Awards: New York Historical Society Book Prize Finalist
Bank Street Best Book of 2013
Judy Lopez Memorial Awards Honor Book
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary: Tetsu’s family is forced to move to an internment camp due to the fact that they are Japanese American. After Pearl Harbor, these camps are set up to prevent danger from these American’s. The novel is about Tetsu and his family as they adapt to life on this camp. Tetsu and other boys on the camp begin to play baseball and eventually receive a field of their own. These boys play baseball to pass the time. This novel takes readers through the lives of people who were forced to live in these camps.
Audience: I believe students anywhere from fifth to eight grade would enjoy this book. Anything younger than this, students would have a hard time staying interested. The fact that baseball is so present throughout the novel, I believe students who are interested in sports would enjoy it.
Themes: One of the obvious themes throughout this novel is that of baseball. For the boys in the camp, baseball is not only a way to pass the time but it is a way to come together and make life at camp feel somewhat normal. It represents the fact that they indeed still are American as baseball is considered America’s pastime. Baseball becomes a way of life for these kids.
Another theme found in the book is that of normality. Throughout the entire novel, Tetsu and his family are constantly attempting to make life in the camp normal. As stated, baseball is a way Tetsu tries to find normal. Tetsu’s sister does this by finding small animals to make pets. They had a pet before they were forced onto the camp so she felt as though a pet at camp was necessary.
Evidence: “I heard on the radio that all major league ballparks will play the Star Spangled Banner before each game now, he said, cheerful. They used to only play that song before World Series games or on opening day” Page 13. I chose this quote because I think it really shows that although these boys were stuck on this camp, they still cared deeply for the country they lived in and truly were happy to hear the news of the Star Spangled Banner being played before each game. This shows that just because they were Japanese American, they were not trying to harm the US in any way.
“But first I’d throw the ball to Lefty. I’d throw it as far as I could and watch him run to catch the ball, and it would, almost, be like before.” Page 250. I think this quote summarizes life for the people who were forced to live on the camp. Once they left all of their old lives, nothing would ever be the same. Even Tetsu realizes that once they return to their old house and their old lives, nothing would be the same as it had been before they left.
Connections: This book could be used in conjunction with a history lesson about why Japanese Americans were forced onto these camps after Pearl Harbor.
Reactions: I found this to be an overall interesting book. I liked the way the chapters were short and normally covered a single topic. I think students would enjoy being able to quickly read this novel. The short chapters would give readers with a lower ability a chance to read a bit of a longer book.
Reception: “Let me start out by saying that I am NOT a fan of baseball, so it was with some reluctance that I picked up this book. It turns out to be one of the best books I've read in a while!” Review 1.
“This is an okay book for an upper elementary or middle school student who has never read about Japanese internment camps. I have read others on the same topic that I found more engaging, so this didn't exactly hold my attention.” Review 2.
Hyperlinks: Kathryn Fitzmaurice