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Warriors in the Crossfire Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5–9—This taut, poetic story of Saipan, set before and during the U.S. invasion of the island in spring 1944, is narrated by the 13-year-old son of a local village chief. To the Japanese, who have occupied the island since 1922, controlling schools and stores, restricting movement, and enforcing curfews with violence, Joseph's people are gai-jin ("barbaric outsiders"). Still, he and Kento, son of Joseph's aunt and a Japanese administrator, have grown up as friends. Though Kento wants to be a samurai, he also longs to be an island warrior like Joseph, able to live off the land and protect his mother and sister. As war comes closer, the two trade lessons in island survival for lessons in Japanese characters. But their loyalties are tested. Before he leaves with the other village men to clear airfields, Joseph's father shows him the secret cave where his people have waited out generations of invasions—and when U.S. troops arrive, Joseph must lead his family there to survive the brutal crossfire. Short, well-paced chapters reveal the rich cultural life of the villagers and lead to a dramatic end that includes the shocking suicide march of Japanese citizens off the island cliffs. Joseph is an engaging and three-dimensional character. Compelling relationships form the heart of the story and aid his growth as he learns what it really means to be a warrior. A useful endnote separates fact from fiction. A unique and important addition to World War II fiction.—Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* The novel opens with friends Joseph and Kento fending off a shark attack while spearfishing in the middle of the night, a gripping scene that isn't even close to the book's most intense sequence. Set on the island of Saipan at the end of WWII, this is the story of natives who were caught between the ruthlessness of the Japanese and American armies. Joseph is the son of a chief, while Kento's father is one of the occupying Japanese. “Go ahead, Japanese and Americans, greedy bullies, battle it out and leave so we can have our island back,” Joseph thinks, but when the fighting does finally arrive the consequences are well beyond anything he could have dreaded. Conflicted yet determined, Joseph is an ideal mix for a story of heroism—he wants to be a warrior like his ancestors, but in these horrific circumstances that means persevering through, not facing death and destruction head on. Saving his family comes down to finding a bit of fresh water while in hiding or being lucky enough not to catch a stray bullet. An afterword describes the real-life account of what happened on Siapan, where almost all of the Japanese soldiers were killed, and duty-bound Japanese civilians were rounded up to take their own lives by jumping off what is now known as Suicide Cliff. Intense and powerful reading that avoids bleakness by celebrating family, culture, and a longing for peace. Grades 6-9. --Ian Chipman
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Warriors in the crossfire brings the reader into the midst of a little know battle from the perspective of those considered to be bystanders. We see not only the consequences of a military battle, but a subtle cultural battle as well. We see the Christians and Japanese changing the Rafalawash culture especially the changing role of women but we also see how traditional practices are important for survival. Flood details the brutality of war while holding back descriptions of what occurred under the Japanese. Historical notes provide authenticity to the story.
Nancy Bo Flood ans lived and worked in Malawi., Hawaii, Japan, Saipan and most recently on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. She works as a counselor, teacher and author. In addition to this story, Flood has also written collections of folklore from Micronesia, the Pacific Islands and the Polynesian islands which would be important multicultural additions to libraries.
In Joseph and Kento, Nancy Bo Flood has created two highly likeable characters to be our guides into a flourishing island paradise and eventually through one of the most horrific battles in the Pacific during World War II. To view war's destruction through the eyes of an indigenous people caught in the crossfire is haunting. However the remarkable story of Joseph and Kento's leadership and bravery shines through the darkness of their plight. Flood has done an admirable job of portraying a difficult event in history. "Warriors in the Crossfire" is both a gripping saga and a touching memorial to the native people of Saipan.
This tale of Joseph and his cousin Kento is one that doesn't end with a Disney flourish of miracles and magic. It includes heroism of the everyday kind, with a boy doing his best to protect his family, even when he doesn't know how. In one scene, Joseph carries his father's body, while shells explode in the distance. "My arms grew numb. I no longer felt fear or grief or even the rain." The invasion is told with all the terror of war, although depicted appropriately for a younger audience.
When it became clear that the Americans would win the war, Japanese soldiers and citizens were marched to one end of the island and forced to leap into the sea. American soldiers dropped leaflets urging people not to jump. This true event, as depicted in Warriors, and witnessed by the character Joseph, had me holding my breath even as I turned pages. "People stepped through the swirling papers as if they were falling leaves."
I highly recommend this book for teachers with WWII in their curriculums as well as for readers age 10 and up with an interest in history or war.
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