From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4–Lee-Tai based this story on the experiences of her grandparents and her mother, who were interned in Topaz, Utah, during World War II. With quiet understatement, the text focuses on the confusion and sadness young Mari feels after her familys abrupt relocation to the camp. In the harsh desert landscape, she thinks wistfully of her home, where she played with her brother in a yard filled with flowers. Her parents are worried about her silence and listlessness, but an art class offers her a means of expressing her feelings. She makes a friend as well, and when her desert sunflowers put up seedlings, she feels a new sense of hope. The story is told in both English and Japanese, and the earth-toned illustrations, created using watercolors, ink, tissue paper, and acrylic paint, nicely detail the simple plot. Hoshino modeled some of her compositions on those of Hisako Hibi, the authors grandmother and a prominent Japanese-American painter. Other picture books dealing with this topic include Eve Buntings So Far from the Sea
(Clarion, 1998), Yoshiko Uchidas The Bracelet
(Philomel, 1993), and Rick Noguchi and Deneen Jenkss Flowers from Mariko
(Lee & Low, 2001). Lee-Tais tale, with its emphasis on the internees dignity and feelings, offers the gentlest introduction to this tragic episode.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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Gr. 1-3. Inspired by the experiences of the author's Japanese American grandparents at Utah's Topaz Relocation Center during World War II, this picture book, presented in English alongside a Japanese translation, celebrates the "sense of purpose and peace" that the act of creation can bring. Everything seems grim about young Mari's life in the desert camp, where "the mountains, the vast sky, and the blazing sun made [her] feel as small as a sunflower seed." However, with gentle encouragement from her parents and art teacher, Mari crayons colorful pictures that lift her spirits, paralleling the sprouting of sunflower seeds in her mother's parched garden. The message feels a bit overt, and the slightly wandering story line may not hold every reader. Still, Hoshino's delicate mixed-media illustrations offer a wide-angle view of the daily lives of internees, and her buff-colored backdrops palpably convey the dusty, arid setting. Although a preface and endnote offer historical background, it's so brief that the book will probably work best as a supplement to more straightforward nonfiction about the time. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved