Although I typically try not to reveal too much of the plot in my reviews, I feel the need to elaborate a bit on how subject matter such as WWII and Japanese Internment Camps can be covered in a tasteful, gentle, yet honest manner. These books are told from the viewpoint of children, usually around middle-school in age, but keep in mind this book was published in 1999 and the historical fiction context excludes much behavior one may expect to read about in a book about middle-school kids now. The children in this book have family friends who are Japanese, they have known this family who runs a hotel for a few years. When Pearl Harbor’s attack was announced, the children began to recognize the racist comments and propaganda against Japanese people, even those that are American citizens.
We hear how their Japanese friends, the Wakamutsu family, are fearful the husband/father will be imprisoned. We learn that the Wakamutsus choose to burn any belongings from their homeland, even old letters from relatives, because they do not want to be considered suspect. Eventually, the entire Wakamutsu family is informed they will be relocated to a camp. The main characters take over the management of the hotel business for their friends, but do write to them and are able to visit them once. The family was staying at muddy fairgrounds with thousands of other Japanese families and individuals. The Wakamutsu family is an example of being honorable, kind, and respectful despite hardships. While a deeper look into the conditions this family may have endured may have revealed it would be extremely challenging, I feel the gentle introduction of the subject is appropriate for my children ages 5-11.
We have thoroughly enjoyed this entire series. I have learned more about American History through these engaging chapter books than I probably did in all of the years I attended elementary school.