STARRED REVIEW
April 11, 2020

On the Horizon

By Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak

Through deceptively plainspoken prose layered with imagery and linguistic artistry, On the Horizon’s remarkable poems are a powerful reminder of our shared humanity in times of conflict and war. Simply put, they are an extraordinary gift from one of America’s most distinguished writers.

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In 1940, when two-time Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry was 3 years old, her father made a home movie of her as she played on a beach in Hawaii, where Lowry’s family lived. Years later, while watching the film, Lowry realized the USS Arizona, the battleship that sank during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was visible on the horizon. The poignancy of the image stayed with the author and served as one of the inspirations for her book On the Horizon.

Each of On the Horizon’s three sections intertwine Lowry’s personal history with vignettes of sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor the day of the attack and of civilians in Japan, where Lowry moved with her family after the end of the war. Lowry’s desire to connect with and understand other people and their experiences unites the poems. In “Girl on a Bike,” for example, Lowry recalls the day she stopped outside a schoolyard to watch children playing. In an extraordinary coincidence, one of those children, a boy named Koichi Seii, grew up to become the Caldecott Medalist Allen Say. Say and Lowry never met in Japan, but years later, Say recalled seeing Lowry and her green bicycle outside his school that day.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Lois Lowry takes us behind the scenes of On the Horizon.


Lowry’s experiences—as a young child in Honolulu and a girl who grew up in Japan—provide her with a unique perspective on the major events that bookend World War II. But one of On the Horizon’s greatest strengths is that Lowry expands her gaze and incorporates the experiences of others. Although the USS Arizona was, that day on the beach, so far away as to appear “on the horizon,” Lowry employs a literary zoom lens to capture poignant portraits of the ship’s crew, including the members of the Navy band and commanding officer Captain Isaac Campbell Kidd. In “Captain Kidd,” Lowry links Kidd’s name to memories of her grandmother’s stories of pirates before revealing that, during the attack, Kidd ran to the bridge of the ship: “His Naval Academy ring / was found melted and fused to the mast. / It is not an imaginary thing, / a symbol of devotion so vast.”

Through deceptively plainspoken prose layered with imagery and linguistic artistry, On the Horizon’s remarkable poems are a powerful reminder of our shared humanity in times of conflict and war. Simply put, they are an extraordinary gift from one of America’s most distinguished writers.

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On the Horizon

On the Horizon

By Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak
HMH
ISBN 9780358129400

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