Genre: middle-grade historical fiction
Length: 244 pages
Setting: Hawaii, around the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Interest: Mr. Curiosity chose it as his latest bedtime story because it has to do with WWII. I’m sure that’s why I bought the book in the first place.
Summary: Tomi’s parents moved to Hawaii from Japan before he was born. His father is a fisherman and his mother works as a cleaning lady at the Wilson’s house. Tomi plays baseball with a couple of local boys, nicknamed the Rats. Things have become a bit tense since Japan started fighting the U.S. and it only gets worse when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Tomi’s father is captured off his fishing boat and sent to an internment camp. The Wilson’s don’t want his mother working for them and even the shopkeepers won’t serve his family. Things are looking pretty dire for his family, but they manage to make it though with the help of some friends, like the Rats.
Final thoughts: Mr. Curiosity and I really enjoyed this book. The point of view was unique and quite fascinating. You had a Japanese-American boy who really just wants to play baseball, but is forced to consider larger themes like honor and integrity because of outside, worldwide events. The author did a great job capturing the tone boys take with each other, including all the joking insults (many of them racially oriented) so common among boys. Even Tomi’s friend, Billy, the one white character, was teased because of his racial identity since he was in the minority among the Rats. Tomi was forced to deal with people who hated him just because of how he looked. Luckily, he had a good friend in Billy, who stuck by him, no matter what.
This is definitely for a slightly older crowd (I’d say 10 and up) since there is a bit of language (mostly racial slurs that aren’t common anymore). There’s also some intense scenes, like when Tomi and his grandfather have to kill all their pigeons since they might be carrying messages to the enemy. It does make a great read aloud since the dialogue between the boys is an integral part of the story. You just have to read the adults with a Japanese accent. Apparently, it was also made into a movie in 2014.
Title comes from: A reference to the Japanese flag that shadowed Tomi and his family because of their heritage.
Awards won: Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Reading challenges fulfilled: 14/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, a U in my Title Alphabet Challenge, and 5/12 in my Award Winning Challenge.
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