Sunday, October 25, 2020

In a Flash

51470401Napoli, Donna Jo. In a Flash
October 27th 2020 by Wendy Lamb Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1940, young Italian sisters Simona and Carolina move to Japan with their father, who takes a job as a cook at the Italian embassy. Going to a local school is not the easier thing Simona has ever done, since the children are not all that friendly, but she does manage to make a few good friends, and her Japanese language skills grow quickly. For a while, things are okay at the embassy, but as the world hurtles headlong towards WWII, things become increasingly difficult. The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and even though Italy is part of the Axis powers, there is increased prejudice against foreigners. When the US invades Sicily in 1943, Simona's father is worried about the US taking over Italy, and what that might mean for their relatives there. When the Japanese emperor declares that Italy is the enemy, things quickly become dire at the embassy. Eventually, all of the occupants are rounded up, told to bring one suitcase, and sent off to internment camps. The ambassador's wife wants to bring two suitcases, so Simona's is left behind. Eventually, the girls are separated from not only most of their possession, but also their father. Survival in the camps is very difficult, especially since food is scarce in Japan. Eventually the girls escape and make their way across the countryside, where they are helped by a variety of kind citizens who realize that they are just children and need care. When towns are being fire bombed, the latest person to care for them, a professor, feels that the girls are endangering him, and offer to drop them off in Omihachiman, which is supposed to be unimportant, but is also where their friend Aiko lives. The girls eventually end up in Hiroshima under the care of a Catholic church, but the radiation sickness is spreading, the town is in ruins, and they can only hope that the US soldiers can help them get back to Italy.
Strengths: Napoli is uniquely qualified to write this book, and I love the fact that it deals with Italian children living in Japan! It's especially interesting that the girls do not go to the international school but go to a local one, and their experiences with prejudice will resonate in the current climate. This is also a good survival story, much like Napoli's Stones in Water, which is one of my favorite WWII books.  I've long thought that there should be a lot more books about the war in Italy. Marsden's Take Me With You, Hughes's Hero on a Bicycle and Spradlin's Jack Montgomery: World War II: Gallantry at Anzio are some of the few books that deal with this area of the world. Stelson's Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story, Burkinshaw's The Last Cherry Blossom, Kadohata's A Place to Belong, and Smith's The Blossom and the Firefly are some of the few that deal with events in Japan.
Weaknesses: This was very dark, and oddly dense. Even though I have read a lot about WWII, it was tough going for me, and my students usually have very little background information.
What I really think: I'm a huge Napoli fan, but this was not my favorite. Her note at the beginning of the book about how dark this book was originally is very informative. Still, if I have enough money, I will buy this, since it is such a different viewpoint of WWII.
Ms. Yingling

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