Nagai, Mariko. Dust of Eden
March 1st 2014
by Albert Whitman & Company
Mina lives in Seattle, and after Pearl Harbor is bombed, her father is imprisoned and then her family is sent to an internment camp in Idaho. Her older brother, Nick, is bound and determined to join the US military and prove that he is an American citizen. Mina misses her best friend, her school, and her home. Her mother works very hard to make their lives bearable. Her grandfather misses his roses, and doesn't do very well in the poor conditions in which they are forced to live. Nick does join the military and is involved in some fighting, then interestingly, is sent to Japan after the war to help with things there. The family returns to their home.
Strengths: The cover photo by Dorothea Lange is a good choice, and there are several interesting ideas started in this. The supportive best friend and descriptions of life before the war are good. I would have loved to hear more from Nick, who was unable to go to college because of the internment, and his army service should have been a focus point of the book, since only Salisbury's Eyes of the Emperor covers this fascinating topic. Especially interesting would have been his time in Japan.
Weaknesses: This is a novel in verse, and like the vast majority of these, the form is not justified. At times, it is even a bit awkward and forced, splitting up phrases (Language/ Arts class) across lines. The characters are ones that I have seen in similar books (did any grandparents survive these camps?), and there's nothing terribly new. A much more interesting book could have been written, although this would still be a good addition to a collection on this topic.