Friday, July 16, 2010

A Yoshiko Uchida Tale

Author: Yoshiko Uchida
Illustrator: Charles Robinson
Year Published: 1978
Publisher: Atheneum
Awards: N/A

What did you like/dislike about the book?
Yoshiko Uchida's book, Journey Home, is a tale of a young Japanese girl's experiences during World War II.  She and her family are forced into the camps, where they have few possessions.  Her only brother has joined the Army and they are constantly worried about his safety.  Finally, little Yuki's family is allowed to leave the camps and return to Berkeley.  However, not everyone is happy to see Japanese families reintegrating into the community.  Yuki's family opens a grocery store, but their lives are not without hardships in California.

My favorite detail of the book is Yuki's perspective.  In today's schools, lessons about the Japanese interment camps are told from the American point of view.  Using Yuki's thoughts and feelings brings a fresh angle to the story.  For example, on page 16, "...she'd left Yuki feeling somehow ashamed of being Japanese.  And Yuki hated that."  American students would likely be surprised to learn of Yuki's feelings.

I also enjoyed the story of Yuki's brother, Ken.  A soldier's perspective on war can be much different than civilians'.  Ken seemed to be the most realistic character in the book.

At times, I felt this story was a little too syrupy.  Things just seemed to work out or other topics were glossed over.  For example, when dealing with their neighbors' fallen son.  Nothing was ever mentioned about the Japanese atrocities against Americans.  However, this can be attributed to the story being told from the girl's perspective.

This book is appropriate for older readers, particularly middle school.  The subject matter is inappropriate for younger readers and they will not have the background knowledge to comprehend.  Students will be able to identify with Yuki's feelings of being left out.  It can be used to teach about Japanese-American relations in the mid-20th century, as well as to study families, memoirs, or Japanese culture.  Uchida uses her own life experiences to tell young Yuki's story.

What in your life would have influenced this reaction/response?
I did not know much about the life of Japanese-Americans during the mid-20th century before reading this book.  All I had learned was from a textbook's perspective.  It is eye-opening to hear the story from a Japanese-American child's point-of-view.  Much like with any conflict, there are two sides affected by the issues.  This book caused me to think about other situations in which children on the "other side" are affected, such as the Iraq war.

How does this book compare to similar books/author’s other books?
Uchida's other titles involve realistic portrayals of a Japanese-American.  Many of her stories are reflections of events in her life.  Laurence Yep is another author who writes upon this subject matter. 

What did I learn about children’s literature from this book?
Perspective is a powerful tool, especially regarding juvenile historical fiction.  As a teacher, it is important to provide a well-rounded version of events for readers.  This text would be able to showcase the plight of others.

Other titles by this author include:

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