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Half a World Away
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Half a World Away by National Book Award-winning author Cynthia Kadohata (The Thing About Luck) tells the story of Jaden, a troubled 12-year-old Romanian boy who was adopted at age 8 and brought to the United States. He lies, steals, and breaks promises to his adoptive parents. But over the course of the novel, his emotional growth is believable and moving.
What's the story?
Jaden is a 12-year-old Romanian boy who was adopted at age 8 and has had trouble adapting to his life and family in America. He has been through years of counseling and his parents, especially his adoptive mother, never give up on him, but Jaden still lies, steals, and consciously manipulates his parents. When the family travels to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby, Jaden's feelings are mixed. On one hand, he is afraid the baby will supplant his role in the family and that he'll be neglected. On the other, he is interested in the country and feels sorry for the orphans he visits because he knows he understands better than anyone what they're going through.
Is it any good?
The simple, direct language makes this book to get absorbed in, and the descriptions of life in Kazakhstan, with its camels, hunting eagles, and barren but beautiful landscape, are fascinating. As in her National Book Award-winning The Thing About Luck, author Cynthia Kadohata's deep and complex characterizations make it easy to imagine a life likely vastly different from those of most readers. Jaden's candor about his past and his inability to adjust to life with his adoptive family makes him, if not exactly likable, an intriguing character whom readers will want to get to know better, and his emotional growth is believable and moving.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about well-known adoption stories in books and movies (Oliver! and Annie, for example). How is Jaden's story different from those you've seen or read? Is there anything about Jaden's story that's similar?
What are some of the ways traveling to a foreign country can change people? Do you think Jaden's emotional changes would have come about if he hadn't traveled to Kazakhstan?
Have you read any other books by Cynthia Kadohata, such as The Thing About Luck? If so, how does Half a World Away compare?
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