Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks--Hunt for the Bamboo Rat

20169574Salisbury, Graham. Hunt for the Bamboo Rat.
September 9th 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books

Kenji is supporting his widowed mother and siblings by working in a warehouse in Hawaii, but when Japan starts to assert power before WWII, Kenji is approached by the US Army to serve as an interpreter, since he is perfectly fluent in both Japanese and English. He is sent to the Philippines to live in a hotel frequented by Japanese nationals, and spies under the code name "Bamboo Rat" and tries to get information. When Japan invades the Philippines, Kenji is evacuated to Corregidor with others, and when the Japanese demand surrender or they will bomb the tunnels where people are holed up, Kenji goes with the commander to translate. He is later imprisoned and used as a servant and translator for a Japanese commander. He is brutally tortured but holds fast to his "civilian" status, manages to keep spying, and is eventually released and finds his way to the US armed forces-- where is is suspected of being Japanese and receives more abuse!

A perfect nonfiction title to go with this is Marie Cronk Farrell's Pure Grit:How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp.

Strengths: Salisbury does the very best novels about the Japanese experience during WWII. Under the Blood-Red Sun and Eyes of the Emperor are two favorites at my school. This book was full of excellent details about the war experience in the Philippines (a little covered topic), but also had suspense, intrigue, and enough fighting to keep war mongering boys interested. I thought that Kenji's fight for his own identity as a Japanese AMERICAN was very interesting, and the way that he was able to understand both the Japanese and American views of honor and duty was fascinating.
Weaknesses: On the gruesome side, certainly, with Kenji being hit in the face, burned with cigarettes, etc. The Japanese certainly don't come off very well in this book, but certainly were the perpetrators of lots of violence during this time period. 

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