Book Buzz! Tomo Anthology edited by Holly Thompson (and a drawing for a free copy!)


Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction – An Anthology of Japanese Teen Stories edited by Holly Thompson

On March 11, 2011, Bob and I were sitting in our London hotel lobby cafe, using their WiFi to check email. I came across author Cindy Lord’s Facebook post where she said her heart went out to Japan. What? Bob and I quickly did a Google search and learned that the Tohoku region of Japan was hard hit by a 9.0 earthquake! Not only that but a tsunami devastated the coastal towns of that area. Lives were lost, homes swept away, – life in that area and surrounding it, changed forever. Add to that the meltdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant, and there is no doubt that many, many Japanese people have been seriously affected. A year later, it’s become a distant memory to people outside of Japan, but not for those who continue to live in the affected areas.

Tomo, edited by Holly Thompson, is an incredible collection of young adult stories that are either located in Japan or related to Japanese culture and/or history. From the website: Proceeds from the sales of this book will go directly toward long-term relief efforts for teens in Tohoku, the area most affected by the disasters, in the northeast region of Japan’s main island, Honshu. Contributors include well-known authors/artists such as Graham Salisbury, Alan Gratz, and Tak Toyoshima (of the cartoon Secret Asian Man), as well a slew of talented up-and-coming writers and illustrators.

I have to admit that I am usually not a huge fan of anthologies. Having said that, I was truly blown away by these stories –  their depth, literary quality, and heart. The opening story, Lost by Andrew Fukuda is a hauntingly beautiful tale about a young girl who has lost two years of her memory after a devastating earthquake in Japan. Half A Heart by Mariko Nagai is a story told in verse about a Japanese girl living in Seattle when Pearl Harbor is bombed – it made my heart ache, but left me with hope, too. There are retellings, fables, love stories, and funny stories, as well as illustrated stories like Kodama by Debbie Ridpath Ohi which is told in a sketchbook format – I won’t tell you what it’s about or I’ll ruin the surprise, but it has to do with a mysterious boy in a forest. Check out the blog for Tomo and read about the contributors. Better yet, make a purchase, not only to help teens in Tohoku, but because the stories are very much worth reading. In fact, I’ll be purchasing at least four copies, one for myself, and also for my family members. I promise, you do not have to be Japanese to appreciate these stories.

Stayed tuned because below is an opportunity for you to win a free copy of Tomo!

I had the fabulous opportunity to talk to Holly about editing Tomo:

DEBtastic Reads:  You were inspired to help the victims, particularly the youth, of the hard-hit Tohoku region in Japan by the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster. This anthology is the brilliant result of your efforts.  What was it like editing such an anthology? What were the challenges?

Holly Thompson: First of all, thank you for reading Tomo! The Tomo anthology is the result of combined efforts by so many people besides myself, including Peter Goodman of Stone Bridge Press, who was solidly behind this project from the moment I mentioned the idea to him; writers who submitted stories and helped spread the word quickly; translators who labored under extremely tight deadlines; John Shelley who donated his figure drawings for the cover art; Rieko Tanaka of the NPO Hope for Tomorrow (; and so many people behind the scenes. The greatest challenge with Tomo was the time constraint—in order to publish in time for the one-year anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, the deadlines for submitting, selecting work, editing and proofing were all extremely tight. But thanks to everyone’s help, and most especially the enthusiasm of the people at Stone Bridge Press, this marathon project came together in time.

DEB: The contributions to the anthology amazed and awed me. There are so many types of stories, told in a variety of ways and they are all written superbly. Were there any stories that struck you personally in a way that surprised you? How so?

HT: As an editor I came to know these stories deeply. Some stories went through multiple revisions, and it was such a joy to see them grow and develop; other stories were nearly print-ready as submitted. All of these stories touched me in a personal way. I was so pleased to be able to include the graphic narratives of Debbie Ohi and Tak Toyoshima, and I was moved deeply to learn about the late Yukie Chiri, transcriber of the Ainu tale “Where the Silver Droplets Fall” translated by Deborah Davidson. I love the microscopic moment-by-moment analysis of the narrator of “Fleecy Clouds” by Arie Nashiya, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter, as well as the quirky tale of the boy who studies kimono dressing in “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa. Suzanne Kamata captures the complex duality of biculturalism in her beautiful story “Peace on Earth,” and Graham Salisbury’s “Bad Day for Baseball” and Alan Gratz’s “The Ghost who Came to Breakfast” are both pitch perfect. I could run through the entire table of contents and tell you what I love about each story!

