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Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1996 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

More Sample Book Ideas
Shizuko's Daughter
by Kyoko Mori

A 1996 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 9-12)

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth: LC 92-626956. 222p. 1993. 15.95 (ISBN 0-8050-2557-X). Holt. Paper: 209p. 3.99 (ISBN 0-449-70433-50). Fawcett Juniper.
GENRES: Multicultural, contemporary realistic fiction
THEMES: Suicide, grief, Japan, mothers and daughters, loneliness, marriage, memories, lies, isolation, love, coming-of-age, family, friendship, intergenerational relationships, women, sports-track, Buddhism, jealousy.
READABILITY: Sixth grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Seventh through twelfth grade


"A plot summation cannot convey Mori's accomplishment--her language and imagery evoke the beautiful and sometimes stifling sense of order that pervades Yuki's life...Custom is both venerable and comforting, but Mori warns against its confinement in controlled, poetically crafted prose that is ultimately affirming. Mori has a fine eye for details that illuminate temperament and motivation, and her characters, especially Yuki, are well-realized and clearly drawn." Booklist 89(11):977-78 February 1, 1993. Janice Del Negro.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 46(9):291 May 1993. Betsy Hearne. (Recommended and starred)

The Horn Book Magazine 69(5):603-4 September/October 1993. Nancy Vasilakis. (Starred review)

"[Shizuko's Daughter] is an outstanding coming-of-age story that transcends cultural barriers....Layers and layers of detail in the life of a Japanese family are interesting asides for American readers, but not distracting...This is an exceptionally good book. Kliatt 28(5):10 September, 1994. Claire Rosser. (Starred review)

"Mori's beautiful and sensitive prose evokes a world of pungent memories and harsh realities....Despite moments of warmth and humor and sharp insights into human motivations, Shizuko's Daughter is more often bleak, sad, and sometimes grim. Graceful in style, a tad grizzly in plot, and rather adult in tone, it is nonetheless a worthwhile novel about a resilient young woman's coming of age." School Library Journal 39(6):132 June 1993. John Philbrook.

"This novel adds to cultural and emotional understanding....many of the chapters have been published previously in various U.S. literary magazines. This explains the patchwork effect in which each chapter has enough detail to stand alone. It is only when the parts are put together that the essence of this brave life can be appreciated." Voice of Youth Advocates 16(4):217 October 1993. Sylvia Mitchell. (#5-quality, #4-popularity).



Born and raised in Japan, Kyoko Mori is now an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Norbert College in Wisconsin. Previously her poetry and short stories have been published in The Kenyon Review, The Appalachia Quarterly, and The Beloit Poetry, including many of the chapters from Shizuko's Daughter, her first novel.


Yuki is twelve when her mother commits suicide and lives afterward with a selfish father and unfeeling stepmother. Outspoken and smart, artistically and athletically talented, Yuki keeps to herself while focusing on her freedom and reconnecting with her mother's family once she is old enough to leave her father's house. Japanese culture dictates Yuki's public actions and private decisions, but not her feelings.


This emotional and difficult novel will primarily appeal to girls or students very interested in Japanese culture. The Notes on the setting and Glossary are beneficial for understanding more about Japan. See Booktalks for attracting readers.


Yuki's aunt tries to explain why Yuki can't continue living with her after Yuki's father remarries.
"Can't you see it can't be helped? You are your father's only child. We have no claim on you. It was kind enough of your father to invite me to the wedding." "You know it's a lie," Yuki said "It's all a lie, the whole thing. They know I want to stay in Tokyo with you, and they'd like it that way too. They don't care about me. They only came to see me twice the whole time I was with you. They'd as soon be by themselves. Only they won't do it because it would look bad. People would talk." (page 26, hardback edition; pages 23-24, paperback edition)
Yuki is right. Her father doesn't really want her - but Japanese culture is extremely rigid. Cultural rules can control people, but they can't control hearts.


Yuki and her stepmother don't get along but Japanese culture dictates how Yuki must behave.
The last time her stepmother shut herself up in the living room like this, a few months ago, her father came up to Yuki's room. He barged in without knocking and said they both should apologize because it was Yuki, more than himself, that her stepmother was angry at. "It's your stubbornness," he said. "You'll ruin my life with it." When Yuki hesitated, her father said, "You owe me this. If she leaves me because of you, you'll have to quit school and keep house for me. You're old enough now. Come on. You have no choice." (page 133, hardback edition; pages 126-127, paperback edition)



This book begins with a suicide and, while the Japanese attitude and reaction to suicide may be different than American attitudes, suicide is very much a critical issue for today's young adults. What are the statistics for suicide in your state or city? What services are available for prevention - hotlines, crisis prevention centers, emergency counseling, self-help groups, etc.? Provide books, pamphlets, videos, and other materials that give information about this issue. Helpful books include Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide by Christopher Lukas and Henry M. Seiden (Macmillan, 1988), Suicide: The Forever Decision by Paul G. Quinnett (Continuum, 1987), Coping With Suicide: A Resource Book for Teenagers and Young Adults by Judie Smith (Rosen, 1986), Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids by Donna Gaines (Pantheon, 1991), and Suicide by Margaret O. Hyde and Elizabeth Held Forsyth (Watts, 1991).


Develop a classroom library or a booklist with titles by and about capable and strong women. Consider using I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Random, 1970), Beloved by Toni Morrison (Knopf, 1987), Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years by Sarah Louis Delany and Annie Elizabeth Delany (Kodansha International, 1993), The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Harcourt, 1982), Shabanu (Knopf, 1989) and Haveli: A Young Woman's Courageous Struggle for Freedom in Present Day Pakistan (Knopf, 1993) by Suzanne Fisher Staples, Wise Child by Monica Furlong (Knopf, 1987), American Woman, Their Lives in Their Words edited by Doreen Rappaport (HarperCollins/Crowell, 1990), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines (Doubleday, 1971), and The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (Knopf, 1976).

Science/Geology/Earthquakes/Current Events:

Kobe, Japan, the setting for this book, was the epicenter for the January 17, 1995 earthquake that devastated that part of Japan. Students can focus study on the earthquake devastation and the emergency response, what went wrong with the architectural plan for structural stability, or the scientific aspects of seismic activity.

Sociology/Cultural Anthropology/Japan:

Shizuko's Daughter is an excellent introduction to Japanese life with its many rigid rules. Compile a list of the numerous examples of these cultural differences mention in the story. For example second households, divorce laws, saving face, what is polite, the stigma of suicide, etc. Consult books like The Japanese Woman: Traditional Image & Changing Reality by Sumiko Iwao (Harvard University Press, 1992), Chrysanthemums and Thorns: The Untold Story of Modern Japan by Edwin M. Reingold (St. Martin's Press, 1992), Women in Society: Japan by Elizabeth Kanemaisu (Marshall Cavendish, 1992), Robert C. Christopher's The Japanese Mind: The Goliath Explained (Fawcett, 1984), and the videotape Japan by Peter Spry-Leverton and Jane Seymour (MPI Home Video, 1992) to help students understand this culture better.


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