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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Middle Grade Japanese Internment Camp Novel Teaches Valuable Lessons

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Manami Tanaka's life on Bainbridge Island, Washington, is nothing remarkable.  The 10-year-old spends her days going to school, walking with her grandfather along the beach, and playing with her dog, Yujiin.  It's only when she's forced to leave her home that Manami realizes how much she's lost.  Ordered to relocate to an interment camp in California, she must give up not just her freedom, but also the companionship of her beloved dog.  It's this sacrifice that breaks her heart and steals her voice.

With around 10,000 residents, Manzanar is bursting at the seams.  The camp is like a large village, boasting its own school, hospital, store, baseball diamond, and cemetery.  Living in such crowded quarters is bad enough, but the people interred there have to deal with the unrelenting heat, dust, and confinement.  Manami feels as if she might go crazy.  She needs Yujiin now more than she ever has.  If she sends him pictures, will her faithful companion come running?  Will her family be happy again?  Or will Manami be forever mute, lonely, and sad?

Paper Wishes, Lois Sepahban's fictional debut, paints a vivid, sympathetic picture of the plight of Japanese Americans unfairly interred during World War II.  Through young Manami, we get a feel for the fear, anger, and dismay that must have accompanied such an experience.  Although short and spare, Paper Wishes teaches some valuable lessons about prejudice, hope, and making the best of bad situations.  It's an interesting, poignant story.  Its plot is quite thin, however, making the tale drag in places.  Because of this, I liked Paper Wishes, I just didn't love it.

(Readalikes:  I haven't read any other children's books on this subject.  Have you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and scary situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

4 comments:

  1. It's not a children's book, but I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which deals with the Japanese-American experience from a Chinese-American perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's such a sad period in our history; it's good that they're still writing books about it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, it's great that someone wrote a children's book on this subject, since it's too often glossed over in history books. Even though you mentioned that the plot is thin, I'm putting this on my list. Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  4. The interment of the Japanese Americans is so heartbreaking to me. I've never read a story about it from a child's perspective.

    ReplyDelete

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