As you read, note each lie and answer the questions: Is it justified? Why or why not?

  •  

    You are a journalist interviewing the mother or one of the fathers. Write one article with a bias of compassion and empathy for the parent. Write another with a bias of abhorrence regarding child abandonment.

  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Social Sciences