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Tallgrass Paperback – February 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An ugly murder is central to this compelling historical, but the focus is on one appealing family, the Strouds, in the backwater town of Ellis, Colo. Soon after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up all the Japanese residents of the West Coast and shipped them off to "internment camps" for the duration of the war. One of the camps is Tallgrass, based on an actual Colorado camp, as Dallas (The Chili Queen) explains in her acknowledgments. The major discomforts and petty indignities these (mostly) American citizens had to endure are viewed through the clear eyes of a young girl who lives on a nearby farm, Rennie Stroud. Rennie's obvious love of family slowly extends itself to the Japanese house and field helpers the Strouds receive permission to hire. The final surprise is the who and why of the murder itself. Dallas's terrific characters, unerring ear for regional dialects and ability to evoke the sights and sounds of the 1940s make this a special treat. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Dallas has made a major contribution to a growing body of literature about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Based on the one camp in Colorado (named Amache, and renamed Tallgrass by the author), the story focuses on the impact it had on the local farmers and townspeople. It is told from the viewpoint of Rennie Stroud, 13, and poignantly portrays the emotional turmoil of both the internees and local residents. Suspicion, fear, anger, hatred, love, tenderness, pride, regret: Rennie adapts and readapts to all of these as her predictable life vanishes behind the reality of war, murder, and injustice. After a young local girl is killed, most of the town looks in one direction for the murderer. Rennie, blessed with wise and just parents, manages to rise above the prevailing rush to judgment. Part mystery, part historical fiction, part coming-of-age story, Tallgrass has all the elements of a tale well told: complex characters, intriguing plot, atmospheric detail, pathos, humor, and memorable turns of phrase. But most of all, the book offers a fresh look at a theme that can never be ignored: the interplay of good and evil within society and within people.–Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312360207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312360207
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Prize-winning author Sandra Dallas was dubbed "a quintessential American voice" by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra's novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.

A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Sandra began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. A staff member for twenty-five years (and the magazine's first female bureau chief,) she covered the Rocky Mountain region, writing about everything from penny-stock scandals to hard-rock mining, western energy development to contemporary polygamy. Many of her experiences have been incorporated into her novels.

While a reporter, she began writing the first of ten nonfiction books. They include Sacred Paint, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award, and The Quilt That Walked to Golden, recipient of the Independent Publishers Assn. Benjamin Franklin Award.

Turning to fiction in 1990, Sandra has published nine novels, including Whiter Than Snow, and the New York Times best seller Prayers for Sale. Sandra is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award for New Mercies, and two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award, for The Chili Queen and Tallgrass. In addition, she was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Assn. Award, and a four-time finalist for the Women Writing the West Willa Award.

The mother of two daughters--Dana is an attorney in New Orleans and Povy is a photographer in Golden, Colorado--Sandra lives in Denver with her husband, Bob.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Gayla M. Collins VINE VOICE on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
After the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor during WWII, President Roosevelt signed an act that forced Japanese American's to be relocated to interment camps. One such camp, built on beet field land in Colorado, brought much change to the small town of Ellis. Rennie, 13, and her family of 5 own the beet farm close to the camp and through this innocent, yet wise little girl we learn the perils of such a blatant act of prejudice.

Rennie and her family find the Japanese American's to be good people, thus hiring them for farming and help within their home to the chagrin and chastising of many residents of Ellis. Much upheaval brews, including the rape and sodomy of a Susan Riddick, a young friend of Rennie's. Enraged that something this heinous hadn't happened in their little town before the "Japs" came, many Ellis residents blame the Japanese American internees. There in lies a mystery entwined into a book about people unnerved by change and riled by ignorance.

Sandra Dallas's characters are always "everyday" folk. Their wisdom comes from the college of hard knocks and how they learn is determined by their ability to process life as a burden or a gift. Adding a mystery to her plots keeps the reader engrossed, unsettled, angered and ultimately richer in knowledge. That is what a great book is suppose to do and Sandra Dallas delivers with a one-two punch.

I highly recommend this lovely book
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By P. Lassak on May 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This story, told through the eyes of a 13 year old girl caught my full attention from the first paragraph and never disappointed me throughout the entire story. When I picked up the book to read a new chapter I was immediately transported back to WW II Colorado (and America) and felt the characters were people I knew. This was a book that I did not want to end but, alas, it had to. I have read most of Ms. Dallas' other works and consider her a favorite author of mine because she develops her characters with such depth that one really feels they know them. Keep up the good work and I would not be at all surprised if this book was made into a movie.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on March 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
TALLGRASS is set during World War II and a major focus is the plight of the Japanese "relocated" to internment camps after Pearl Harbor. The novel is told through the eyes of Rennie, a thirteen year old farm girl, who lives near one of these camps in the community of Ellis, Colorado. Ellis is a fictionalized version of the real town of Granada which was the site of the only internment camp in Colorado. Granada like the fictional Ellis is in the southeast part of the state, a sparsely populated farming area that has more in common with the neighboring Oklahoma Panhandle than suburban Denver or the upscale mountain towns of Colorado.

One of Rennie's school friends, who had been crippled by polio, is found brutally murdered. The area people quickly assume one or more of the Japanese must have committed the crime and this murder mystery and the local folk's reaction to it form the central plot of the book. Several interesting subplots also keep reader's engaged until all are neatly tied up at the novel's end.

Sandra Dallas does a good job of bringing Rennie, her family, friends and the other often bigoted rural residents to life. She portrays small town attitudes during World War II as well as farm/ranch life in that era accurately. The weakest point of the book is that the Japanese people, several of whom are hired to work at Rennie's family's sugar beet farm, are not as well developed as the other characters. The book is of similar length and style to the several other novels Sandra Dallas has published and as in many of her novels quilting and women's sewing circles play an important part.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By ann on April 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this book was totally engrossing, very evocative of the time period and the attiutudes of some of the characters in the early world war 2 setting. it's told through the eyes of a young girl coming to terms with both the goodness and the ugliness in the world. i couldn't put it down.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lit Lady on October 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This heartwarming coming of age tale has many elements that combine into a wonderful story - history, prejudice, human decency, mystery, and quirky characters. Having read When the Emperor Was Divine, which was told from the Japanese point of view, I was interested to read again about the WWII internment camps from a different perspective. The characters in this novel were absolutely wonderful, especially Rennie, her mom and her dad. Even the characters I did not like were interesting and the book provided a lot to think about. This would be a terrific book club book.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By P. Capps on January 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some reviewers compare this to "To Kill a Mockingbird," and with good reason. There are several elements that are taken from TKMB, for instance, the father standing tall against bigotry and the schoolyard fighting over that. I'm rather surprised that there hasn't been some talk about what has been lifted clearly from TKMB.

Why this book is Young Adult has to do with the language used by narrator in telling the reader about the events of that time. The vocabulary and sentence constructions are about eighth-grade level. "To Kill a Mockingbird," by contrast, is told via adult vocabulary and perspective by its narrator, the grown woman Scout. This is particularly effective because such language allows for multiple meanings -- a wry look at childhood's perspectives, a mythological sense of what happened that summer, and the perspective that the passing of time has given the adult narrator (among other haunting effects). In fact, the key element of TKMB's power is the narrator's language. Such tools are not available to the writer of "Tallgrass" because of her committment to a childish vocabulary and parallel emotional perspective of the main character. Much has thus been lost in what could have been a powerful retelling of a year's pivotal events. "Tallgrass" remains a Young Adult story, engaging and sometimes compelling, with heartfelt characterizations, but is ultimately disappointing to the adult reader.
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