The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree

Jolly Fish. Jan. 2024. 320p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781631638206.
Gr 5 Up–Based on her grandmother’s experience, Abendanon delivers a gem for middle grade historical fiction and World War II fans. Opening in 1942 in Batavia, Dutch West Indies—present-day Jakarta, Indonesia—the story features 12-year-old Emmy and her father, a rice exporter, who live among Dutch expats and Indonesians employed as their servants. When the Japanese invade, the Indonesians believe they have been liberated, and the Europeans—Emmy among them—are captured and sent to live in internment camps, where they remain until the end of the war. Alongside women and children with whom she becomes fiercely close, Emmy must persevere through terrible living conditions and hunger in hopes she will find her father after the war. Loyalty to her fellow prisoners gives Emmy the courage to overcome the internment and the atrocities enforced upon them. 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. They will love Abendanon’s work, especially because it is based on true events. Back matter is provided to answer questions that will undoubtedly be on readers’ minds.
VERDICT An absolute must-have in all middle grade collections.

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