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Under the Blood-Red Sun Mass Market Paperback – April 26, 2005

115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Salisbury (Blue Skin of the Sea) again invokes a Hawaiian setting for this novel, which chronicles the trials of a Japanese American boy and his immigrant family in 1941. Tomi's fisherman father and housekeeper mother work hard to support Tomi, his younger sister and grandfather in their cramped servants' house. While he embraces everything about being American, including a passion for baseball, Tomi struggles to find some middle ground between his modern life and the nationalism and traditional values his parents and Grandpa try to impart. But as WWII intensifies and Pearl Harbor is bombed, Tomi's family faces racism, violence and hardship at every turn. Tomi's father and grandfather are taken away and incarcerated, leaving Tomi to worry if he can perform honorably as man of the house. Salisbury skillfully describes Tomi's emotional highs and lows, and has a particular knack for realistically portraying the camaraderie and dialogue between boyhood chums. The slow-evolving plot drags in a few spots (especially the play-by-play descriptions of baseball games), but readers are rewarded with steadily building dramatic tension in the novel's second half and a satisfyingly open-ended finale. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-September, 1941 is a time of increasing confusion for Tomi Nakaji, 13, who lives on the island of Oahu. As if his gruff, stroke-slowed grandfather, who insists on waving his Japanese flag around the yard, isn't enough, he has to contend with Keet Wilson, the bully next door. From a treetop, Tomi and his haole (white) best friend, Billy, witness in disbelief the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Tomi finds the horrors personalized as his father, a poor fisherman, and later his grandfather are arrested and his father's fishing partner is killed. Tomi assumes responsibility for the family honor and katama, or samurai sword. Racial/ethnic tension is subtly portrayed throughout the novel, but escalates following the Japanese attack- Tomi's mother loses her job as a housekeeper and Billy "disappears" for awhile, though he returns as a loyal and helpful friend. Tomi faces his fears and becomes assertive enough to stand up to Keet without besmirching his family's honor and risks his life to see his imprisoned father. Character development of major figures is good, the setting is warmly realized, and the pace of the story moves gently though inexorably forward. While it may be a bit more aimed than pitched, the ending leaves readers confident that the Nakajis will survive.
Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 640L (What's this?)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf; Reprint edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553494872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553494877
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I hope what gives my books their sense of authenticity, other than the natural inculcation of the island physical and cultural landscape, which ends up in my sentences by osmosis, is my use of language. In Hawaii we often speak what we call pidgin English, a kind of tropical patois. For example, in Standard English one would say, "I am going home." In Hawaiian pidgin it would be, "I going home." A simple thing, but over the course of a novel it becomes a bigger thing, a part of a character's being. It resonates. Syntax, too, creates that feeling of authenticity. It comes to me naturally, thank heaven. I don't have to work at it because I simply hear it. If I had to fake it I'd be laughed off the face of the earth. So, growing up in the islands was my gift. My writing is just me spewing it back.

As for the work itself, I'm big on certain issues having to do with boys and growing up. I guess this is so because of my own fractured upbringing. Much of who I am is self-imposed. I am my choices, and I have chosen to walk a certain path. Important to me are such qualities as honesty, friendship, honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, work and passion. Life for anyone is a series of choices, and I hope that fact gets some play in my books. Luckily for me, I have made some good choices. It could have been different. I could have taken pride in the wrong moves, as many boys do. It's cool to be tough. Beating the spit out of someone is good for the rep. It's honorable to attack someone who "disrespects" you by, perhaps, accidentally bumping into you (Hey! You like I broke your face or what?). Right. I could have fallen into that mindset. But I didn't, and I lay all credit to that on one man: James Monroe Taylor, my high school headmaster.

At the end of my sixth grade year my mom saw the light - she kicked my sorry okole out of the house and sent me to boarding school. It was in the middle of Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii, and was the most precious gift she ever could have given me. I loved it. For the first time in my life I had something I really, really, really needed: limits. It was like being at boot camp. Mr. Taylor, as part of his training, took us into his home in small groups and lectured us on the good qualities of life, all that stuff that is now so important to me: friendship, honor, etc. Of course, it was my duty at that time to laugh it off. That fat old man was out of his head. But his words stuck, and because they did, whenever I was presented with a sticky situation I was able to fall back on that foundation and use it to make the better choice. My mother and Mr. Taylor. My hat's off to both of them.

In my career as an author, I've spoken to a bazillion kids, mostly in grades 6 through 8. It's been fun, truly. But I had an epiphany one day, and my newest creation, Calvin Coconut, came to be because of it.

I once spoke to a large group of fifth and sixth graders in a huge gymnasium, and was leaving the school, heading down the hall with the teacher who had invited me. "There's a third grade teacher here in our school who just loves your books," she said as we walked, "and she asked me to ask you if you would be willing to just stop by her class and say hi to her kids. They know about you, too, because she read them one of your short stories."

"Sure," I said. I'd never spoken to third graders. It might be fun.

Boy, was it.

The third grade teacher and every one of her students were literally glowing with excitement, having the AUTHOR in their classroom.

They gathered around, sitting in a semi-circle on the floor. I sat in a chair next to the teacher, who reached over and picked up a plate of cookies.

The kids all leaned forward, eyes bright as a thousand suns, rascally twinkles in them.

"Would you like to try one of the cookies we made in class?" she said.

I didn't, but I was on duty. "Uh, sure," I said.

She pushed the plate closer.

The kids did a magnificent job of stuffing back their giggles as I reached out and picked up a yummy-looking, but - I could tell -- very fake, cookie.

