A Place to Belong

So devastating and yet so gorgeous.  This book takes a unique approach to the story of Japanese Internment. The story opens when the World War II is over. Hanako’s parents have agreed to renounce their US Citizenship and  move to Japan to live with her grandparents. Jiichan (grandfather) and Baachan (grandmother) are tenant subsistence farmers near Hiroshima. One of the characters is a boy who was bombed in that city and lost his ear and has a scarred back due to the bomb, a starving street boy. With Hanako, you experience everything a sensitive pre-teen would notice about post war Japan. Kadohata has this “slice of life” narrative style that seems tailor made for this story. This was the book Kadohata was born to write (she’s been working on it for 10 years) and it was just nominated for the National Book Award. Strongly recommended for 5th grade and up to adult. (Read this first before your 3rd or 4th grader attempts it or perhaps read it together.)

“This is a book to sink deep into.”  Horn Book Magazine, starred review


Island War by Patricia Reilly Giff

Book CoverIzzy comes to the island with her birder mother after the death of her father; Matt reluctantly accompanies his aloof father, engaged in military intelligence. Izzy and Matt are secretly left behind while the Japanese soldiers evacuate and occupy the island, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Will Matt and Izzy survive? Or will the soldiers discover them? This book is part history, part survivalist fiction, part dog story, and all gripping. Quick, fascinating and heartfelt, written by one of our master storytellers.

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

Evan’s father died with a yellow bound book in his hand.  The yellow book contains the journal of a Japanese soldier, who was stranded on a small island in the Pacific during WWII.  As Evan cracks the journal open he realizes that it was recovered by his estranged grandfather, a U.S. Marine and that the stranded Japanese soldier never made it off the island.  Now this grandfather (Griff), who Evan’s never met, is coming to help put Evan’s father’s estate in order.

The arrival of his grandfather and the information contained in the yellow book send Evan down the rabbit’s hole.   If his father hated Griff so much, why was he reading this journal?  The night before he died Evan’s father said that Griff may have been a murderer.   What did he mean? Did his father read something in the journal?  Evan has to get to the truth and is seems like Griff is actively hiding something from him.  The Emperor of Any Place blends Evan story and the story of the Japanese soldier seamlessly.  The tension between Evan and his grandfather, Griff keeps the reader engaged the whole story.  This is a great blend of historical fiction and realistic fiction.

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