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Gaijin: American Prisoner of War Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—In 1941, biracial Koji and his mother hear about the attacks on Pearl Harbor from their home in San Francisco. As tensions escalate, Mrs. Miyamoto volunteers to accompany her son to the Japanese relocation camp, where Koji has to navigate the hostile environment and the social pressures of the other teenage boys. Throughout all this, his father is absent, and Koji worries if he is the traitor the U.S. government suspects him to be. The artwork is lovely, with gestural lines and colors that are warm and redolent of age and memory, and which bridge caricature and realism. However, the dialogue and word balloons lack a similar finesse, as they are garishly large and convey little subtlety of emotion. They make the protagonist seem loud and immature, and generally pitch the book younger than his age. This is problematic, as he is old enough to worry about his mother, and harbors suspicions that she is having affairs for favorable treatment in the camp—issues somewhat beyond the scope of a children's book. Emotions at the times ran high, and the issues depicted are complex; this book doesn't quite capture that complexity.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH
Koji is living with his white mother in San Francisco when Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbor, and almost immediately, they are accused of being spies. Life as a half Japanese teenager in San Francisco was hard enough, but once Koji and his mother are sent to Alameda Downs, an internment camp, he finds he is still an outsider and subject to more racial slurs, this time from other Japanese boys. Railing against the white soldiers who fawn over his mother, and the ragtag bullies who beat him up and rope him in to doing their dirty work, Koji doesn’t know where to turn. The sparse text lends little in the way of depth, but Faulkner’s painterly cross-hatched watercolor artwork fills in the gaps with sweeping maps, detailed backgrounds depicting the conditions at Alameda, and exaggerated, caricature-like expressions on his characters, many of whom loom large during intense moments and spill over the boundaries of their panels. An author’s note about the inspiration for the story—Faulkner’s Irish great-aunt spent time at Manzanar—and some further reading suggestions conclude. Grades 6-10. --Sarah Hunter