Center for Children's Literature Blog

Children’s Book Committee – May 2021 Pick

While I Was Away
Written by Waka T. Brown

For five months, Kansas-born, Waka, 12, is sent to Japan where she faces the challenges of living with her Obaasama and attending local school. Memoir.

Our Young Reviewer Says:

“I like this book because its story can happen in real life, so I can feel like I’m in it without imagining. I like every part of the story line, especially the characters. The book is often hilarious and I wanted it to be so long IT WOULD NEVER END.

I thought that because the challenges that the main character, Waka, goes on are fun to read. Also, because Waka is Japanese, I thought about how the story would go if the main character was Hungarian, like me, and that was fun to do.”

–Dalma, 7, Yonkers, NY.

Young people who are interested in reviewing are invited to do so as we welcome the individual perspective of our age appropriate readers. If you are interested in being a reviewer, contact

See our Monthly Picks Archive 2012–2018, and our Monthly Picks 2019–present.