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Aleutian Sparrow Paperback – June 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 9
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; Reprint edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416903275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416903277
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up-In June, 1942, Japanese forces attacked the Aleutian Islands. Within days of the attack, the U.S. military removed the Native people of these islands to relocation centers in Alaska's southwest, supposedly for their own protection. Conditions in these camps were deplorable. The Aleuts were held for approximately three years, and many of them died. In a series of short, unrhymed verses, Hesse tells this moving story through the eyes and voice of a girl of Aleut and Caucasian heritage. The novel begins at a happy time for Vera, in May, 1942, and ends with her return home in April, 1945. During the course of the story, readers see all that the Aleut people endure during these years-bewilderment, prejudice, despair, illness, death, and everyday living that does include moments of humor and even a budding romance for Vera. Hesse's verses are short and flow seamlessly, one into another. Her use of similes is a powerful tool in describing people, scenes, events, and emotions. Some less sophisticated readers, however, may not catch the nuances of phrases such as, "-where blossoms framed the steaming pools like masses of perfumed hair" or "-where the old ways steep like tea in a cup of hours." Ending on a hopeful note, Aleutian Sparrow brings to light an important time in American history, and in the process introduces readers to Aleut culture.
Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-12. Through the eyes of teenager Vera, Hesse dramatizes a little-known part of World War II history, the U.S. government's forced relocation of the Aleutian Islanders from their homes in Alaska to rough resettlement camps more than 1,000 miles away. But, unlike Hesse's Newbery winner Out of the Dust (1997), the prose poems constituting the narrative are jerky, disconnected, and distancing. A more direct personal narrative (with a map) might have been more accessible and more eloquent than these short, scattered vignettes. It's the dark history of what Americans did to their own citizens that will hold readers: after the Japanese bombed Unalaska Island in 1942, the U.S. evacuated most of the Aleut people to alien, crowded camps, where one out of four died. As Vera talks about her life in the camps, she also weaves in her people's past history and culture, ensuring that readers will want to know more. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

My sole quibble, if you will, with this book is its categorization as "juvenile fiction."
I think that is very interesting because each and every one of those paragraph talks about something different, and that is another reason I kept reading the book.
Mystery Man
If you like reading dramatic stories, read ALEUTIAN SPARROW to find out what happens to Vera and her community.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By WILLIAM H FULLER on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I did not set out this morning to read or to review Karen Hesse's ALEUTIAN SPARROW, but one of my wife's faculty colleagues at the university had lent it to her, and, when she told me that the setting focused on the Aleutian Islands and Ketchikan, I knew I had to look at it, too. Once I began, I found myself unable to pause until I had passed the last page, the author's end note, and the dust jacket notes.

Fiction this little book may be. A cheechako from the eastern shores of the Lower-48 the author may be. But neither of these facts lessens the emotional impact of ALEUTIAN SPARROW upon the reader. Narrated in the first person by an Aleut girl, each page offers what might have been a brief diary entry, and through her eyes we experience the ineffable sadness, the degradation, the physical suffering, and the emotional distress of a people forced from their homes, uprooted from their lands, severed from their possessions, and transported to rude camps by their own government "for their own protection" during the first three years of World War II.

Through the eyes of our young narrator, we see the racial, cultural and economic bigotry, as well as some kindnesses, of the local Alaskan caucasian population against the Aleuts (who had never wanted to be in their backyards in the first place). We view the lack of understanding and, therefore, the lack of compassion, between cultures. We witness the lack of adequate medical care for the displaced villagers, and, helpless, we watch many of them sicken and die, their bodies sometimes to be floated from their graves to become food for bears.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Laura Lynn Walsh on October 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to convey the entirety of the experience of the Aleutians after the Japanese bombing - their confusion and dismay at being taken away from their homes and villages, the nearly total lack of compassion their "rescuers" demonstrated toward their homes, their lives, and their people. In this heartbreaking account of the relocation of the Aleutians for 3 years during World War II, Karen Hesse beautifully and movingly conveys the feelings of one young girl who grows up in this time.
This is one case where free verse seems to be the best medium to convey the story. Free verse appeals to images and emotions and not just plot. In truth, this book is not plot driven; you don't read it to find out what happens next. You read it because it tells you how it felt, what it looked like, how it changed the people.
It joins a long line of books, some of which deal in a parallel manner with the relocation of people of Japanese ancestry from the west coast during the war, some of which deal with other events, such as the bringing of diseases and religious, linguistic, and cultural changes by early missionaries to these and other peoples. All of these make you wonder, "Why?" How could we have been so cruel, so lacking in understanding? What are we doing even now that, in future years, we will again look upon with sadness and horror at people's inhumanity toward other people?
As a teacher, I feel books like this make excellent complements to classroom textbooks. Books like this make history come alive and feel real. And they provide some balance. It is not only Hitler who did unspeakable things; there are other examples, from both "sides" - throughout history.
And a brief compliment to the illustrator and cover designers. It is a beautiful book as well.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Aleutian Sparrow," by Karen Hesse, tells the story of how the Aleut people of Alaska's Aleutian Islands were removed from their homes during World War II and sent to evacuation camps on the Alaskan mainland. The story is told in the first person by Vera, the daughter of an Aleut woman and a white man. The front cover describes this book as a novel. However, the text is presented in the form of a series of short free verse poems which stylistically reminded me somewhat of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Inside the back cover is some information about author Hesse; it is noted, "A school visit to Ketchikan, Alaska, was the genesis for this book." Also mentioned is that she lives in Vermont. In an "Author's Note" Hesse states that the book "is a work of fiction based on true events." The story covers the time period from May 1942 to April 1945.

Hesse's poetic language is beautiful; she creates phrases and images that are bold and refreshing. Her narrative is rich in details that illuminate her Aleut characters' lives both on the islands and at the mainland evacuation camps. The poems cover recreation, transportation, work, food, and other aspects of life. Particularly interesting is Hesse's portrait of the Aleut people's pre-evacuation relationship to the land on which they live, the sea that surrounds them, and the plants and animals that share these spaces. The significant themes of the book include relationships among three generations of Aleuts, relations between Aleuts and whites, the tension between Americanization and the preservation of traditional Aleut culture, Aleut folklore, and the struggle of the Aleuts to deal with life in a very alien environment while evacuated to the mainland.

"Aleutian Sparrow" is a tragic, ironic, and haunting narrative.
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