“Four-four-two” Dean Hughes

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Atheneum Books. 268 p. (Includes “Preface,” “Author’s Note,” and period photographs.)

FourFourTwoYuki and his best friend Shig were busy being teenagers when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Though American citizens, both suddenly found themselves considered enemies of their own country. Along with thousands of other Japanese American citizens, Yuki and Shig lost their homes and everything they owned when they and their families were forcefully relocated to an internment camp in the middle of a desert.

Eager to gain back the respect they felt they’d lost in the eyes of their fellow citizens, Yuki and Shig joined the army where they were assigned to the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Yuki’s story of love, loss, friendship, and brotherhood will tug at reader’s heartstrings.

Hughes’ descriptions of the many battles fought by this extremely brave unit, along with the prejudice faced by these soldiers both in and out of the army, will prove to be eye opening to many readers.

Highly recommended for all high school and public libraries.

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“A dictionary of mutual understanding” Jackie Copleton

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published December 1, 2015. Penguin Books.

ADictionaryOfMutualUnderstandingAmaterasu Takahashi has had a tough life, and has spent 40 years in the United States trying to forget about the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki that killed everyone she held dear, including her daughter and grandson. With her husband now dead, and everyone she loved gone, Amaterasu drinks herself into oblivion hoping to forget the pain of her memories. Her life is turned upside down when a very burned, heavily scarred man knocks on her door, insisting he’s her long-lost grandson Hideo, forcing her to relive the memories she’s been trying desperately to forget.

Amaterasu’s story is told through flashbacks, as multiple voices painstakingly remove layers to reveal the truth about herself she’s buried for 40 years. Each chapter begins with a definition of a Japanese word, followed by either a present day interaction between Amaterasu and Hideo or a flashback. These flashbacks from different characters sometimes got me confused but I learned much about August 9, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped, as well as a little of Japan’s history and traditions.

Though a bit confusing due to the constant back-and-forth narratives, “A dictionary of mutual understanding” is a good cross-cultural, historical look at Japan and the people of Nagasaki. Amaterasu’s character is very believable, and the reasons she had to act the way she did will generate much empathy from readers.

Recommended for Adults.

“Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II” Martin W. Sandler

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published August 27, 2013. Walker Books for Young Readers (Bloomsbury). 176 pp. (Includes “Table of Contents,” “Further Reading and Surfing,” “Sources,” “Photo Credits” and “Index.”)

ImprisonedAny book by nonfiction author Martin W. Sandler is going to be good, and this was no exception. “Imprisoned” is very well researched, including period photography as well as interviews with first, second and third generation detainees. I was quite surprised to find out that for more than 30 years many Americans did not know of Executive Order 1066, which allowed for the imprisonment of over 200,000 Japanese Americans (almost all American citizens), brought about by prejudice, fear and hysteria after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Even photographs by noted photographer Dorothea Lange, which showed the degree of their suffering, were purposely confiscated by the United States government and buried in the National Archives for over 50 years. They weren’t discovered, and their truths revealed, until 2006.

It was very sobering to read about the extreme prejudice Japanese Americans suffered even before 1944, and how Executive Order 1066 erased their hopes, dreams and property as young and old were herded off to prison camps, forced to live in stables and in squalid conditions. Reading about the horrible conditions of the Removal Centers, seeing what they went through for the 3 years of their imprisonment, and how strongly they held to their faith and values in themselves as Americans were also eye openers.

Readers aged 12 and up will learn much from Sandler’s latest release. All middle, high school and public libraries should have a copy of “Imprisoned” on their shelves.

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

Rated 5 stars ***** Random House, 2010. 473 pp. (includes Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index)

I first heard Louis Zamperini’s story on a recent episode of Jay Leno. I listened to the somewhat frail, 95 year old elderly man tell of running in the 1936 Olympics, and recount some of what he faced as a POW in Japan during World War II. I was captivated, as was Leno, and immediately put the book on hold at my library. I just received it a couple of days ago and settled down to read it.

As one of the top runners of his era, Zamperini was on tap to break the 4 minute mile when World War II arrived. He entered the service as a bombadier for the Air Corps, and thus began the most horrific chapter of his life.

In great detail, and with much research, Hillenbrand tells the story of how Zamperini survived 47 days adrift in the ocean after his plane crashed only to be captured by the Japanese and held as a POW for over 2 1/2 yrs. Zamperini and other Americans experienced extreme duress, horrific conditions, torture, slavery, and starvation under the cruel fists of their Japanese captors.

Using primary sources including Zamperini’s war diary and archival materials, as well as period photographs, Hillenbrand helps readers see what was happening in his life and helps us to learn about the great sacrifices made by captured American GI’s during this tumultuous period in history.

As I write this, it is the day before the Fourth of July – a time to remember the cost of freedom over the years which allows us to maintain our status as free Americans. Reading “Unbroken” allows readers to experience anew the gratefulness we should feel towards those from The Greatest Generation. “Unbroken,” and Louis’ heartbreaking story, really touched me. I know it will do the same for others. You can also see his story on video, as broadcast during the 1998 Olympics.

Mature high schoolers, and Adult readers, will find Zamperini’s compelling story to be both educational, enriching and sobering.