DEB: You have long lived in Japan. What first took you there? What surprised you about living in Japan? And what did you fall in love with?

HT: I’ve lived in Japan two separate times, for several years in the 1980s and from 1998 until now. My husband had lived in Japan as an exchange student in college and was eager to return, so not long after we married, in the 1980s we both worked as teachers in Japanese high schools. Japan made a huge impression on me right away, and I particularly fell in love with the terrain—coming from the gentle hills of New England, Japan offered some striking new volcanic geography for me. I also came to love what’s referred to as satoyama, the areas of arable land, farm village and woodlands that are all interrelated, and the unique ways in which village resources are managed and used for all sorts of purposes. If carefully managed and not too depopulated, a Japanese agricultural village can be nearly self-sustaining. I hope that more people will discover the charms of Japanese rural areas, including much of rugged Tohoku.

DEB: A year after, sadly, it’s easy to forget that there are many who still suffer from the affects of the disaster. In addition to buying copies of TOMO, what other things can people do to help?

HT: Volunteering is still ever important, and there are so many projects that need support. Tohoku will be struggling for years—the scars are physical and emotional—yet the pain and suffering often go unseen and unheard outside the region. The devastation in Tohoku is on a scale that is unprecedented; the challenges facing the region and the country are enormous.  So, readers, if you have a chance to visit Japan, please do so, and help promote the revival of tourism in the country. For those who can, please consider a visit to Tohoku. And even if you cannot travel to Japan or Tohoku, you can support the hard-working NPOs that are active in the devastated regions—there are so many art initiatives, business revival projects, programs to aid orphans, online tutoring programs, farm support projects… something to match everyone’s interests. We can all help Tohoku’s revival by getting involved and showing our support with our actions. Thank you to everyone who reads Tomo and joins in this effort to support teens in the Tohoku area of Japan and promote friendship through fiction.

Visit the Tomo Blog

Holly Thompson was raised in New England and is a longtime resident of Japan. She is the author of the YA verse novel Orchards (Delacorte/Random House), which received the APALA 2012 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and is a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection; the picture book The Wakame Gatherers (Shen’s Books); and the novel Ash (Stone Bridge Press). She recently edited Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press). She teaches creative and academic writing at Yokohama City University and serves as Regional Advisor for the Tokyo chapter of the Society of Children’s Book and Writers. Visit her website at and her blog at


Stone Bridge Press, the publisher of Tomo, has generously offered to send a free copy of this wonderful anthology to one lucky winner. Here are the rules –

1. Enter by commenting on this post (if you’re reading this via a feed, click here). Please make sure to leave your email address so I can contact the winner. Also, be sure to check this blog on Tuesday, March 20 when I announce the lucky winner.

2. Comment by midnight PST on Friday, March 16, to be eligible for the drawing.

3. Winner must have a US or Canada mailing address (which you can provide after winning).

4. If you Tweet, share (on FB or your blog) this contest and post, inform me when you comment and your name will be entered a second time.

Good luck!

Tomo is currently available for purchase at your favorite online bookstore and via Stone Bridge Press.

13 responses »

  1. What a great project! I love that writers find a way to connect, and help heal, through stories… and thank you for sharing information on the book!

  2. Thanks so much for this lovely interview, ladies. Such a worthy project and the stories sound incredible! I was lucky enough to visit Japan once years ago, and along with the rest of the world, was devastated when learning about the earthquake/tsunami disaster last year. I like how this project is targeted specifically to benefit teens.

    Is this anthology also available in electronic format? Happy to see Graham Salisbury among the contributors :).

  3. The reading of this anthology as well as the writing of it will help that healing process. I hope that other young writers will be inspired by this project.

  4. Great post Deb,

    What a fantastic way to help those who were devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

    Suzanne Santillan

  5. I haven’t heard of this anthology before, but I love the idea. It’s a great way for the book community to help out, and read some wonderful stories.

  6. I’ve blogged about it here. I would love to read this book, although I feel kind of guilty trying for a free copy when its supposed to raising funds. I’m happy just spreading the word on this book and the blog.

  7. Great interview. I want to read this book and it is for a great cause. Posted it to facebook hoping to spread the word.

  8. I am rather illustriously known nerd for my love of anime and Japanese culture(otaku) so this is gong to be a very good read, and for a great cause. Nice one Deb.

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