My Nest of Silence

Written by Matt Faulkner
Review by Carrie Callaghan

Mari might be living behind barbed wire, but she takes solace in drawing and in her older brother. But when Mak decides to join the U.S. Army in 1944, Mari makes a vow of silence. No matter what happens to her in the Manzanar internment camp where the U.S. government has sent her family, Mari swears she will not speak until her brother returns. Swallowing her words will keep him safe, she thinks—just as he thinks that hiding the truth about his difficult time as a Japanese American in the U.S. Army will spare his family some pain.

The novel alternates between Mari’s innocent narration, told via text, and Mak’s difficult wartime experiences, portrayed in illustrated panels. Mak’s is probably the more compelling of the two stories, made even more so by author/illustrator Matt Faulkner’s beautiful art. Mak and his comrades come to vivid, intimate life in the detailed illustrations, and the chaos of war is touchingly portrayed. The stakes in Mari’s story are lower, though readers will be caught up in her efforts to learn how to draw and the mysterious illness she contracts. This book will probably appeal most to readers on the younger side of the middle-grade cohort, at least judging from the simple, straightforward narration and the limited market testing of the two young readers in this reviewer’s household.