Twelve-year-old Sumiko feels her life has been made up of two parts: before Pearl Harbor and after it. The good part and the bad part. Raised on a flower farm in California, Sumiko is used to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Even when the other kids tease her, she always has had her flowers and family to go home to.
That all changes after the horrific events of Pearl Harbor. Other Americans start to suspect that all Japanese people are spies for the emperor, even if, like Sumiko, they were born in the United States! As suspicions grow, Sumiko and her family find themselves being shipped to an internment camp in one of the hottest deserts in the United States. The vivid color of her previous life is gone forever, and now dust storms regularly choke the sky and seep into every crack of the military barrack that is her new "home."
Sumiko soon discovers that the camp is on an Indian reservation and that the Japanese are as unwanted there as they'd been at home. But then she meets a young Mohave boy who might just become her first real friend...if he can ever stop being angry about the fact that the internment camp is on his tribe's land.
With searing insight and clarity, Newbery Medal-winning author Cynthia Kadohata explores an important and painful topic through the eyes of a young girl who yearns to belong. Weedflower is the story of the rewards and challenges of a friendship across the racial divide, as well as the based-on-real-life story of how the meeting of Japanese Americans and Native Americans changed the future of both.
Set in America immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor, this insightful novel by the Newbery-winning author of Kira-Kira traces the experiences of a Japanese-American girl and her family. Sixth-grader Sumiko, the only Asian student in her class, has always felt like an outcast. Early on, a heartbreaking scene foreshadows events to come, when Sumiko arrives at a classmate's birthday party and is told by the hostess to wait outside on the porch, and is then sent away. The girl's feelings of isolation turn to fear after the United States declares war on Japan. First, government officials take away Sumiko's uncle and grandfather. Then her aunt must sell their California flower farm; they are transported to a makeshift camp and later to a Native-American reservation in Poston, Ariz. Living like a prisoner in the desert, Sumiko nearly succumbs to what her grandfather termed "ultimate boredom" ("that mean close to lose mind," he explains). But Sumiko finds hope and a form of salvation as a beautiful garden she creates and a friendship with a Native American boy, Frank, both begin to blossom. The contrast between the Native Americans' plight and that of the interned may enlighten many readers ("They take our land and put you on it. They give you electricity," snaps Frank). Kadohata clearly and eloquently conveys her heroine's mixture of shame, anger and courage. Readers will be inspired by Sumiko's determination to survive and flourish in a harsh, unjust environment. Ages 11-up.