Monday, December 26, 2016

MMGM- The Japanese in WWII

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

29056319Stelson, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story.
October 1st 2016 by Carolrhoda Books
Library Copy

Sachiko Yasui was six years old when the US dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Miraculously, she survived with minimal immediate wounds, as did her parents, three siblings, and an uncle. While they struggled with housing, food and general survival for quite some time, the real problem was the after effects of the radiation. Her brothers and uncle succumbed quickly, and caner eventually took her sister and father as well. At the time of publication, however, Sachiko was still alice. She chose not to speak about her experiences until after the death of her mother in 1992. 

This book tells her story in an informative and yet gripping way. The historical background of the war is explained in understandable ways and adds depth to the narrative. Period photos, ads, and other documents are all helpful in explaining the larger picture, and the bibliography will help students find other books on the topic. 

This would be an excellent companion book to Kathleen Burkinshaw's The Last Cherry Blossom, and is best read after that book, since it picks up near the end of that fictional title. At 112 pages, it is a perfect length, and I'm excited to have this title to offer to students who either are interested in this time period OR are being "forces" to read nonfiction for class. Both types of students will be pleased with this. 

28954088Hughes, Dean. Four-Four-Two
November 8th 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Library copy

Yuki lives on a farm in California, and right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, things get bad. His father is taken away, and the family ends up at an internment after having to sell the farm. Despite this, Yuki andhis friend Shig both feel that they should join the army, and end up training in the South and being deployed to Italy with the 442nd "Go For Broke" regiment. This group saw horrendous action and was involved in a lot of fighting. Yuki sees many of his comrades fall on the field of battle, and sees others gravely injured. He suffers wounds himself, and also battles crippling pain in his feet due to having to remain in wet footwear in the cold. Eventually, a bullet and a collapsed lung send him home, where he faces prejudice in a Colorado barber shop and returns to his family in the internment camp. 

Strengths: Hughes has a great balance in his books about war, and his books are hugely popular in my library. There is a short introduction about Yuki's circumstances, he gets sent quickly to the front, he sees a lot of action, and Hughes does not glorify the fighting at all. He has a brilliant way of giving the boys the descriptions of fighting that they want while making no attempts to hide how horrible and brutal war is. This makes both me and my WWII obsessed readers happy. 

This is also clearly well researched, and I appreciated the notes. Starting with a description of the 442nd was a great hook (readers of these books usually love statistics, and can quote them readily), and giving more information at the end tied everything together well. 

The pacing of this worked for me, with the exception of the odd jump between the first and second chapters. It took me a couple of pages to realize that Yuki and his family were at the camp. While others have commented that there were a lot of deaths and little time to process them, that seemed appropriate to the story. At one point, Shig was telling Yuki about some downed comrades, and Yui replies that if they're dead, he just doesn't want to hear about them. I don't know how else soldiers would really be able to deal with the carnage they must witness. It is also important to remember that there was a completely different mind set during WWII about patriotism and the enemy. 

Weaknesses: The few reviews of this that I saw on Goodreads were not very positive, and some mentioned being unable to finish the book because of the writing. I can't agree with this. It is certainly no-frills writing, but this will appeal to the target demographic who don't want to wade through a lot of description and philosophical musing. 

I am not of Japanese descent, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the depiction, but it seems respectful and likely. Yuki is American, loves his family, wants to do what other American men are doing, but also is unhappy about how he is being treated. 

What I really think: Was this a book that I wanted to read? No. Was it quite as good as Salisbury's Hunt for the Bamboo Rat? No. Was it a book that every middle school library needs to purchase? Absolutely! My copies of Soldier Boys and Search and Destroy are ALWAYS checked out. I think this is a very solid introduction to an interesting and little known facet of World War II.


  1. Very interesting picks this week! I've ordered the first one for our library and will be getting it ready to go soon. I'm curious to see if it will check out. I've not been reading much non-fiction and you are really inspiring me to with some of your choices. Happy reading!!

  2. I absolutely agree with you - when we're picking books for a collection we need to keep in mind different tastes, preferences and reading styles. A book's writing may not be to our taste, but it might be just perfect for some of our students or patrons!