With a white mother and a Japanese father, Koji Miyamoto quickly realizes that his home in San Francisco is no longer a welcoming one after Pearl Harbor is attacked. And once he's sent to an internment camp, he learns that being half white at the camp is just as difficult as being half Japanese on the streets of an American city during WWII. Koji's story, based on true events, is brought to life by Matt Faulkner's cinematic illustrations that reveal Koji struggling to find his place in a tumultuous world-one where he is a prisoner of war in his own country.
Faulkner (A Taste of Colored Water) draws on his own ancestry as inspiration for the story of 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto, a half-Japanese boy who is sent to an internment camp during WWII. Like many people of mixed race, Koji doesn't seem to fit in anywhere harassed and called "slanty eyes" and a "Jap spy" by Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a "gaijin" (a pejorative for foreigner) by the Japanese at the camp. Even with a loving mother and avuncular neighbor, Koji dreams of his father, who is abroad in Japan and whose absence places Koji under suspicion by the FBI. Aimless and filled with self-doubt, Koji begins to act out by committing petty theft and disrespecting authority, including his mother. Compassion becomes the key to Koji's salvation, and Faulkner's narrative elicits real pathos. Yet the book's true strength lies in its rich palette and painted visuals that, appropriately enough, evoke a mix between Japanese woodblock prints and Norman Rockwell paintings. Ages 8 12.