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Dear America: The Fences Between Us Hardcover – September 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8–In 1941 Seattle, Piper Davis is a typical 13-year-old in many ways: she enjoys spending time with her friends, listening to big-band music, and walking home from school with the boy she's sweet on. Since her mother died when she was a baby, her father, pastor at the Japanese Baptist Church, has raised Piper and her older sister and brother. She has never found straddling the two distinct communities unusual; however, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, her world is turned upside down. Suddenly, families from her father's church are being singled out: the FBI has no qualms about arresting American-born Japanese, and “No Japs” signs appear in downtown shop windows. Most of her school friends believe that the Japanese students should be expelled and can't understand why Piper defends them, especially since her brother, Hank, was at Pearl Harbor. When her father announces that he and Piper will follow their congregation to the Minidoka War Relocation Camp in Idaho, she is furious that she is being uprooted from her friends and her home. Over the following months, though, she develops an appreciation for her father's courage, and her previous acquaintance with Betty Sato deepens into a close friendship. While Cynthia Kadohata's Weedflower (S & S, 2006) explores this infamous period in American history through the eyes of a Japanese-American girl, Piper's convincing narration allows readers to appreciate the dilemma that occurs when individual rights seem to clash with national security. The thought-provoking themes are supplemented by a comprehensive historical note, photographs, and resources, and an abundance of online activities on the publisher's site.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Scholastic has reinvigorated its venerable Dear America series of diary-format historical novels with an interactive Web site and newly designed titles by award-winning writers, including this first release from Larson, author of the Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky (2006). In 1941 Seattle, 13-year-old Piper Davis enjoys moving between two communities: junior high and the congregation at a Japanese Baptist church, where her father is a pastor. Then, just months after Piper’s beloved brother joins the navy, Japanese planes bomb Pearl Harbor. Larson deftly folds historical detail into Piper’s lively diary entries, which describe her friendships, first romance, and school dramas as well as her view of the subsequent internment of Japanese Americans and the prejudice against sympathizers, including her family. Eventually, Piper’s father follows his congregation to a camp in Idaho, and Piper’s emotional accounts of life there will stir readers. A fictional epilogue, extensive historical notes, photos and maps, a glossary, and an author’s note complete this moving title with obvious curricular ties that will draw readers beyond the classroom, too. Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Series: Dear America
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 Reprint edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545224187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545224185
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born at Fort Lawton Army Hospital in Seattle and haven't moved very far from there since. When I was a senior in high school, I got into an argument with a guy in the school library. Four years later, we were married. We have a son, Tyler, who lives in Brooklyn and works in film and TV; a daughter, Quinn, who is such a terrific interior designer she can even make our house look good and a son-in-law, Matt, who thinks he has a full-time job as an accountant but his real job is helping me with computer problems.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary L. Nethery on September 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished reading Kirby Larson's The Fences Between Us and learned more about what our Japanese American citizens had to endure during WWII than I ever learned from a history class. We re-live this tragic era in our history through the eyes of teen Piper Davis, whose father, a pastor for a Japanese Baptist church, decides to follow his congregants when they're sent to an incarceraton camp, bringing Piper with him. Larson's incredible artistry and skill is on full display as she creates a world that immerses you in the period and creates characters you don't want to say goodbye to, at the same time grounding her story in primary source details. I highly recommend this book to both middle grade students and teachers for use in history/social studies curriculum. Nothing draws students into history more powerfully than a beautifully told story!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Tanenbaum VINE VOICE on November 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Award-winning author Kirby Larson, author of many outstanding titles including the Newbery winner Hattie Big Sky, offers us the first title in a relaunch of Scholastic's popular Dear America series. The Fences Between Us is the diary of Piper Davis, the appealing 13-year old daughter of a pastor at a Japanese Baptist church in 1941 Seattle. When her 18-year old big brother Hank and his two best buddies (known among themselves as the Three Musketeers) enlist in the Navy, they're sent to Pearl Harbor, where the family thinks they will be far away from any action. In the meantime, Piper and her best friend Trixie share typical girl worries--does Bud with the gorgeous green eyes who's in their class really like Piper? The reader knows, though, that trouble is coming, and we live with Piper through the shock of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the terror of not knowing if her brother is alive or dead.

Soon Japanese-Americans she has known her whole life are arrested by the FBI, and sent to prison, without proper charges. Her life at home is changing too, as her older sister gets married to her sweetheart, who soon ships off to England, and then begins working at Boeing as one of the Rosie Riveters. And although she's not really supposed to date, Piper's secretly going steady with Bud, who's given her his pin, and she's exploring her love for photography as she studies Margaret Bourke-White for a school report. But things are about to become much worse for her father's congregants. Piper watches as the Japanese from Bainbridge Island are the first to go, sent to Camp Harmony, a place where there is nothing harmonic at all. A former fairgrounds, Japanese-American families sleep in converted horse stalls.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Herman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When thirteen-year-old Piper Davis's older brother, Hank, joins the Navy after graduation from high school in 1941, she is mostly just sad because it will mean she won't get to see her beloved big brother for a long time. After Hank leaves home, a family friend gives Piper a diary, and she writes about school, her friends, her interest in photography, and the news of the wars in Europe and Asia, which seem far away and unlikely to affect her life. That all changes, however, on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, where her brother is stationed.

From that day on, everything changes in Piper's life. The war and her worry for her brother's safety are constantly on her mind. And having grown up as the daughter of the pastor at a Japanese Baptist Church, she has many Japanese friends and neighbors. It saddens Piper to see the discrimination against the Japanese-Americans, many of whom were born in the United States. When the Japanese are forced to leave their homes, Piper's father decides to follow his congregation to the internment camp, and takes Piper with him. At first Piper deeply resents her father for taking her away from her home and friends. But she soon learns that what she has lost pales in comparison to the suffering of her Japanese friends and neighbors, incarcerated far from home in a place barely fit for humans to live in.

As a long time fan of the Dear America series I was eagerly anticipating reading The Fences Between Us, the first new book in the series in several years, and I am happy to say I was not at all disappointed. Piper's diary is both entertaining and educational, bringing to life both everyday life for a young girl during World War II, as well as the wrongful incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in internment camps. I highly recommend this book to both old and new fans of the Dear America series.
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Format: Hardcover
Twelve-year-old Piper Davis receives a diary as a gift just as the world is about to explode into chaos, and she writes it all down. She begins writing on November 8, 1941 about her much-adored big brother, Hank, who has enlisted in the Navy. Hank is positive that the United States won't get involved in the storms brewing in Europe and that he will be in a peacetime navy. She still can't help but worry about him, yet, at the same time, she's so proud of him. Piper lives in Seattle, Washington, with her big sister, who attends college, and her pastor father, who has a church attended mostly by Japanese-Americans. Hank calls after he finishes boot camp to tell the family he has been assigned to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Piper writes to him all the time and uses her passion for photography to send lots of photos to remind him of home.

Then the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and the entire country is shocked. But for Piper, the wait to hear from her brother is absolute torture. Word from Hank finally arrives, and he's okay, but one of his friends is killed and another seriously wounded. Plus, the country has now entered the war, and Hank will be stationed on a ship heading out to battle. At home, life is changing for Piper and everyone else. Rationing puts a strain on comforts, but most are proud to help the country in any way, including planting victory gardens and collecting rubber. But another change in the country is a new bigotry towards Japanese-Americans. Hate crimes spread like disease, with shops refusing service to the Japanese and innocent citizens being thrown in jail. And then the government creates Japanese incarceration camps.

Every person of Japanese descent, even little old ladies and tiny babies, is rounded up and imprisoned in incarceration camps.
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