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Nobody Knows

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  113 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Selected for the USBBY Outstanding International Book List

It's autumn in Tokyo, and twelve-year-old Akira and his younger siblings, Kyoko, Shige and little Yuki, have just moved into a new apartment with their mother. Akira hopes it's a new start for all of them, even though the little ones are not allowed to leave the apartment or make any noise, since the landlord doesn'
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Groundwood Books (first published July 9th 2012)
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Rating details
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Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
A tale of children caring for themselves. Moving.
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a mom, by the end of the book I was sobbing. Just picturing abandoning my children is impossible. After reading it, I wanted to run out and tell everyone to read it because it's so amazing and heart breaking... then I read some of the goodreads reviews.

I read and rate based on personal emotions usually, not on the actual quality of the book, which is why I'll probably never make a good professional reviewer. Because I'm a mom and because I knew that it was based on true events, I wanted to gi
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Fast read! Wish there could be more explanations and expansion cause there room for more! Though just by itself, the story is already quite emotional.
May 08, 2018 rated it liked it
It's basically the novel version of the movie that was based on the true story. Quick read.
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A very quick read . . . I actually enjoyed the movie more than the novel, possibly because the book was so short and didn't have as many details or character development. Good for reluctant readers.
Noella Allisen
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
What a heartbreaking, gut wrenching story. The fact that it is based on an actual story makes it that much harder to accept and understand. It's a very quick read but one that will linger far past the last page. My three stars is based on the fact that it could have been so much it. You'll understand.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
A little bit of research can go a long way towards shaping one's impression of a book. An hour ago, I felt sick after reading Nobody Knows, a novelization by Shelley Tanaka of a Japanese film that is set in Tokyo. The story is so appalling that I never wanted to read anything again by the author. Now that I know the story is inspired by true events, I better understand why Tanaka made her choices and I would like to see the film. I still don't care for the book.

Tanaka explains in an interview th
Writing in a minimalist style that requires her readers to read between the lines, the author tells the fictionalized version of a series of true events that occurred over a year in Tokyo. It's clear from the start that there is something wrong with the mother as she and Akira, the oldest boy in the Fukushima family, smuggle the two youngest children into the apartment in suitcases so the landlord won't know about them. She actually expects them to remain quiet enough that her secret won't be re ...more
Yoo Kyung Sung
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it

I appreciate this book a lot. One of few "Contemporary" realistic fiction in novel illustrating young children's experiences in Japan. Contemporary stories about Japan in novel format is so rare in the US.
Emotional discouragement the children undergo is deep. It is because the fact Akira’s own parents deliberately abandoned him and his other siblings despite they are still emotionally attached to their mom. In Nobody Knows, the vanished irresponsibly selfish mother is the blame of anxiety and d
Ms. Yingling
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Akira and his mother move into a new apartment, meeting the elderly landlords and assuring them that Akira will be no problem because he is too old to make noise and run around. In the family's suitcases, however, are two younger siblings, Yuki and Shigeru, andanother girl, Kyoko, is snuck in later. The children all have different fathers who don't support them, and the children must hide from the landlords or risk being kicked out. This means that they can't go to school or go outside. The moth ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
I honestly didn’t like the book Nobody Knows. I think it could have been really good if it had been written better but it wasn’t was descriptive as it could have been so the sadness didn’t really hit me as hard as it could have, especially the ending. There’s several parts in the plot that really kind of hit me though like prostitution to get money and when Akira went to find his father and all of his siblings’ fathers too. SPOILER: it was horrible when Saki was hinted to have sold her body to g ...more
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Based on Kore-eda's award-winning adult film, Nobody Knows has become, in the hands of this master storyteller, an amazing children's book. Four children abandoned by their mother leaqrn to survive on their own. In 144 pages of spare but often lyrical prose, Tanaka's narrative packs a powerful punch as she weaves us right into the daily lives of her child characters. But Tanaka never makes the mistake of portraying them as helpless victims - her characters are intrepid survivors who somehow are ...more
BAYA Librarian
Set in contemporary Tokyo, this is a story about four children, a young teenager and his three siblings including two girls and, the youngest, a boy. They are made to live a clandestine life inside an apartment building, the landlord thinking that only the older boy and his mother reside there. But their mother abandons the children and this story tells the tragedy of their lives as they struggle to get by on the little yen left by her.
This is a novel based on a movie which in turn is based on
Eva Leger
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: b-fiction, y-a
I'm not impressed. I've read enough impressive YA to know that this could have been so much more. Honestly, there is something there - it just falls flat.
The story itself is there for sure, the telling of it is lacking.
It's a fast one, I'd say I read it in a good bit less than an hour.
One thing I had a problem with is the photos. I like my books fiction or non. Historical fiction is fiction. A book with photos like these suggests non. Who are these kids? Are they who this happened to? Then this
Akira, 12, is left in charge of his three younger siblings when their mother disappears. It's sad, and there's no real ending, leaving the book feeling unfinished. What happens to the kids? Does Mom continue to drift in and out? Do they survive or not? Are they found out by the landlord? And what's Mom's deal, anyway?

