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by Cynthia Kadohata

Published by Atheneum, 2006
260 pages
ISBN: 0689865740

Ages 10-14

Sumiko is the only Japanese student in her sixth grade class, and she often feels lonely and isolated at school. At home, she takes comfort from both the predictability of family routines and unexpected beauty as she works on her aunt and uncle’s flower farm. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, however, beauty and predictability seem like impossibilities. Sumiko's uncle is arrested almost immediately and sent to a prison camp in North Dakota. Then Sumiko, her younger brother, aunt, and cousins join thousands of others of Japanese descent on the west coast who are interred. They are sent first to the San Carlos Racetrack, and later to the relocation center in Poston, Arizona. There, in the midst of the barren dessert, Sumiko reluctantly starts a small garden. As she nurtures the flowers, grown from seeds she brought from home, she also nurtures an unexpected friendship with Frank, a Mohave boy living on the nearby reservation who often visits the outlying areas of the camp. She learns that Frank and his family dream of farming the land around Poston some day. She also learns that Native peoples, like the Japanese in America, have a long and painful history with the government: she can hardly believe when Frank tells her the Mohave in Arizona do not have the right to vote. She's just as dismayed and confused when she later learns that the Japanese and Japanese Americans who have been locked up at the camp are now being required to swear allegiance to the government. Those who do can join the army or leave after finding work. "If all it took to prove your loyalty was some form, why hadn't the government given them the form before putting them in the camps?" Like many, Sumiko is also frightened at the thought of leaving when the opportunity finally arrives--at least the camp keeps them safe from people who would do them harm for being Japanese. Richly detailed, Cynthia Kadohata's novel is punctuated with small, explosive moments of revelation as a Japanese American girl during World War II is challenged by racism and questions about identity, friendship, and what it means to be free. (MS) ©2006 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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