The teacher grinned and I played along and pretended to bite into it. "Bleecck!" I spat, and the kids roared, as if it were the funniest thing they'd ever seen in their lives.

And that's what got me: those beautiful, beautiful faces, all looking up at me in pure delight.

I ended up telling them a story of when I got stuck in a mass of mud, a story I love to tell, and they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

I left that school a new man, and vowed then and there that someday I was going to expand my writing to include this group. Because I loved those faces and yearn to absorb that energy.

I also wanted to include this younger audience because teachers have told me many, many times that they just can't get their boys interested in reading. I know of their plight. I was one of those boys. I read only one book on my own in all my elementary school years: TARZAN OF THE APES, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So Calvin Coconut and I have a job to do. Call Calvin Graham Salisbury light, because I'm bringing real life situations and themes for discussion into every Calvin book, just like I do in my books for older readers. I won't get heavy, I won't get edgy, and I won't be gratuitous. None of this is about me. It's about every kid out there today who is just like the wandering fool I was. Besides the simple enjoyment of writing, my aim is simple: to build trust and turn boys into lifetime readers.

I finally became a reader at thirty. That's how hard it is to get some boys to read. I'd like to join all my very fine writer/teacher/librarian/parent colleagues in changing that a bit. Reading changes everything. Boy, does it!


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 12, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A good book that I recently read is Under the Blood Red Sun. It is a realistic historical fiction book by Graham Salisbury. It takes place on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, before, during, and after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The story is told from the point-of-view of Tomikazu (Tomi), an innocent Japanese-American boy living near Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Then Pearl Harbor is bombed. Tomi must deal with racism, bullies, and cruelty.

Tomikazu is a friendly eighth-grade boy who likes to play baseball, and has consequently formed his own team, The Rats. He is loyal to his friends and will even face the crazy school bully, Keet Wilson, for them.

Billy and The rats are Tomi's best friends, being eighth grade and avid fans of baseball like he is. Billy is the friend that Tomi hangs out with the most. He is The Rat's star pitcher and is kind of shy.

From the very beginning, even before Pearl Harbor was bombed, Keet Wilson, the local bully, is a problem. He is a spoiled brat who can take down even Billy's older brother, Jake. His extremely strict father is Tomi's family's landlord, so they cannot do anything to harm him. However, after the bombing, Keet takes being mean to a whole new level. Keet reports Tomi's father and grandfather to the police, falsely accusing them of being Japanese agents. He also tells the police anything Tomi's family does, exaggerating it so it sounds like they are Japanese supporters. He kills Tomi's father's prize racing pigeons, saying that they are messenger pigeons. He also breaks Tomi's family's clothesline and spoils their water supply.

The book starts out several days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It encompasses some of The Rat's baseball games, and their friendship with another team.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brittany Karns on September 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this in 5th grade for Battle of the Books. For some reason I was convinced that it was going to be the worst one, and I put it off to read last, but after I read it, I was charmed. This was my favorite book, tied with only one other. This historical fiction is a work or art. It depicts the bombing at Pearl Harbor well, showing how it changed so many lives. My copy is bent from over reading. No one that has taken my advice to read it has been dissapointed. The predjudice against the Japanese-Americans sparked by that bombing was really something that changed America. The main character, Tomi, has to struggle through family problems, as well as broken of friendships and tries to help hold onto any little bit of family herritage left. The rewards of reading this book are large, and I really appreciated it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on December 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Under The Blood Red Sun
Have you ever wanted to read a book with lots of adventure, scary moments, and puzzling events? Well, then I guess Under The Blood Red Sun, by Graham Salisbury, is the right book for you. The protagonist of the story, Tomikazu, faces many challenges, including being discriminated for being Japanese. His family is also Japanese, and they also face many challenges. Will Tomikazu and his friends, the Rats, be able to help the town fight back against the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor? Find out as you read this fantastic book!
An event in this novel that I really fancied was when Tomi, Billy. Papa, and Sanji
went fishing in the beautiful and gleaming ocean. When everyone boarded the boat, Billy felt kind of nervous because he had never been on a boat before. However, when the boat arrived at their fishing spot, Billy felt pride instead of nervousness. After that, everyone went fishing, and their fishing poles were huge! Tomi, Papa, and Sanji were catching a lot of fish, but Billy hadn't caught any. Then, all of a sudden, Billy got a gigantic and powerful bite on his line, almost pulling his pole into the water. Will Billy ever catch the monstrous fish at the bottom of the ocean?
Another event in the novel that I thought was really neat was when Tomi, Billy and the Rats played the Caaco Boys. The baseball game started out as a tie, 1-1 to be exact. Towards the end of the game, however, the Rats pulled ahead, making the game 3-1. After that, the Caaco Boys tied t11e game, and their star player hurt one of the Rats players. Who will win the continuous fight for being the team that wins?
The last event in the story that explains the title is when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is definately one of the best World War ll books I have ever read. I do not really like books about history or war but I kind of liked this one. Under the Blood Red Sun is about Tomikazu, a 8th grade Japanese boy, and his Japanese family who live in a small house about the size of a large shed. Tomi's mother works as a maid for their neighbors who live in a mansion-like house. Tomi's father works as a fisherman. They all live in Hawaii next to Pearl Harbor. The only thing Tomi and his best friend Billy can think about is Baseball. When Pearl Harbor is attacked and Tomi's father is sent to Sand Island, his baseball team, the Rats, stick up for Tomi as people attack him and make fun him for being Japanese. Even Tomi's grandpa is taken to Sand Island. Tomi may have to get a job to support his family. Will Tomi be able to survive World War ll. You'll have to read the book to find out!
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