Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Weedflower - by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira, last year’s Newbery Award winner by Cynthia Kadohata, was good, but Kadohata’s new book, Weedflower, is truly beautiful.

Weedflower is the story of 12-year-old Sumiko, a second-generation Japanese-American living on a flower farm in California in 1941. Sumiko’s life drastically changes when her family is sent to the Poston Internment Camp. I don’t want to spoil one bit of the plot so that’s all that I’m saying. This story is well told through the eyes of a child struggling to understand the realities of war, racism, life at an interment camp, and friendship.

I’m grateful for books like this that teach me that I really don’t know some parts of history as well as I think I do. Yes, I knew that after the bombing of Pearl Harbor many Japanese people in the US were sent to internment camps, but I didn’t know that before that Japanese immigrants in the US couldn’t own or lease land. I didn’t know that many of them were farmers. I didn’t know anything about the Poston camp, let alone did I know that it was located on an Indian reservation in Arizona. I didn’t know that the Japanese played a big part in making that area the lush farmland that it is today. I didn’t know that Native Americans in Arizona couldn’t vote until 1948. And I certainly didn’t know about the hostility between some of the Japanese and the Native Americans.

This is one of those books that I hope makes it into the hands of every young reader so we can have hope for a different future.

There are only two minor things that I would change about Weedflower. First, the cover; I know it is beautiful and it’s all about getting people to pick up the book, but covers that portray inaccuracies about books are my pet peeve. Sumiko never at any point in the story wears a kimono. Her family tries to appear as American and patriotic as they can so that image really bothers me. Second, I’m sure a large amount of research went into this book so I wish there was a longer historical note at the back. As it is, it does not explain which parts of the book are true, it functions more as a conclusion to the story. It works well, but I was left wanting to know more, and I’m sure many children will feel the same way (or at least their teachers like to imagine them pining away for more information).

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