ABOUT THE BOOK
A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II--and the dog she has to leave behind.
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, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but 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 accept all that has happened to her family.
Historical fiction is a genre that many children avoid under the mistaken impression that history is boring or unrelated to their contemporary lives. When I can get students to pick up books like this one, they learn differently. Manami makes for a great sympathetic character. Her love for her dog and her family shines through loud and clear, which is why when her dog, Yujiin, is taken from her on her way to the forced internment camp that she and the rest of her Japanese American family are heading to, she's unwilling to forgive herself. As a result, she stop's talking. Adjusting to this desert that is so different from the island she comes from is hard, but having her family helps, especially when her brother, Ron shows up to be with them. In addition, she loves her new teacher, Miss Rosalie. Manami and her family must find a way to survive this utterly unfair treatment and make their fenced in new residence a home. I have a hard time reading about the Japanese Internment during World War II because it was so wrong in assuming all Japanese Americans were possible spies, including children. And like many such stories, this one had me in tears as I read about Manami's struggles coming to grips with the loss of almost everything familiar and her beloved dog. Sepahban has done a suburb job telling this story in flowing language. The characterizations are beautifully done and the I could almost breathe the dust with Manami. I'd say this one is worthy of Newbery consideration and a place in most elementary libraries.