Inspired by true events in Tokyo, but no author's note to explain what happened to that family, either. It ends up feeling like this hybrid of Homecoming mixed with Flowers in the A
Kristin Fletcher-spear
A fast minimalist read based on a Japanese "true story" film. Minimalist is the key word there. The emotional turmoil of this book is muted where the reader must bring their own feelings into the story to see how the kids would have felt. As an adult and parent, it was a horrific read in which a mother abandons her children who have to hid in their apartment for fear of being kicked out. Other novels have depicted similar storied with more depth, but knowing that this is a novel based on a film, ...more
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
A powerful book. I can't stop thinking about it. So simple on the surface but so much going on underneath. I am curious about the readership for this book, definitely. Unlike the adventure stories of my childhood, this is no carefree romp through life with no adults to get in the way; it is the absence of all that children need to thrive. But somehow they manage to find beauty in the small moments and the reader is asked to do the same. It's almost too sad for an adult reader -- I wonder if kids ...more
Pam Williams
Apr 22, 2014 rated it liked it
A sad and sweet book about a 12 year old boy in Tokyo whose mother leaves him alone with his four brothers and sisters. At first she leaves money for them and comes back to visit occasionally. Then no word and no money. Akira does his best to keep the children hidden and to feed them and pay the bills. Eventually the money runs out and he continues to keep them hidden but they grow weaker and dirtier and his will to carry on falters.
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Based on a true story, this is an interesting story of child neglect. I really liked the concept of the book but did not enjoy how everything was glossed over. Especially some important events that occur that really needed more attention than what it got.

Recommendation: quick read and if you have nothing else to do, then go ahead but I would recommend The Glass Castle over this book.
Nov 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
A sad story with really no ending. I felt the content fit better with young adults rather than in the children's section, which was where I found it at my library. I read it in less than an hour and was glad I didn't spend any more time on it than that.
Mari Anne
Apr 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mg-ya
I did NOT like this middle grade novel about a family of four siblings abandoned by their mother in Tokyo. I felt the plot and the charcters were thin and the story was depressing with no real ending. Would not recommend.
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I watched the movie a couple times. One of my favorite movies, although sad. The book follows the movie pretty well. I do wish it was longer, and added more details along the story. Pretty good read though. Short, but good.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was interesting to me because I was glued to it and couldn't put it down BUT at the end I realized it was nothing but sad and there was absolutely no ending. Weird. Super quick, easy read though that definitely makes you grateful for what you have!
Beth Kakuma-Depew
This book is too sad to read all the way through. Like Grave of the Fireflies, a classic anime about Japan at the end of WWII, this story has a deep haunting sadness that punches you in the gut.
Dec 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: juvenile
A very fast read, but the material is a little too mature for juvenile readers.
Georgia Rose
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Powerful in its simplicity, I want to know what happens to them and see the movie, even if it is in Japanese. Such despair.
Er Kuan
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
The authenticity of the voice is very strong and the sadness of the kids caused by the irresponsible adults created an anger within me. Good story that is not everybody's cup of tea.
Feb 04, 2014 added it
I liked this book. It was very emotional. Though the beginning was very boring...
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s
I enjoyed it but the minimalist writing felt bland rather than pared down for a reason.
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