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Wednesday, February 3
My rating: ★★★½
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Date of publication: January 5, 2016
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: WWII, Japanese-Americans, relocation camps, family relationships, dogs
Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, and Manami and her family are Japanese American. The attack on Pearl Harbor means the government has forced them to move to a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they cannot take their dog, Yujiin, with them. Manami tries to sneak Yujiin under her coat but is caught and forced to abandon Yujiin. She is devastated, but Manami clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn't until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can reclaim the piece of herself that she left behind and accept all that has happened to her family.
It was a fascinating book; I have not read much about the U.S. government's relocation camps. While the main focus of the book is Manami's relationship with her family and the loss of her dog, it also includes actual historical events and elements that enrich the story. That all being said, yes, it's another sad book. Especially when all this injustice is being told through the eyes of a child.
But that's not necessarily the reason for my lower rating. What I didn't like was the style of writing. Sentences and paragraphs are very short, and it comes off very stilted. I recognize that this is on purpose and it really does contribute to the simple, child-like retelling of a story, but it bothered me (personal preference). I also did not love the way it ended, but appreciated the author's note (but I shouldn't have to depend on that to tell me how this family's story wraps up).
Overall, yes, it's recommended. I can tell it will get some Newbery buzz. Try it out, and see if you can win me over.
Find it at your library or on Amazon